Wii to Get Video on Demand…Sorta

goofywiishotIt’s about time! Nintendo is developing a video-on-demand service for its hit Wii game consoles, it said today in a joint announcement with Dentsu, the Japanese advertising company. However, the service will only be available in Japan starting this spring; according to reports, no international expansion plans have been specified.

The disappointments (at least for this user) don’t stop there. Called Wiinoma Channel (reportedly playing on the Japanese “chanoma,” or “living room”), the service will focus on content created specially for the Wii. Which I guess is fine, given that content tailored for the social and technical possibilities of its delivery environment can be vastly more satisfying than the typical couch potato fare. But…initial reports indicate there won’t be any attempt at an exhaustive library à la Xbox and Netflix , or added help to access content that’s already available on the web.

Rather, Nintendo is aiming to offer a walled garden of “family-friendly” videos as well as original content that utilizes the environment of Wii watchers/users. Wiinoma will be completely advertiser-sponsored until this summer, when paid programming will be added, according to reports.

What Nintendo should be doing is improving the Wii’s access to video in general. We’ve suggested many times (and our commenters vociferously agree) that with a few tweaks (namely, STORAGE), the hugely popular Wii and its gesture-driven Wiimote could be the ultimate living room TV device.

Nintendo has sold 34.55 million Wiis globally, and it says 40 percent of them are connected to the Internet. In the meantime, startups like ffwd and StumbleUpon have pioneered Wii versions of their video recommendation services that hint at the future. But dealing with outdated versions of Flash and other quirks of the Wii have held them back.

At the same time, outside groups, such as a partnership of Japanese broadcasting companies, have also announced they plan to bring video to the Wii next year. So we could just read this official Nintendo VOD initiative as the first step towards something more significant.

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