Blog Post

Netflix on the Wii: The First Reviews Are In

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Netflix (s NFLX) started to send out a first shipment of Wii (s NTDOY) disks last week, making it possible to access its watch Instantly online video on demand offering on the gaming console. A few Netflix customers have already shared their first impressions, and the verdicts are mixed. There are complaints about the video quality, which is much lower than on other Watch Instantly platforms, but others are pretty happy with what’s possible.

Dave Zatz dug up this video review
of the service on YouTube (s GOOG) that, albeit being a little slow and at times suffering from low video quality itself, shows off a lot of the functionality of Watch Instantly on the Wii. Marcus Penn, who shot the video with the help of his cell phone, appears a little underwhelmed by the video quality of the service, explaining that some titles looked much better on his Tivo’s Netflix client.

Newteevee reader Matt Hendry sent us his own take on the service, and he was much more forgiving: “(T)he experience is great overall and there was no buffering on my DSL connection like I get with my PC with Netflix and streaming shows on my old Xbox via XBMC,” he wrote, musing that Netflix must have done a lot to optimize streaming for the Wii. One should note that Wii streaming is done at a much lower bit rate that PC-based streams, which could explain some of the buffering as well.

Hendry did complain about the lack of volume control, and also took issue with the fact that there are no parental controls available for the service. We asked Netflix about this, and the company’s VP of Corporate Communications Steve Swasey got back to us, explaining that the company currently doesn’t have any direct parental control features for Watch Instantly, be it on the Wii or any other platforms.

What’s your take on Netflix on the Wii? Are you bothered by the lack of HD, or happy to finally have another way to access Watch Instantly? Let us know in the comments!

Related content on GigaOm Pro: Connected Consumer Quarterly Wrap-Up (subscription required)

29 Responses to “Netflix on the Wii: The First Reviews Are In”

  1. I don’t like Netflix through the Wii. The menu is difficult. Since the Wii does not come with a significant amount of memory, the system runs extremely slow. Using the Wii remote to negotiate through the menu and make selections is extremely difficult. Fast forwarding and rewinding … good luck – they are horrible.

    To top that off, Netflix has gone downhill with their customer service. Netflix had my credit card on file and charged it each month. My credit card company upgraded me and I believe I provided Netflix with the new card number. They tried putting through my old number for payment and it failed.

    They put my service on hold without contacting me first, even though this is probably their error. So, just when I’m trying to relax and watch some television is when I find out that there’s a problem for the first time. Interestingly, they sent me an e-mail at 1 a.m. Is there any surprise that when I go to watch TV at 6 am I have still not been apprised that there was a problem?

    I called to find out what the problem was. We had trouble identifying it and, when we figured out what it was, I provided them with the new card number again. The customer service representative said that she was putting the request through and I should have service in 15 minutes. Two hours later, I still did not have service. It turns out she was supposed to ask me for the security code on the back of the card. I asked why they did not call me back when they realized they forgot this information. I was told they cannot make outgoing phone calls. HOW ***. It was their mistake and I spend all morning trying to fix it. Since I had to pull it out for that phone call, I lost the card and had to run around the house searching for it. The supervisor I was on the phone with could not be bothered to wait for me to look for the card, even though it was their fault I had to take the card out a second time. Then, to top it off, not a single person offered to comp me for my troubles. Really????

  2. Jamess

    Having an Xbox 360 connected to an HD TV downstairs, I do say that the Wii video does lack. BUT, we have your Wii upstairs in the bedroom now (since it was relegated to a dust collector in the living room) and its connected to an older 36 inch tube tv. I will say that the Wii has found new life as way to watch shows upstairs, where we only had a VCR and DVD player before. The video quality is fine for watching tv shows or older movies. I still watch the more visually appealing movies downstairs. I did watched several episodes of Merlin season 1 in HD, and didn’t see to much of a difference in video quality. Overall, many houses (mine included until about 6 months ago) only have a Wii, and no comparable laptop/tv setup and it opens up a lot of options. This is a definite step forward to expand a once limited niche of internet streaming to a broader audience.

  3. Simon

    I’ve been using a ROKU for Netflix for more than a year now and am fully satisfied with it. I was going to buy another ROKU for my 2nd TV when Wii started offering Netflix. (We already have a Wii.) I hooked it up and it works great. I don’t really notice much of a difference in picture quality. Thanks Nintendo and thanks Netflix, You saved me $100 or more!

  4. What a shame without parental controls. Remove the capability to browse from Wii (atleast put some pin based protection).

    Completely useless. What where these guys smoking when they came up with this idea.

  5. Most, if not all, households that have Wii also have kids. I can lock out the Netflix disc from Wii, but once unlocked the kids can browse and see anything. I’d like to add movies to the queue from my PC only and block out browsing from the Wii. Without this feature, this is pretty much useless. Poorly thought out.

  6. They (Netflix) should have know the Wii had no parental controls beyond “all or nothing” and stuck to what I, as many other parents, can control. My kids have unrestricted access to my ROKU and LG Blu Ray devices for Netflix because why? I only put in the Instant Queue what I allow them to watch, and those devices stick to just the Instant Queue. Netflix should have done the same with the Wii, instead of trying to emulate the browse/category suggestions that the Xbox features now. The Xbox has parental controls that the Wii lacks, and it’s not like they couldn’t have done this. Anyone who remembers when the Xbox Netflix app first came out, it was Instant Queue only as well.

    Shame on them for a great idea poorly executed. Whoever was in charge of this fiasco should be shown the door.

  7. Mike F.

    For me, this may be just the ticket. I was planning on buying another console and the netflix thing was a big reason why (Wii only gamer here). Now I can try this first and see how it goes… way to win back a customer NF!

      • I am a parent of two kids. Yes the responsibility lies with the parents, however, a responsible parent should be able to enable some parental controls. With the wii, we can lock out the netflix disc, but once the pin is entered, the kids have access to anything. Why can’t the parental controls be like the Xbox 360? The PS3 and the Wii will allow access to anything. I am hoping that when the ps3 gets a firmware update with netflix access without the need for the disc, we will see the same parental controls that the 360 offers. The Wii is a console geared towards kids. It should have the ability to limit movie ratings. Hopefully netflix will work with nintendo and they will upgrade the Wii to enable parental controls for netflix streaming.

    • Not to mention…

      Parental Control: Roku (no contest)

      @Richard (below) – stick to things you know about. The point is that the ONLY recourse for the Wii is essentially to not allow kids to use it at all (your suggestion, I take it), which gives it close to zero utility. Contrast that with the ROKU devices, which have the ultimate approach to parental control…if the parent doesn’t put it in the Instant Queue, the kids don’t even know it exists.

  8. hortron

    So far this is much more convenient than plugging the MacBook into the TV every time we want to watch content. We streamed a muppet movie to the TV over our Wii and the PQ was fabulous. The lag time between clicking a link in the Netflix browser and getting the next page to load is way longer than on any PC. Overall, for free, this is great. Cheers to Netflix for increasing the value of my $10/month subscription.

      • I’ve got to agree with Mike here – the convenience factor is huge for me. I have connected my MacBook Pro to the TV, but my overall setup is such that this can be a bit of a pain (and forget about getting my wife to do it when I’m not around and she wants to watch something from Netflix). The Wii is there and requires nothing more than making sure the right disc is in – and so far, the quality has been just fine.

  9. Christian

    DSL 3mps + Wii 480p Netflix + 720p TVs = really great quality. Widescreen newer movies looks like upscaled DVDs. No lag time. In fact, kids watched downstairs while I watched Spartacus B&S upstairs!
    Based on this experience and as long as Netflix keeps theirs servers fast, I have no need for ‘true’ HD. All you gaming fanboys can go fly a kite.

  10. Find the PQ to be comparable to SD video delivered via DirecTv or Comcast On Demand services – i.e. anywhere from not as good as to almost as good as SD DVD. And honestly, I don’t see much difference at all in SD video btwn the Wii version or either 360/PS3’s version.

    The HDNet Hunter Thompson doc “Gonzo” (while only in 480p)looks about as good as a regular DVD. The Road Warrior looked more YouTube-ish, less DVD quality. Most TV eps looked fine. IF this is your only Netflix option.

    If I really HAVE to stream HD Netflix content, I have a PC & Mac that can both handle that. Or better yet, just wait for those Blu Ray discs they keep dumping in my mailbox (still better than any streamed/DL-ed HD content).

  11. unatommer

    I agree with Mike in some respects (and shut up Piker you didn’t say anything good) that this is like offering us a hamburger when we already have steak. However, it’s cool to offer people another option, no matter if it’s subpar or not.

  12. Piker McGee

    As someone who likes to read his articles without snarky comments from gramatically challenged egomaniacs, the previous comment would represent a major step backwards

    • Mitch Manor

      “As someone who connects his laptop via HDMI to my TVs to watch on-line video, this would represent a major step-backwards.”

      Netflix doesn’t stream HD-content to PCs, so what difference would an HDMI cable make?