Nintendo’s Wii U game console, which will go on sale mid November in the U.S., will feature on-demand video from Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon as well as some interesting second-screen action for live TV consumption. The company revealed details of its media offering, which is officially called Wii U TVii, at a press event in New York Thursday.
Nintendo had first announced that the Wii U would come with support for Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus at the E3 gaming show in Los Angeles earlier this summer. The move means that the company is catching up with its competitors Sony and Microsoft, which have been offering video services on their current-generation game consoles for some time. Microsoft in particular has been putting a lot of emphasis on TV, adding live TV feeds for pay TV subscribers and numerous other services in recent months.
The line-up of supported services on Nintendo’s Wii U TVii looks kind of meager in comparison, but the console has something that none of its competitors can offer: integration with a user’s existing cable or satellite TV service. That’s possible because the Wii U’s gamepad, which is essentially a touchscreen tablet, doubles as a remote control with IR blaster and second screen capabilities.
Check out a demo video of Wii U TVii below:
The gamepad can be used to browse both titles on services like Netflix as well as live TV listings. Owners of a TiVo can even control their DVR through the gamepad. And it will turn into a second screen while you watch live TV, displaying game stats during a sports game and making it possible to interact with your Twitter followers. This type of functionality was made possible through a cooperation with I.tv, a company that previously built second-screen experiences for media brands like Entertainment Weekly and AOL.
Nintendo said that the TVii service will be free to use. Of course, users will still have to pay for Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus — but making the service free itself sets it apart from media services on the Xbox, which require a Xbox Gold subscription in addition to any third-party fees. However, the question is: With so many apps for existing tablets already providing second-screen experiences, and other consoles offering access to many more services, will Nintendo’s Wii U TVii really move the needle and make users want to buy a Wii U?