While you were too busy playing GTAIV, Nintendo launched the “Nintendo Channel” for the Wii. As per usual Wii owners can download the new channel for free from the online shop. With it, you can stream videos of game previews or (as is the case for WiiFit) interviews with developers. You can also download game demos for your Nintendo DS and of course Nintendo has given us the power to volunteer market information.
The video content is nothing special, especially without exclusives, but the Nintendo channel will not only be used by Nintendo. 3rd party companies can have their content available on the channel, which may help publicize games that may otherwise remain obscure. It’s also a smart way for Nintendo to court 3rd party developers. As it stands there are plenty of videos up.
I tried out a Demo of a Ninja Gaiden game by taking advantage of the miraculously wireless connection between the DS and the Wii. The functionality was awesome, though the game itself was kinda lame. I was surprised to see a good list of demos available so quickly, but I’m sure their efforts will pay off. I for one spotted a number of games I’ve been interested in, but definitely would not buy without getting to test them out. Must return to those later.
It’s nice to see Nintendo taking steps toward an online presence akin to XBNA, baby-steps as they may be. Hopefully they’ve learned some lessons from Microsoft and can make improvements. It appears clear that Nintendo will have higher standards for Wiiware than Microsoft has had for its XBNA titles, and obviously they’re playing with this online demo concept, each of which point to a better online environment for players and developers alike. It’s just too bad that Wiis will be limited by their built-in memory capacities (unlike X-Boxes with their giant hard drives). I’m about ready to pop-in an SD card so I can keep downloading games.
The power to download games straight to the DS made me wonder about the indie possibilities. For now, the downloaded game is only saved to the DS’ ram so it’s lost as soon as you stop playing, but what if that was changed? Imagine being able to download games to blank card in the SD slot, or even a cartridge in the GBA slot. Nintendo can potentially open up the two most popular consoles of our time to a totally indie market just by allowing the small developers already preparing for the Wiiware venue to take advantage of the DS. And of course there is the orphan world of flash.
Nintendo still hasn’t made good on its promise to give the Wii full flash compatibility. They said they were giving it to us, but it was busted and now flash can’t use any Wii functions unless you go through an overly complicated connection to Java with constant server check-ups (ala Wiicade). Hand over button functionality, hand over accelerometer data, and open up the Wii to a boundless new world of free content. Then, if dreams can come true, extend that compatibility to the DS and allow for each console to download and save games permanently.
Maybe that won’t ever happen. It might be too great a risk for a conservative company like Nintendo to take, but I’m hoping they’re forward thinking enough to try it. If you ask me, indie development for the X-Box or PS3 isn’t anything special. You can’t do much on those consoles that you can’t already do on a computer with the old keyboard and mouse. The Wii and DS however would allow for an explosion in innovative development and maybe even give someone other than Miyamoto the chance to master those playgrounds.
For now the Wii is still Nintendo’s turf, but slowly they’re breaking down the iron curtain.
Oh, and lest I forget, Nintendo is also using this channel to shamelessly collect market data. Not that I mind. In fact I somewhat enjoy looking over the list of my games they’ve compiled and telling them the age and gender of the person that plays them the most. Then there’s rating the game to the sound of a drum roll; now that’s excitement! And my favorite part is seeing the data. Taking a lesson from the Everybody Votes Channel, Nintendo makes market analysis fun! Therefore, we all participate for free. Quite a brilliant plan, really. And I only mean this to sound half-way sarcastic; I’m serious about enjoying it.
Apparently Nintendo will be sending me messages regarding new content and will analyze my habits to determine which content I’m most likely to enjoy. This is potentially cool, but most likely annoying. Fortunately you can turn this off at any time, so I’ll let it run and see how badly it spams my message board.
I just hope the Viagra guys don’t find their way in. . . .
-Christopher J. Rock