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

About the author:
Christopher J. Rock (http://)
Film student at California State, Long Beach. I want to make the gaming world a better place.
  • I saw my Wii flashing this morning so I checked it out. I’ve been looking forward to this update since I read about it on Gamasutra.

    I don’t recall Nintendo ever promising full Flash functionality. So far they’ve only provided as much Flash support as Adobe/Macromedia would allow. Traditionally, the highest portable version of Flash has been one version less than the most current, Flash Player 8 in this case. And I assume they had the Opera group ported the Flash Player when they ported their browser to Wii. That may change as Adobe is planning to open up the Flash Player so it can be ported freely to different devices.

    I think Microsoft and Sony are more viable independent services because of the relative ease to get your games out there to play. Microsoft has its Xbox Live Developers community and I don’t think there are any restrictions for indie PS3 software, except hardware limitations such as not having access to the GPU. Nintendo have been kind of dicks to even get info about how the WiiWare system would work. And I think you still need a dev kit to do Wii development, which isn’t the case for PS3 or Xbox.

    Nintendo Channel is basically the functionality MS added to Xbox Live last summer, where they have weekly videos of new products and interviews. But as usual, Nintendo’s interface is simple enough for anyone to point and click without getting lost in menus.

    I’m planning to pick-up Pokemon Puzzle League on Virtual Console soon since it’s my favoritest multiplayer puzzle game (Tetris Attack). If Nintendo made a version of that with online play it would be killer, but for some reason they promote Dr. Mario more. Besides the catchy music, I don’t even like Dr. Mario!

    But it’s all about GTA4 man. All the cool kids are playing it. And Xbox Live just kicks so much ass.

  • Christopher J. Rock

    Hm, now when I run searches for info wii-flash, all I find is a long list of Wii-flash game sites, but back when it was relatively new you could find an ocean of forum posts about why flash functions weren’t working on the wii. Here’s one blog addressing it: http://aralbalkan.com/825

    As you can see it’s from 2006, so it’s been a long time since total flash support managed to slip their minds, but in 2 years they haven’t remedied it.

    They actually said that wii buttons would be mapped to certain key numbers, but when the flash community tried those numbers out, nothing happened. . . . The process worked as promised in Java and that’s why things like the Wiicade API could be developed, but having to use that to get simple buttons to work is pretty crappy.

    Even then they weren’t offering accelerometer support which is too bad, but I guess it might take too much work to implement. I don’t know their reasoning.

    Nintendo published a press release explaining exactly how Wii controls would be mapped to keyboard buttons in flash and it turned out to be a lie. That’s either a new level of incompetence or a last minute attempt at maintaining their usual fascist control of the console. That behavior is why I’m not expecting the Wii to embrace the indie world. However, I like that they’re not filling the Wiiware libraries with crappy bejeweled rip-offs.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen any official press release from Nintendo. I remember getting all excited when people were talking about Flash games on Wii but I’d never seen anything official about it, just a bunch of over-excited fanboys.

    Sure it’d be cool, but it wouldn’t be putting any more money into Nintendo’s overly fat pockets at this point. If anything it would be unattractive to Nintendo because it’ll make way for more content that they can’t collect royalties from.

    You would get the benefit of the controller in your Flash games, but I think the best option at this point would be to develop software for the PC that makes use of the Wii controller. You’d have all of the control you’d need in that case.

    Since the PS3 has BlueTooth connectivity I wonder if it’d be possible to do Wii-mote homebrew games with that as well. But I suppose PS3 development is probably more complicated and limited to some hardcore C++ rather than the ease of C# that you get with Xbox.

  • Christopher J. Rock

    Yeah, I tried to find the press release, but couldn’t. I did actually read a Nintendo statement explaining the key mapping at the time it was happening. That’s where all the old forum posts pointed, but I guess the world has moved on.