Wednesday’s announcement that Netflix’s streaming Instant Queue service would be coming to the Wii this spring was, if such a thing is possible, both shocking and predictable.
On the one hand, Nintendo has said repeatedly (and smartly, given the Wii’s underpowered hardware) that it doesn’t intend to try to compete on features with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The Wii doesn’t even play standard movie DVDs, despite the fact that the system’s game discs are encoded on DVDs.
On the other hand, though, Netflix seems like a smart, nimble company. It’s clear that the company’s executives see the writing on the wall; one day, digital distribution is going to take a huge hit out of the DVD-by-mail business just like the rise of Netflix has hit video stores’ wallets. It wouldn’t surprise me if Netflix sought out the deal with Nintendo, in its bid to broaden the range of devices through which the excellent, value-oriented service is available. It’s genius, really. While a range of companies try to gain market share by manufacturing an array of set-top boxes, Netflix has been able to piggy-back on top of the game consoles many of us already own. Netflix gets its increased market share, and the console makers get to add another feature to their lists of bullet points.
As for the practicalities, the streaming will work similarly to the way it does on the PS3. You’ll need to ask that Netflix ship you a disc used to access the service. And, if you haven’t done so, you’ll need to hunt around in the Wii’s menus to get your console online. Unlike the 360 and PS3, the Wii won’t be able to stream your movies in high definition, and it remains to be seen whether the Wii’s relatively low memory will affect the quality of playback. But free is free, right? If you own a Wii and already subscribe to Netflix, there’s no excuse not to go for this. If, however, you’re thinking of buying a Wii to access this feature, consider waiting until it’s implemented and hearing feedback from folks who’ve used it. There’s no rush.