By: Jesse Miller
Modern consoles are no longer just dedicated gaming machines. They are now home entertainment hubs, functionally speaking, with the ability to stream and store programing. Nintendo kicked off this trend with its latest-generation Wii U, which features its TVii service that launched last week.
TVii supports popular subscription-based streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant. The Wii U remote also doubles as a second screen that can offer complementary information when available. The controller can also function as a DVR remote control, a social media portal, and can accommodate multiple user accounts. The TVii service is free for all Wii U owners; but Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant require a separate subscription.
The latest system update for the WiiU includes everything the users needs to run TVii, so clicking the TVii icon (it’s the red television icon on the home menu) will launch the setup guide – no laborious download or installation necessary.
Setting up is very simple. The step-by-step guide will ask for the user’s zip code, which will produce a list of cable and satellite providers from which to choose. From there, it will prompt the user to select their favorite stations, television shows and movies. Selecting favorites creates a catalog that can make accessing these selections easier in the future and can help TVii make recommendations for other programming.
A More Advanced Controller
The Wii U GamePad already allows the user to control the input, volume, and channels on their TV, but TVii helps it shine. While using TVii, the user can bring up a rotary selector on the touch screen that acts as an advanced remote – complete with channel and volume controls, and a customizable favorite channels selector. Also displayed are DV-R functions (stop, pause, play, fast forward, record, etc…), which are at this time un-operational, but will reportedly be made available via an update in January.
While these features are useful, TVii isn’t meant to simply replace the user’s remote. Its main purpose is to collect all of the viewer’s favorite media in one place, and provide them with multiple options to access it. If one were to select Modern Family as a favorite, for example, the TVii service would display all currently playing and upcoming episodes on cable, provide links to the show on Hulu Plus, and show streaming options available through Amazon Prime. Additionally, it gives access to a movie or shows’ cast information, Rotten Tomato score, and even the related Wikipedia page.
While watching a show or movie, the user can also view and make comments through the TVii Miiverse community, Twitter, and/or Facebook. Facebook comments include the prefix “I commented on a TV Moment:” and Twitter comments are hash tagged with #NintendoTVii. These social features are completely optional and users may opt out of connecting to their social media when using TVii.
A Good Sport
Along with movies and television shows, TVii can also track a limited selection of sports teams. At this time, only teams operating in the NFL, NBA, NCAA Football, and NCAA Basketball are available, but other leagues spanning baseball, hockey, soccer and other sports may be added in a future update.
Even with this limitation, following sports on TVii shows off the service’s true potential. Favorite teams can be tracked, allowing easy access to view upcoming schedules, past results, and a variety of game statistics. If a game is live, TVii will also present the user with all possible viewing options. But what really makes it useful is TV Tune, a feature that displays a play-by-play and relevant statistics right on the screen, including field/court diagrams that show game progress similar to ESPN’s Gamecast. Though a “Last Game” or some other “quick pick” feature would have been a nice addition, switching between games is relatively simply and surprisingly quick.
There are more features still coming to the service early next year. The aforementioned DV-R functions have yet to be added and Netflix support is currently absent, but even with these features yet to come, the potential is there and it will undoubtedly continue to evolve for some time to come. For now, TVii offers some fine features that help to gather ever-expanding media sources in one place – which in itself is quite useful indeed.