Anyone who lived through the GameCube era will remember how Nintendo dismissed rival consoles' video playback and online connectivity as distractions from "true" gaming. In a 2004 interview, company president Satoru Iwata called Sony's PSP and its ill-fated PlayStation 2/PVR hybrid, the PSX, mere "entertainment goods" and flatly said that "customers do not want online games."
Five years later, Nintendo makes the current generation's top console, the 50-million-unit-selling Wii, which comes with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The Internet is central to the company's business model, with retro games and new WiiWare titles being digitally distributed to the Wii Shop Channel every Monday. The Wii also offers a variety of online information, including weather and news, and free online play, albeit with the use of cumbersome friend codes. The company even notifies Wii owners of new events with mass e-mail blasts denoted by a blinking blue light on the console's front.
Later this year, Nintendo will be challenging the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360's non-game entertainment content by offering video downloads in Japan. First revealed last Christmas to the Nikkei news service, the company's video download service is proceeding apace, according to comments made by Iwata to the Wall Street Journal this week.
"It'll be an advertising-based video service, which is a first for us," the executive told the financial daily. "And if the Wii and the DS are connected, it should be possible to download video through the Wii and take it with you on the DS." It was unclear if the videos would be DS-formatted or if the video transfer connectivity would be similar to the PS3's Remote Play feature, which lets players access non-Blu-ray video content on PSPs via the Web.
Iwata also promised that, like the Wii itself, its video download service would offer something distinctive from its competitors. "When the service begins, you'll see how we're going to do it differently in a Nintendo-like way," promised the recent Game Developers Conference keynote speaker. "There are a lot of on-demand video services, so there's no reason to do the same thing."
Lastly, Iwata promised that if the Wii's video service is successful in Japan, the company would "like to take it overseas." No time frame was offered as to when the service might launch in North America or Europe, nor were any hints given as to content partners.