Netflix Wii-bound this spring

[UPDATE] US movie-rental house officially announces streaming support for last of the "Big Three" consoles will arrive soon at no additional cost to Netflix subscribers; analysts unimpressed.

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Two days ago, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said there was an "excellent" chance that his online video-rental company's streaming service would come to "Nintendo" platforms. Today, that chance increased to 100 percent. This morning, Los Gatos, California-based Netflix launched an official Wii page saying that online streaming was coming to the console "this spring."

The Wii is the last console to support Netflix in the US.
The Wii is the last console to support Netflix in the US.

Netflix's Wii page lets anyone sign up for details on when the service will launch on Nintendo's console. It also emphasizes that its streaming service offers "[movie] classics, some new releases & TV episodes," with the emphasis in the original. It also reminds Wii users that their consoles must have a high-speed Internet and offers a small glimpse of what the Netflix interface will look like on the white console (pictured).

Unfortunately, the aforementioned details are all Netflix is offering about its upcoming Wii service, which is only available in the US. However, given that the $199 console lacks a built-in hard drive, it is likely that video streaming on the platform will be based on a physical disc, much like it is on the hard drive-equipped PlayStation 3. Such functionality was hinted at by rumors last year, when Netflix hired a head of game platforms, which had worked on developing the Wii MotionPlus.

[UPDATE] Netflix has now confirmed that its streaming service on the Wii will indeed be disc-based. Netflix subscribers and Wii owners can reserve a instant-streaming disc at www.netflix.com/Wii, with the discs shipping out via USPS when the service launches later this year.

According to today's announcement, Netflix will be presented much like one of the Channels on the Wii home screen. Once selected, the disc will contact the Netflix servers and present the subscriber's video queue as well as lists of top picks from popular genres and new releases "based on members' personal preferences." Users will be able to rate video selections, as well as fast-forward, rewind, and pause them as on other streaming platforms.

Besides the PlayStation 3 and Wii, Netflix is also available via the Xbox 360, which supported the service exclusively until last fall. Unlike the other two consoles, Microsoft's platform offers the service without a disc directly through Xbox Live--but only to paying Xbox Live Gold customers who also subscribe to Netflix. Any Netflix subscriber who orders a free PS3 streaming disc can stream movies to Sony's console for no additional cost.

According to the New York Times, Nintendo also will not charge Netflix subscribers extra to stream video on its console. (Netflix subscriptions start at $9/month.) However, unlike the PS3 or 360, the Wii will not be able to the service's numerous stream high-definition video offerings to its 26-million-unit installed US base--the largest of any current-generation console.

[UPDATE2] Shortly after the announcement, Wedbush game-industry analyst Michael Pachter offered his lukewarm reaction to the Nintendo-Netflix deal. "We are not convinced, however, that the addition of the Wii to Netflix’s stable of Internet-ready devices will have as significant an impact as did the Xbox 360, nor as significant as we expect for the PS3," he said.

Pachter continued, "In our view, only a small percentage (likely fewer than 20 percent) of Wii owners have connected their consoles to the Internet, which is required to activate the Netflix service. In contrast, we believe that more than 75 percent of Xbox 360s are connected to the Internet, and more than 80 percent of PS3s are connected."

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