Reggie Fils-Aime Talks Nintendo TVii
In yesterday’s Seattle Times, Reggie Fils-Aime dished a bit on one of the more interesting (and surprising) features of the Wii U console: Nintendo TVii. Horrible names aside, ever since the feature was announced last month, I and my colleagues at IGD have been wondering just how the service will provide users with the option of watching broadcast television.
In the interview, Fils-Aime explains that Nintendo TVii will act as the best device-based content aggregator yet, and based on what I’ve seen in terms of demos, I believe it. Searching for a show via the GamePad controller looks way easy, especially when compared to the PS3’s horrible user interface, and even compared to Xbox 360’s hit-and-miss Bing searching. But it also claims that users will be able to check out broadcasts of shows—presumably live broadcasts, and up until this point, to my knowledge, no console has been able to offer that kind of option with the exception of dedicated sports apps like NFL Sunday Ticket on PS3 and MLB.TV on PS3 and Xbox.
But when asked about Nintendo’s competition with companies like Google and Apple in this space, Fils-Aime dropped the briefest of hints about how this could work:
“There are a lot of people who’ve been trying to do this and I think the challenge has been how do you build the economics, how do you drive the installed base, and how do you drive the relationships.
Our approach was, because it’s on the back of the gaming platform, that’s what’s going to drive the installed base. Because we’re clearly a games and entertainment company, Netflix and us have a fantastic relationship. We’ve got a fantastic relationship with the Amazon video people, a fantastic relationship with Hulu Plus, a growing relationship with the cable companies and dish companies.
Essentially we were the perfect vehicle to drive this type of innovation into the home. Whereas all of the other competitors have maybe an issue from a partnership standpoint that is tough to solve.”
That one bit—“…a growing relationship with the cable companies and dish companies”—signals to me that there is going to be some explicit partnerships between Nintendo and companies like Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Dish Network, DirecTV, etc. I have a feeling there may be a specific app you’ll have to download for your system depending on the content provider you’ve got a subscription with, or perhaps you’ll have to have a certain level of service with your provider (and possibly pay an extra fee for Wii U access).
This is all speculation on my part, but short of plugging a co/ax cable into the console or connecting an antenna, I can’t see how else this will work. For sure, this confirms that it’ll be down to whether or not the provider is cool with Nintendo’s plan, meaning that deals with other companies may prevent this from being available in all areas. For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if I can’t access broadcast shows with my Wii U here in Minneapolis, since I know Comcast already has an arrangement with Microsoft for the Xfinity TV app on that console.
Now, there are some other hints later in the interview that shed some more light on how this will work. Fils-Aime starts talking about “IR codes” and “IR capabilities” of the GamePad, referring to infrared codes, in that this is how your cable remote talks to your TV and cable box. Observe:
“…the piece to recognize and the reason we’re able to bring that to life is that your signal, from either your cable box or your dish, this system has access to it through the IR codes. … Who’s to say the next iteration, … the 4DS or whatever it is, might be able to do that, maybe.
But it just highlights the way we think about hardware development is we envision scenarios, we envision what can be done technically, that the current system doesn’t do and then we build it into that new device.
For example, if we hadn’t built the IR capability into the GamePad, the work we’re doing with Nintendo TV couldn’t come to pass. That’s another key advantage we have, for example, vs. tablets or other handheld device. Not all of them have IR blasting capability. In fact, most of them don’t.”
So will having a box hooked up to your TV be the key here? Will the box be transmitting information back to the GamePad, instead of the other way around? If that’s the case, do I have to bust out my own cable box, because I really don’t want to. Currently, I just plug my co/ax cable right into the TV and get digital broadcast in high definition. Through the box, not so much.
So what’s the deal, Nintendo? Tell me how this thing will work, dammit!