Nintendo TVii was one of the biggest, if not the single biggest, selling point for me on the new Wii U console: a single place to integrate all of my television and movie watching, and the ability to interact on social media and take tv watching to a new, immersive level. So now that I've lived with it for about a week, is my life changed?
As promising and exciting as that prospect is, it is, unfortunately, all that it remains: a great prospect. Without Netflix integration and better support for cable/satellite subscriptions, all Nintendo TVii appears to be is a ramped up skin for Hulu and Amazon subscribers. It's coming, they say? I believe it. But I'm not going to base my review on the promise as I have no way to appropriately set my expectations. If Nintendo wants to let me use a beta, I'm more than happy to look at it. And I'll be incredibly happy to be proved wrong once Netflix is up and running. But for now, I have to put Nintendo TVii in the C+/B- range.
The first ding is for not including it at launch, claiming it wasn't finished; the second is for then releasing an incomplete version anyway several weeks later. I really don't understand this decision, as it just seems like typical PR spin (read: lies). Either release it on time or don't, but don't lie about what's going on.
Now, that being said, TVii is a beautiful interface that is fun and intuitive. Merely pick your favorite tv shows and movies, and TVii gives you all of the ways you can watch them, including when upcoming episodes will be on TV. Additionally, the way it lets every member of my family set up a separate profile based on our Mii avatars is incredibly exciting-- no more will content be suggested to me because "I" recently watched "Go Diego Go" or "Blue's Clues" or "Grey's Anatomy."
The TV tag system is also neat, especially for sports. I can immediately see play-by-play breakdowns of the game so far. Unfortunately, among the 10 shows I attempted to watch, none of them were supported by the feature. This was disappointing, especially as I tried shows across genres and channels and popularity.
The final, and largest disappointment, comes when I actually find a show I want to watch. If it is on TV, it simply directs me to make sure my tv is set to the cable input rather than to the Wii U. And unfortunately, its included universal remote functionality only covers just the television set, so then I have to change channels on my cable box separately. How frustrating, especially since the Wii U Gamepag contains the ability to control most tvs or cable boxes: just not, seemingly, two of them at the same time. Even more frustrating is when you want to watch the show or movie on Hulu or Amazon-- you get kicked out of the TVii interface and just go into Hulu or Amazon. (We can assume that's what will happen with Netflix as well.) Which begs the question: why not just use Hulu from the get-go?
Which, unfortunately, is what I have found myself doing. Rather than integrating all of my digital viewing into one format under Nintendo TVii, what I am really being driven to do is just use my existing accounts. Frustrating, and not exactly what I was promised.
So, for now, I'll happily use TVii on the rare occasions I'm watching sports or when I happen to have to Wii U on and want to browse what's on cable. Otherwise, I'm just using the services I've used before. I'm waiting on the next version, as all of these problems are easily fixable. I still believe in the promise of Nintendo TVii, even if its current iteration isn't quite there yet.
PS- The Netflix interface on the Wii U is the best one I've ever used though any game console, Roku box, etc. It's simply amazing.