Netflix wants to stream to any video device connected to the internet, and the Wii system is the latest to get support for the company's video on demand option.
Netflix Wii discs are starting to make their way in to the hands of subscribers, and if you are a member of Netflix and haven't already put your request in for a free disc to play streaming movies on your Wii, do it now. I received my disc earlier this week and have been streaming off my Netflix account using the Nintendo Wii system.
The Netflix software for Wii is incredibly basic and once the programs booted it's really not needed. You can even pop the disc out and still navigate the menus. The program is quite small and quickly boots to memory, which leads me to believe that the disc could have been made into a digitally distributed file over WiiWare instead. That would have been the better option, as you could have just launched Netflix from the Wii menu instead of getting up off the couch to put in the disc – and I'm willing to bet that once Microsoft's rumored exclusivity with Netflix on gaming devices ends, you'll be able to get Netflix over WiiWare instead of having to wait for a disc…but that's just pure speculation on my part.
The Wii experience is not too shabby if you haven't made the jump to HD. And if you have, the Wii streams don't look bad on 16:9 displays – I was running Netflix on a 720p Panasonic plasma and while I could tell that it's not HD streams, I wasn't turned off by the video quality at all.
Of course, the quality of the stream depends entirely on the source. Watching Lost episodes, for example, looks fantastic in 480p. But the flick Con Air comes only a little better than the Nintendo Channel's streaming footage. And in some cases films might come in at 4:3 instead of widescreen; Norm McDonald's Dirty Deeds is a good example: crappy quality, in an old-school screen aspect ratio. Again, it's up to the individual streaming DVDs and how they've been processed.
There's not much in the way of features and the Wii version of Netflix doesn't trump anything you can already do on a PC. You can scroll through the titles in different categories, from the Movie and TV New Arrivals to the different genres like Action & Adventure, Drama, and Comedy. Netflix even tracks which discs you've already watched and puts those discs in their own "Recently Watched" category as well as ones that you've slotted for your Instant Queue from other Netflix compatible devices.
It also tracks how much of a disc you've already watched, so if you stop mid-program you can come in and finish up your stream from this handy menu system.
While in a stream, you can scrub through the footage in the standard thumbnail system. You can't fast forward or rewind, only jump to different parts of the stream with a slight delay while the stream catches up with the location you've selected.
Netflix doesn't stream its entire movie library, but it definitely has a solid collection of "on demand" options that gets bigger every day. Having the option to watch these videos for nine bucks a month is a really nice luxury to have -- and you're not restricted to any specific device: you can watch the first part of a film on your Wii then pick up the rest on your laptop or recently purchased iPad.
I'll be a real fan of the service when it's available without the need for a boot disc. Hopefully in the near future Netflix can make it a WiiWare download to appease my need to stay firmly seated on the couch to watch my movies.
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