GeekDad Review: The Nintendo Channel

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nintendo_3Nintendo_3
I awoke this morning to find the slot illuminator of my Nintendo Wii blinking softly, its happy blue rays adding a coy splash of color to the darkened den. This event isn’t particularly noteworthy in and of itself, as fellow users of the WiiConnect24 feature can surely attest, but today’s message wasn’t your typical toothless contest reminder or system update nag screen. Yes, this morning’s news from the Nintendo mother ship was just that: news.

Get my impressions of the new Nintendo Channel after the jump.

Available in Japan since November, today marks the North American release of the Wii’s Nintendo Channel. Freely downloadable from the Wii
Shop Channel
(with which any content-hungry owner has certainly already become familiar), this one appears resplendent with promise. Nintendo’s
official blurb reads:

Watch trailers, mini documentaries, gameplay videos and gain useful information about your favorite games on Wii and
Nintendo DS. You can even click to buy straight from your Wii. And with
DS Download Play, you can download game demos and additional game data on to your Nintendo DS. You will also have the option of sending information to Nintendo regarding the usage status of your Wii, and see what games others recommend.

As my console already had the most recent device update installed, the download and installation of the channel itself was a breeze, taking only a few minutes even through my less than robust wireless network. After the requisite soft boot, I was then asked to adjust a couple of settings. The first was an opt-in for Commercial Message Distribution, which allows Nintendo and third parties to deliver missives concerning new games and products directly to the Wii Message Board. The second was a Data Sharing agreement, which, in truth, read a little strange:

We would like to offer you the opportunity to receive game recommendations based on your actual game play.

To receive this service, you must agree to allow Nintendo to collect non-identifiable info from your console, such as the games you play and the time you play them. Nintendo will hen use this information to recommend games to you and develop new games and services.

*Sent information may include the following:

-The information posted daily to the Wii Message Board regarding the number of times and duration software titles have been played.

-Information on your picture, Sensor Bar, Internet usage, etc., from the Wii System Settings.
To thank you for sharing your anonymous data with Nintendo, we would like to make available to you the DS Download Service. No information that personally identifies you or your console will be shared with
Nintendo by agreeing to share your game-play data.

Still, since the pair seemed fairly harmless and my answers can be tweaked at any time through the settings menu, I agreed to both. After these parameters had been established, I was treated to the current “Digest Video,” which touts many of the video segments presently available through the service. I gave this vid a cursory look before diving into the channel’s legitimate content.

While certainly not its biggest selling point, the current crop of videos is an eclectic mix of old standards and new teasers. For my test drive I chose to check out the featured interview with Shigeru Miyamoto discussing Wii
Fit
. It’s an eight and a half minute monster that streams steadily and looks passable enough. Unfortunately, while the pause button was readily apparent, I could find no way to rewind or fast-forward the selection. The video’s More Information option proved just as bare-bones, simply listing rough game info, links to related videos and web sites, and a Purchase button that only served to open the Wii’s internet browser and encourage me to choose from a list of well-known online retail sites: Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and the like.
It’s also important to note that, after this little foray into e-commerce, I could find no easy way to return to the Nintendo Channel save exiting to the main menu.

The channel’s Find Titles For You feature was a bit more useful.
In addition to viewing new and upcoming titles and searching them by name or category, this aspect of the service also allows the user to recommend games with over and hour of elapsed playtime. Yet even this is done in the traditionally ham-fisted method on which Nintendo has come to rely with regard to online interactivity. Asking such riveting questions as gender, age, and how highly a given title would be recommended, it merely comes across half-hearted. This end of the experience does, however, boast the channel’s legitimate selling point:
the DS Download Service.

While this service works identically to the DS download kiosks at local electronics retailers and big box stores and none of the titles available seem to be exclusive to the Nintendo Channel, it does offer a comfortable level of fan service in the form of free stuff from the comfort of one’s own couch. I tried it out for myself first by downloading the demo for CrossworDS, which was quick, painless, and effective. (I’m now considering purchasing the title, though not via the haphazard spider web of links afforded by the Nintendo Channel.)
Next I tried a significantly heartier download in the form of the Ninja
Gaiden Dragon Sword
demo. It too installed with minimal effort on my part and only a slightly longer wait time.

In the end, this GeekDad judges the Nintendo Channel to be a worthy enough use of your Wii’s sparse hard drive space providing you accept it for what it is, a not so cleverly designed marketing tool with limited practicality. Video trailers and interviews are nice, as are game recommendations (at least in concept), but the real meat is the game demos. Sadly, while DS demos are a fun diversion, what the service and eager Nintendo fanboys like me hunger for is Wii game demos, and those still seem light years away.

Data sharing agreement text taken from MTV Multiplayer

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