Nintendo announced today that the Wii will get Netflix this spring, officially bringing the Wii to the new decade and making it clear the one-time leader is now a follower.
The Microsoft Xbox 360 has had Netflix since last summer, while the trailing Sony PlayStation 3, which had a record-breaking holiday season, got the movie service last fall.
The casual Wii audience is the perfect captive audience for movie viewing, but Nintendo lost most of them years ago. In 2007 the Wii shipped with no DVD player (internal or external), no ability to download multimedia until a year out and still no stable online presence. The extremely mature Xbox Live and gaining PlayStation Network have cultivated their audiences to use video games, multimedia and online content at once â€"- approaching the fabled living room "black box" principal of having one entertainment device for everything. It would have been brilliant if Nintendo were the first service provider, but after years of hemming and hawing, adding Netflix to the Wii now sounds awkward and incongruent.
The lack of forethought is pushed further home by the New York Times hearing Nintendo will "announce a new Wii HD version of its console next year." XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 users can watch high definition movies right now, and, with Nintendo hardware sales already sagging, there's no reason to think the current casual-focused Wii audience would want to pony up for a more-expensive high-definition upgrade in 2011. This isn't even factoring in the Wii-inspired Microsoft Project Natal and Sony PlayStation so-called Motion Sticks, both expected out by year's end.
It becomes even more delusional as Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime is quoted as saying "from Day 1, we always had other capabilities within the console." Weather reports don't count, at least to users who have been doing full online interactivity, YouTube, and, well, Netflix on their game systems for months.
The best bet for Nintendo? Stop pretending the Wii is still cutting edge. The third-place move on Netflix, the derivative games and the late price drop all smack of a company believing it has a comfortable lead. Any Wii innovations will be surpassed by Microsoft, Sony or, likely, both in 2010, so Nintendo better figure out what gamers will want tomorrow, not a year ago.