NINTENDO is behind a television service that transforms the tablet-like controller for its new Wii U game console into an all-encompassing television remote controller.
The TVii service aims to bring order to the hundreds of channels on television and the thousands of shows and movies available through services such as Google’s YouTube and Netflix.
It’s the first time a video game console maker has integrated live television controls in a device.
Nintendo’s Wii U console has a unique controller – the GamePad – which is covered with joysticks and buttons and boasts a front-facing camera and 6.2-inch touch screen. The GamePad also houses an infrared emitter that talks directly to the TV or set-top box.
TVii scans what is available and offers the user the option of watching a show, sports event or movie on live TV or through apps that connect to the internet. By the end of March, Nintendo says that it will integrate TVii with TiVo so that it will be possible to program a TiVo digital video recorder through the game console as well.
For years, home entertainment enthusiasts have had to grapple with different controllers to work their televisions, set-top boxes, DVRs, disc players and game consoles. TVii has the potential to dispense with some of that hassle.
Nintendo hopes the service boosts sales of its console. About 425,000 Wii U units were sold in the first seven days since launch. That is faster than the rollout of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp’s PlayStation 3 when they debuted in November 2005 and November 2006, although initial sales are often constrained by supply, not demand.
Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities said the TVii service puts Nintendo a step ahead of its competitors, but he expects Microsoft to close the gap next year with a next generation Xbox that includes a TV tuner.
“It gives them a head start. I think they should be congratulated on making this a truly multimedia device,” Pachter said. “I don’t think that advantage is going to last very long.”