By Jared Newman | Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 9:12 am
Last week, I wrote a list of unanswered questions about Nintendo’s Wii U, the upcoming home game console revealed at E3. But I neglected to ask one biggie: Will the Wii U be a game console or a multimedia device?
The answer is still unknown, but if you’ve got a big collection of DVDs or Blu-ray discs, you won’t be enjoying them on the Wii U. Speaking to investors, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed that the new console won’t support movie playback in either format, Kotaku reports. The Wii U will only accept discs in a 25 GB proprietary format.
Nintendo figures that enough people already have DVD or Blu-ray players, so including the capability — and licensing the associated patents — wasn’t worth the extra cost.
This isn’t terribly surprising. The Wii doesn’t play DVDs, and that didn’t stop Nintendo from selling scads of consoles. And besides, the Wii U could still be a multimedia powerhouse without optical discs.
Except, so far, Nintendo hasn’t shown that it wants to be in the movie and TV business. On both the Wii and the Nintendo 3DS, the company’s relationship with streaming video starts and ends with Netflix, at least in the United States. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony are engaged in a streaming media arms race. The Xbox 360 has ESPN3 and Last.fm. The Playstation 3 has Vudu, MLB.tv and NHL GameCenter. Both consoles have Netflix, Hulu Plus and their own stores for pay-per-view video.
The strategy seems to be paying off. Microsoft recently said that 40 percent of activity on the Xbox 360 is not game-related, and Sony said the Playstation 3 accounts for 30 percent of all Netflix streaming.
I see game consoles as yet another single-purpose device jeopardized by multi-purpose hardware. So while the Wii U’s lack of Blu-ray and DVD support isn’t a huge problem, Nintendo will still have a lot of catching up to do on the streaming video front if it wants to stay relevant in the next console generation.