Nintendo will finally join the living room entertainment wars in earnest on Thursday with TVii, a service for its new Wii U game console.
Nintendo had originally planned to launch TVii alongside the Wii U on November 18 but pushed the release date back, promising to launch the service in December.
TVii provides a single interface for cable or satellite television and Web-based video services, using the Wii U GamePad as a universal remote. Users can search across all their video sources for a particular show, search by genre, access their favorite programs or get recommendations on what to watch.
Once the user selects a show, the Wii U GamePad handles all the work, using its built-in IR blaster to select the appropriate input or change channels. TVii requires no extra equipment, and users define their cable package’s channel lineup and sign into their Internet video services during the setup process.
TVii also provides some supplemental content on the GamePad while watching television. Users can post to Nintendo’s Miiverse, Facebook or Twitter, and can look up Internet-based information such as cast details, movie reviews and sports scores.
The service still won’t be complete at launch, however. Although Netflix is already available as a standalone app on the Wii U, it won’t be integrated with TVii until next year. Same goes for TiVo integration, which will allow users to control their DVRs through the Wii U GamePad. For now, users can set up integration with Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus and their local cable or satellite service.
Nintendo won’t be the first company to try bringing traditional television and Internet video into a single interface – Google TV has been doing it for a couple years now – but its use of a simple, touchscreen interface to bring everything together is new. Although Nintendo has traditionally been about games-above-all, it’s about to give some serious competition to Google, Apple and Microsoft as they try to take over the living room.
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Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.