Nintendo finally finished one of the key features of its new Wii U console, just in time for Christmas.
The company today said that it will release the TVii feature of the Wii U on Dec. 20, a month after the system’s U.S. launch on Nov. 18.
More than 400,000 Wii U consoles were sold in its first week on the market in the U.S. Each required a lengthy system update and additional updates to add services that have trickled out since the launch.
System updates are common with game hardware but Nintendo’s lengthy downloads prompted the company’s president, Satoru Iwata, to say in November that he was “very sorry” for the inconvenience.
Adding TV features was key for Nintendo as it competes with other game consoles that have evolved into entertainment hubs, connecting TV sets to a variety of online video services.
The Wii U’s advantage over Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 is the Wii U’s GamePad controller, which has a 6-inch touchscreen display that can be used for video playback or as an advanced remote control for cable and video services. (An early version of TVii is shown above in a picture by Mark Harrison, Times staff photographer)
Shortly after the Wii U’s launch, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon.com’s streaming video services became available on the console. The GamePad could be used to change channels and volume on TVs right out of the box.
TVii adds a program guide so the GamePad can be used to peruse and select content from cable and satellite providers. It also includes social features that let users chat about shows with friends connected via Nintendo’s network. Users can also post comments about shows to Facebook and Twitter while watching via the Wii U.
“After Dec. 20, you’ll never look at your TV the same way again,” Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in the release. “Wii U owners have already experienced the transformative effect that the GamePad has on game play and social interaction. Nintendo TVii shows how the integrated second screen of the GamePad can also transform and enhance the TV viewing experience. Welcome to the new world of TVii.”
Still delayed is the ability to sync TVii with a TiVo and further integration with Netflix. Those capabilities are now expected in early 2013 in the U.S. Later, Nintendo may add the ability to control other DVRs using the GamePad and TVii program guide.
UPDATE: The TVii update wasn’t ready this morning but a Nintendo spokeswoman told me it should go live around noon.