At Nintendo's release date announcement event in New York, NY for the WiiU, the November 18, 2012 date and $299 and $349 price points were not all they brought. A wide variety of games came along for the ride, and Newsarama was there to try out several of them. Over the coming days you'll get to read all about those games, with our hands-on impressions and new information on many of those launch window titles.
But first, the big surprise of the presentation, NintendoTVii. After the "wow" of seeing it on stage, we wanted to see it up close. In a private demo, Nintendo representatives showed exactly how it worked, and it was identical to the stage demo in functionality. The wow factor is just as strong on a smaller screen as it was on a theater one, and while the demo was mostly pre-programmed, it appears that NintendoTVii will actually, truly, genuinely work.
When you pull up the TVii main menu, your WiiU gamepad instantly becomes the ultimate universal remote control. However, instead of unifying multiple hardware components, this is unifying all of your content delivery systems. The Search tab tells the story of the device pretty well. By searching for an individual tv show or movie, the example used in both demos was Modern Family, your WiiU will search all the services and devices you have registered. The search showed possibilities for watching on Hulu+, Amazon, Netflix, Live TV (if it happens to be airing at the time), and perhaps the coup de gras, your DVR. While TiVo brand DVRs were specifically shown for the demo, a spokesperson for Nintendo said that they are working on contracts with "Comcast, Fios, Time Warner, all the major providers," and that the software will eventually work with virtually all DVRs.
If you choose to watch on live TV or DVR, the WiiU gamepad's IR sensor will change your TV input to the proper one, and power on or change the channel of your DVR/Cable box, all with the single selection on your touch screen. Once you're inside your TV show, you can comment on individual scenes to share with your other WiiU using friends, or even tweet about what's going on, all from the gamepad. Integrated IMDB and Wikipedia (amongst other similar services) allow you to find out more about the show you're watching or identify that guest star you can't quite place.
Movies promise to work much the same way, and even allow you to browse for a movie on the gamepad, including reading Rotten Tomatoes scores and reviews and watching trailers, all without changing what's appearing on your TV, so you can queue up your next adventure.
Sports, the final major component to TVii, take similar interactivity and apply it to the gridiron, the diamond, or the court. Football, baseball, and basketball tabs all appeared so far, and other sports are in the works. With Football, you can watch the game on your big screen while tracking stats, seeing recently run plays, and more on your gamepad. Think ESPN's GameCast and you have a pretty good idea how it will look. The same screenshot and commenting system from broadcast television is right there in the football game, too.
If you don't feel like searching every time, fear not. You can go off of what's popular amongst all WiiU users, your own favorites list (and everyone in the house can make their own), recommendations from services or friends, or even just browse in a traditional old grid format. The rotary controller dial allows you to change channels (including jumping to your aforementioned favorites), pause, fast forward, and rewind, and even set your DVR for future recordings.
The Wii managed to make its way into living rooms faster than either the Xbox 360 or the PS3, but without true HD and limited storage options, it never got into the multimedia market the way those two consoles did. With NintendoTVii, that looks to change, and families that add the WiiU to their preferred entertainment hub will likely be pleasantly surprised by all it has to offer outside of games.