For 15 minutes today, Nintendo was almost a tech company.
The company devoted a surprisingly low-key, show-and-tell portion of its Wii U launch event to demonstrate Nintendo TVii (pronounced as it were without the "ii"). It's arguably the company's non-gaming gambit, a chance to demonstrate the company is taking the "second screen" argument seriously — one that many companies are attempting these days, with the most direct comparison maybe being Microsoft's upcoming Smart Glass.
Nintendo TVii, as defined by the company, is a "personalized programming guide" for both live and on-demand content. There's a universal search function that lets you find content on live TV (controlled via infrared like a controller) and Wii U apps like Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix. Shows like Modern Family, as we saw, will have timestamped messages relevant to the on-screen scene — messages that can also be shared via Twitter and Facebook. You can also quickly check on sports scores and take a deeper dive into statistics of shows as they're playing on the main screen.
Nintendo's argument for the non-gaming 'second screen'
The technology is impressive at face value — especially for a company that's devoted nearly all its resources to game hardware and software development — and a lot of that is thanks to a partnership with i.TV. Both sides are being vague about who contributed what to this project. We did, however, speak with i.TV cofounder Justin Whittaker, who told us that most of the functionality would be seen in its own consumer-facing app that the company itself would be presenting on other platforms in the near future. Those apps, Whittaker noted, wouldn't have Nintendo's pre-existing tablet / set-top box cohesion.
Nintendo wouldn't let us directly try out the service at the event, calling this an early build. The demo more or less walked through what they showed on stage today without diving too far into transactions or other programming. The menu is clean and smooth, but there wasn't really any departure from the press conference script.
All representatives we spoke with confirm that Nintendo TVii be available on launch day for North America. No word on other regions, but Whittaker tells us i.TV is looking to Europe for its own service, so we imagine it will then be an option for Nintendo, too.