Wii channels - where next?

The channels system on Wii is easily the most straightforward and elegant menu interface on any console to date, especially when compared to the confusing tangle of menus and sub-menus on the Xbox dashboard or PS3’s cross media bar. Clicking in and out of channels and even re-arranging them to suit your own personal use of them is a breeze with the Wiimote. The problem, however, is that of the three systems, the Wii is most lacking when it comes to content. So here, I am going to go over some changes and additions we here at My Wii News would like to see. I only hope someone at Nintendo is reading.

First up, let’s look at the Photo Channel. While it can be good for showing off your holiday snaps, for most people it is probably one of the least used channels on the system. You are able to view slideshows of your photos with your own music from SD card, though Nintendo have made a strange choice with audio formats. The default format for the channel is, unsurprisingly, mp3. However, when Nintendo released an optional update to allow compatibility with the iTunes AAC format, we were forced to choose between the two formats, rather than have the update accommodate both.

With Nintendo’s vision of having the console as the centre of a family’s living room, the photo channel needs to be changed into a full multimedia channel. This could include the ability to play videos from disc or SD card, as well as playing music from CDs. If a hard drive is ever released, it could even include the ability to rip music from CD to the internal memory, a la Xbox 360. We know the Wii isn’t capable of playing DVDs, which is one way Nintendo were able to keep the cost of the console so low, but there have been rumours for a while now of a new version of the console with a built in DVD drive, which could be integrated into a multimedia channel.

Wii weather forcast - accuracy questionable

While the photo channel is rarely used by the average Wii user, the Weather Channel is probably never used. It suffers from one major problem - you can get a far more detailed and accurate report on TV or online, so who is going to bother to power up their Wii and load the channel, only to get a simplistic forecast for somewhere a few miles away from their actual location? One way the channel could be improved is to add access to Doppler radar information. There are already websites that give access to Doppler radar maps that give detailed weather information, which is updated very five to ten minutes. That way, rather than having to work out which city is closest to where you want a forecast for and seeing if it has a picture of the sun over it, you can find the exact location on the map and see exactly what is going on in the skies in near real time. The channel already has a 3D globe you can navigate to find reports, so Doppler images could be integrated as an overlay when you zoom in.

So many Miis, so little to do

No doubt the biggest addition to the Wii most users would like to see is some kind of community channel. The Mii is a fantastic way to represent people in games, but there is very little interactivity between them. Microsoft have copied the idea with their new avatar system, but they have promised they will be used as a tool to interact with your friends when you are chatting, sharing photos and playing games. Xbox Live really does feel like an online community, and should have been the blueprint Nintendo used when they were designing the online structure of the Wii. With USB keyboards and the newly unveiled Wii Speak, Wii users could have text and voice chat while their Miis interact and play games on screen. Even if it is only basic games like chess and tic-tac-toe, the ability to talk to your friends while you play will be a vast improvement to the so far faceless, empty feeling online community.

Other useful additions to the online infrastructure would be the ability to exchange friend codes for games automatically while you chat, so they will be waiting for you next time you play the game, and an easier way of seeing who is online playing what games. Currently you can only see if anyone is playing online by going into the friends list in the game, but finding people to play would be much easier if, like on Xbox 360, you could access a list of all your friends from the Wii menu to see who is online and what they are playing.

Speaking of online content, the Nintendo Channel is in need of some major new content. The ability to download demos to your DS is great, but until recently there were only the likes of Brain Training and Metroid Prime on there. Recently, Ninja Gaiden and Iron Man demos have been made available, but the channel needs more new games, preferably before they are released in shops. Demos of Wii games would also be a welcome addition, but that leads back to the lack of storage space on the console.

Finally, a request that anyone who uses a Gamecube controller to play Smash Brothers, Gamecube games or any Virtual Console titles will sympathise with. Please, Nintendo, let us use Gamecube pads to navigate the Wii menu. It may not sound like much, but having to use the Wii remote to load your game only to turn it off again and pick up your Gamecube pad before you play never gets any less irritating. It can’t take more than a simple firmware update to enable it, so who knows why Nintendo haven’t done it yet.

Wii Premium?

Wii Premium?

We can forgive Nintendo for limiting some of the features on Wii, particularly on the multimedia side of things, as it meant they could keep the cost of the console amazingly low. Over a year and a half later though, it’s time Nintendo upped the ante, perhaps by releasing a “premium” version of the console with a DVD player and hard drive. More likely from Nintendo though are cheaper, more immediate changes to channels which would take no more than a software update via a quick download.

The Wii remains a joy to use, we could just do with a few more things to use it for.

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