Netflix Wii support on the way, joining PS3, Xbox 360, kitchen sink

The leading US video game console will add streaming movies from Netflix to its array of features this spring.

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    Netlfix Wii support arrives this spring, as seen in this screengrab.
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With Wii on board, what's left?

That's the question many tech watchers are asking as they scan the home entertainment landscape and see Netflix support popping up like interstate billboards.

The Wii joins the PS3, Xbox 360, LG and Samsung Blu-ray players, TiVo, a set-top box from Roku, and even some TVs in offering access to Netflix's streaming catalog. Like the PS3, the Wii will require users to send away for a special disc to pop in when they want to watch streaming content.

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Broadband-connected Wii users signed up for "unlimited" Netflix plans starting with its most basic $8.99 one can look forward to "Watch Instantly" support by spring 2010.

HD? Meh.

With all the "me-too" elements to this post, there's one area where the Wii just can't quite match its Microsoft and Sony competitors, and that's HD support. The Wii has always only been capable of displaying video at 480p standard definition. Up until now, that hasn't been much of a problem – who wants to see their Mii playing golf in 1080p? But now that streaming video is going to be piped in through the Wii, some have balked at the lack of HD support.

On one hand, the complaints make sense – many people have Wiis hooked to large-screen HDTVs and want the quality they've paid for. On the other, is streaming HD video really at a point technologically where it should be considered a must, especially as a free add-on to a valuable service many already use?

We made the same argument – to some howls of protest – when YouTube announced they were supporting 1080p video. Nintendo of America's CEO agrees. "The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the instant streaming content that Netflix has available is non-HD and the fact is that... many consumers who have an HD television still aren't watching HD content through that television," Reggie Fils-Aime told the Seattle Times.

Beyond gamers

The Wii partnership, announced Tuesday night on Netflix's official blog, will bring the company's streaming video capability to the 26 million US Wii owners – more than any other current console. The New York Times called it "further evidence of a movement by makers of game consoles to broaden their appeal by positioning them as a bridge between the living room television and a wider world of online multimedia."

The Wii has already helped to introduce gaming to a new segment of gamers – people who never thought they'd spend time pointing a controller at a screen. Microsoft is looking to do the same thing with its motion-capture Natal Xbox 360 add-on, out later this year. The Netflix-console deals aim to continue that expansion, lowering the price of admission by offering something many more are familiar with – watching movies.

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What's your take? Has the raft of Netflix streaming deals prompted you to buy a gaming console? Think our take on HD streaming is off-base? Let use know in the comments, and keep up to date by following us on Twitter – we're @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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