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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Nintendo Video... woeful

One of Nintendo’s promises with the 3DS was that it would be able to play video footage in glasses-free 3D. And that Nintendo was ‘working hard’ with content providers around that service.

That service, Nintendo Video, is now available for Europeans and Australians to download off the 3DS eShop. Based on what’s there now and its future potential, I’m hedging bets that this is going to be a failure, and consumer interest will wane very, very quickly.

Starting with the good though: It’s there and it works. The videos currently available on the service look pretty good in 3D and although the resolution is fairly low it’s clearly possible to make things look good on 3DS playback.

The service is also SpotPass enabled, which is a great little touch. Having videos downloaded automatically when you’re at work or asleep is a nice little time saver on Nintendo’s behalf. It will encourage content providers who will be able to reliably assume that most of the people who download this application will also view the content.

But that’s about it. The rest of the service is less than pleasant.

Oscar. It's cute, but it's not exactly an academy award winning animation

Let’s start with the big one from the outset: It would appear that, through this service, Nintendo has not set up content shopping capabilities. What you’re going to get on Nintendo Video looks likely to be relegated to free content. Given the quality of the content Nintendo launched with – silly magic tricks and B-grade animated shorts – you’re looking at a video portal that is so inferior to both Sony’s PSP (movie downloads) and Apple’s iTunes (movie and TV show downloads) that I can’t think of a hyperbole that could adequately describe the gap.

I also wonder just how long the videos on the shop can be; I suspect we won’t be watching feature films. As it is, the Nintendo Video application is taking up 2,439 ‘blocks’ on my SD card; leaving me about 6,500 blocks. That 2,439 blocks is roughly 400MB – and given how storage-hungry 3D footage is, that 400MB doesn’t go far. So short animations it is.

Remember how people hated that DSiWare was plagued with magic tricks?

Then there’s the dated time limits on the footage’s availability. Much like Kirby’s cartoon Wii Channel, videos have a strict time limit attached to them. Fail to watch the video before then, and it’s gone for good. And if you happen to really enjoy something, tough, there’s no way to preserve it. It’s good that Nintendo is looking for ways to offer an efficient service that won’t rip its server infrastructure to shreds, but once again look at the competition: I download a movie to my PSP or iPad, and it’s there for good.

If Nintendo can keep a strong flow of content coming to the service, and forge partnerships with the major players (I’d love to see the old Loony Tunes cartoons start to show up), then, and only then, can Nintendo Video hold its head up. Nintendo’s history with this stuff is less than admirable, though, and even if it manages to get everything right from the content provisioning point of view, this service is still woefully limited in comparison to the competition.

It’s painful to watch how badly Nintendo struggles with this stuff. It’s not so bad for the Americans – they can enjoy a Netflix service. For the rest of the world, though, Nintendo Video simply does not cut it as a non-gaming entertainment application on a console.

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Review: Nintendo Video... woeful
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