Yes Reggie, Wii Netflix without HD is a problem

Nintendo president says Wii's inability to display HD streaming Netflix content is 'no loss,' but is he being too dismissive?

Dear Nintendo, while I respect your president Reggie Fils-Aime's decision to shrug off the Wii's inability to do high-definition video as "no loss" in an interview with CNBC, I'm not sure you're taking the long view.

And if recent HD usage survey results are accurate, you probably should be.

According to a November 2009 Knowledge Networks survey, 43 percent of people "watch HD programs every day," up from just 26 percent in 2007. That's a 65 percent increase in two years, significant enough to lead Knowledge Networks' president to note "This sends a message to advertisers that HD is becoming the new norm for those with HD access across all program types."

People apparently--and increasingly--want high-definition content. And you know what? Yes, only part of Netflix's total catalog may be HD-ready today, but what...you think Netflix plans to wait for the Wii to catch up with an HD part? Care to wager how much Netflix's HD library is going to grow in 2010 alone?

Think about your competition. Microsoft and Sony offer HD streaming content today. Both have deals with Netflix (Microsoft's is integrated, but even Sony's disc-based program includes the HD option). Yes, you need a fast connection to qualify for a high-def feed, and no, it still doesn't look as immaculate as full-on Blu-ray (or for those of you who haven't switched, HD-DVD--requiescat in pace). But it's clearly a superior option, and for people slowly (or does that survey now imply 'quickly'?) awakening to the perquisites of HD video, possibly even a deal-breaker.

Which means:

If you already have a 360 or a PS3, Netflix on the Wii isn't a reason to buy one. If you have a 360 or a PS3 as well as a Wii, it's not a reason to use the Wii (unless you want to service another room somewhere). And if you have none of the above but want to buy a Netflix compatible, HD-ready console that complements your existing high-def TV setup, your options are Microsoft or Sony, not Nintendo.

Reggie Fils-Aime's response in that CNBC interview:

The vast majority of content that's available for streaming on Netflix is not HD content, so there really is no loss for the Wii consumer, the fact that they can't get any HD content through our system.

Accurate but shortsighted. As noted, Netflix's HD development plans are hardly in stasis. But what's worse, Fil-Aime has to go and conflate two spectacularly different forms of entertainment:

The consumer has voted, over 26 million consumers have bought a Wii. So the consumer is saying that the quality of the visual is not nearly as important as the overall entertainment, the overall value of that experience.

Earth to Nintendo: Movies aren't games (last I checked, Netflix wasn't streaming Mario or Donkey Kong). You don't interact with a movie or TV show the way you do New Super Mario Bros or Wii Fit Plus. Video's value is its visual content. And in that particular game, speaking as an unabashed videophile, HD matters--more each day.

Connect with me on Twitter @game_on

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Matt Peckham

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