Some thought it would never happen, others said it was inevitable, but the rumor mill is churning out reports this morning that Netflix, at long last, is working with Nintendo to stream its vast catalog of films to the Wii (an overdue move for a console that won’t play a DVD out of the box). But it’s still up in the air whether the service will launch later this year for existing Wii consoles (yes, please) or if the companies will hold out for the release of the next-gen Wii HD.
To throw just one more variable at you, we’re not exactly sure when the Wii HD is going to launch either. In fact, if you suffer from anxiety, perhaps you should stop reading now, as this post will only become more speculative.
What we do know for certain is that streaming films over the Web is the way the medium is trending, and fast. Earlier this month Samsung released a handful of new televisions that link up directly with Amazon, Blockbuster, or Netflix to beam on demand movies directly to the set, with no external set-top box required. Even broadcast channels are getting in on Web streaming, with upstart cable channel Epix offering its entire catalog (which should grow to around 3,000 films) via the Web.
But let’s get back to speculation: How might these companies implement said streaming deal? We’re going to bet that when Netflix streaming arrives, owners of the old Wii, as well as the upcoming Wii HD, will be able to stream movies to their consoles. Why? Because there are currently more than 21 million Wii consoles in the U.S. alone. As Dan Frommer points out over at Business Insider, Netflix has to be weighing the potential impact of 21 million potential customers on the classic Wii versus a current built-in market of zero on the new Wii.
While the Wii HD will likely fly off shelves when it drops (hopefully that will be sooner rather than later), Netflix obviously has less to gain if Netflix streaming is a new-Wii only amenity. It took a few years for Nintendo to build that market of more than 20 million console owners, and it seems like Netflix wouldn’t bother with this if it can’t have those existing customers as part of the deal. Stay tuned, we’ll keep you posted on this one.