Dec 21st, 2012

The Wii U is more than just another Nintendo console; it represents the company’s new mission of offering consumers a full entertainment experience, and TVii is an essential piece of that puzzle. Nintendo has typically been a gaming only company, but with stiff competition from rivals Microsoft and Sony, and new entrants like Apple and Google threatening market share, the shift of gears was inevitable.

TVii doesn’t just attempt to keep up: it aims to leapfrog the competition. The Wii U Gamepad serves as a universal remote with tablet-like experience. It incorporates a deeper, socially driven TV-watching approach. And it allows each member of the family to customize their experience with their personality and preferences. But does it succeed?

Setting up TVii

For me, setting up TVii was an absolute breeze. Simply punch in your zip code, select your service provider, choose a channel package, and you’re on your way. With the sheer combination of possible zip codes, service providers, and channel packages, some consumers will inevitably face problems, but my experience was enjoyably simple. (Visit the TVii forums if you’re having problems)

Once the technical stuff is out of the way, you’ll enter a set-up wizard that allows you to select favorite TV shows, Movies, Sports teams, and channels. These will help pre-populate your TVii with a more personalized experience and your favorite channels become “quick buttons” found on the universal Gamepad remote. You’re easily able to adjust these settings at any time by pressing on your Mii on the top left of the Gamepad.

And that’s it. Like I said, an absolute breeze.

TVii Universal Remote

There are two ways to control your TV with your GamePad:

  1. Pressing the hardware button with blue “TV” text (underneath the Gamepad screen) pops up a no frills remote with channel up/down, volume up/down, number pad, and a couple other simple options.
  2. Pressing the remote icon in the lower right hand corner of the Gamepad touchscreen brings up the complete universal remote with a more extensive set of options.

The second provides the comprehensive navigation typical of any universal remote and it’s conveniently overlaid on the Gamepad screen regardless of where you happen to be browsing.

You’ll notice the universal remote is a bit quirky in it’s layout. The design is set up much like a rotary phone, with an outside layer of numbers and favorite channels that scroll in circular fashion. The rest of the remote is positioned statically and include TV On/Off, Guide, Source/Input, Volume Up/Down, Channel Up/Down, DVR controls, and Up/Down/Left/Right/Enter buttons to control other functionality.

The notably disappointing exclusion here is with the DVR controls: they don’t work.

The obvious saving grace here is the message that this functionality will be coming soon. For now, the missing feature creates quite the irritation, mainly because TVii let’s you do so much but fails to connect the dots. You’re easily able to see that your favorite team plays tomorrow night, a great movie is on this weekend, and you’ll be missing the season premiere of a TV show you really enjoy, but you’re unable to set up recordings for them. Furthermore, you’ll have to fetch your regular remote to pause, play, rewind, and fast forward whatever you’ve got on the tube.

TVii TV, Movies, and Favorites

Beyond all-too-familiar remote layouts discussed above, the Wii U Gamepad’s core functionality offers a magazine-like TV browsing experience for TVii similar to services like Netflix, Google Play Store, YouTube, and other video streaming services. Only now, not only is it operating your TV, but you’re also browsing on one screen and seeing the results on another. This makes channel surfing all-the-better as you can explore alternate programming without skipping a beat.

The TV, Movie, and Favorite sections each have sub options. In the case of TV, you’ve got Featured, Live, Recommended, and Grid. I found the Featured and Recommended to be somewhat redundant, although this could improve as the system learns your preferences. Dive into a TV show and you can also browse episodes, get more information about the cast, and select from a range of viewing options such as Live TV, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Streaming.

Live was especially enticing, offering a picturesque view of current programming. The solitary downfall is most of the offerings displayed what would start in the next half-an-hour block, so until the clock hit the 6 or 12, I was out of luck. I’d suggest Nintendo allow filters for “Playing Now” and “Starting Soon” to better assist those browsing.

The “Grid” is what you would typically get by pressing “Guide” on your cable box, but with TVii you can swipe and scroll seamlessly; up and down for channels, left and right for times, and it really opens up the old-feeling TV guide that afterwards will feel pixelated and boxed in.

Diving into Movies offers a similar outcome with Featured Movies, Live Movies currently on TV, and Recommended Movies based on your favorites and viewing history.

Remember during the setup process where we selected our TV package? Remember how there was only an option between Package 1 with 138 channels and Package 2 with 600+ channels? Movies is where you especially feel the inconvenience of these polarized options.

Most of the movies you find – even in the “Live” movie section – end up being on channels to which you’re not subscribed. I have a pretty expansive cable TV package but in terms of movie channels, HBO is one of the few I have. So of more than half of the movies I’m browsing, I can’t view most of them. Unless they’re available for purchase, but come on, I’m just trying to watch some TV.

Nintendo needs to add a channel by channel setting where you can completely unsubscribe from a channel and no longer see it anywhere within your TVii browsing experience. Until they offer this feature, users will find themselves frustrated with finding great content, only to realize they can’t watch it or have to pay for it. In the end, if Nintendo doesn’t fix this and the DVR problem swiftly, they’ll find users resorting to the typical universal remote or cable TV guide.

That being said, TVii offers a load of promise. It’s already a fun experience without some core functionality and when it arrives, users will really enjoy browsing with TVii. After a couple months of favoriting shows and movies they love, and interacting with the service, it’s value will grow. I’d like to see a dislike or star-rating system in place so that Nintendo can algorithmically make better suggestions, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Hopefully that day will come.

TVii Sports

The sports experience on TVii is by far my favorite element. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a huge sports fan, but my reasoning is sound: the user’s experience is powerfully extended with the Wii U Gamepad, making it a complete and interactive scoreboard, and allowing users to easily dive into ongoing games with the touch of a button. Sports fans will especially love that they’ll find themselves discovering a close game and getting to pop into a competitive buzzer beating end they normally wouldn’t have caught.

Once you’re in a game, Nintendo makes great use of the Wii U Gamepad. If you’re familiar with ESPN’s Gamecasts – and sports fans will be – you’ll understand the typical concept. You’ve got a layout of the field or court on the left, a running play-by-play list on the right, and the option to quickly jump into both team and individual stats. You can quickly do some data mining while watching the game without missing a play… and it rocks.

Another reason that the sports experience on the Wii U is outrageously fun is the social aspect: you can select and comment on any given “play” in the play-by-play panel. Leave your own opinion or thoughts and browse the comments of everyone else. I found it extremely fun to sift through the plays, see what plays were garnering the most attention, and reading what people said about them.

Keep in mind I was doing this with relatively unimportant games; for huge matchups, playoffs, and the Super Bowl? Ha! I can’t wait. At some point there will be TOO many comments, but that would be a great problem for Nintendo to have. If they attract tons of participation, they can further refine the feature set towards the ecosystem the develops. We’ve seen them do a great job with Miiverse and I’m sure they’ll succeed here as well.

I did notice that the TVii “Gamecast” has about a 30-second delay, but when comparing directly to ESPN watching the same game, I learned that they’re nearly identical. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo actually licenses ESPN’s content, but this isn’t something I can confirm or deny.


Nintendo has some really interesting things going for it with TVii. At the most basic level, they’ve created a better mousetrap. The Wii U Gamepad is a much better universal remote than the typical consumer default, and you’re able to set it up in minutes. Boom. Already sold.

But it goes beyond that: just as I trumpeted in my ZombiU Review, the Wii U truly shines when the Gamepad’s screen is put to use as a secondary experience. TVii Sports is a shining example of what’s possible, but it’s just the beginning. Picture any TV show or movie you’re watching and imagine the interactive options. Polls, comments, contests, and more between real life friends (Facebook, Twitter), Miiverse friends, and strangers alike.

So now Nintendo has improved the basic TV watching experience, extended its features, and socialized it. If this doesn’t sound impressive, keep in mind this is something that the likes of Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Google, and others have failed to accomplish. And right now Nintendo’s features are just skimming the surface… the future could be very bright.

That being said, the competition has a close eye on Nintendo. First mover advantage is valuable, but sometimes it’s best to sit, watch, and jump into the ring after taking notes. With Android, GTV, and the “Open Accessory” initiative, Google could clone the TVii concept with their own Nexus devices or even 3rd parties. Sony has already insinuated their PS Vita could theoretically control a TV or other entertainment system if they so desired. Apple TV has been waiting in the wings for awhile. And don’t forget Microsoft and Sony who will likely be announcing new consoles in the near future.

The time is now for Nintendo. TVii is a success; currently good, not great, but the foundation is laid. Millions have their Wii U consoles and millions more will set up them on Christmas morning. Now that you’re this deep into the review, it’s easy to forget, “Oh yeah, this thing is also (and primarily) an amazing gaming system.”

And that’s how you know Nintendo has truly accomplished something with TVii. The Wii U is a pretty darn good console on its own, but with TVii, it can truly become the center of your home entertainment experience. There’s lots of room for improvement, but for a company launching a service in previously uncharted territory? You’ve got to consider Nintendo TVii a success.

Bottom Line

(for those saying TL:DR)

Nintendo TVii is a successful first foray into becoming a complete home entertainment solution. It has its flaws, but out of the box, it immediately improves, personalizes, and socializes your TV watching experience while offering some features completely unique to the Wii U.

Make sure to visit the TVii Forums on the #1 Wii U Forums in the world!

local_offer    Nintendo  Nintendo TVii  TVii  wii u  
  • tooby77

    Give it to us Europlayers now..

  • So do you need an already existing cable system or what?

    • I know it works with cable and satellite  It also searches hulu and amazon for shows if you are subscribed to them.

    • robjackson81

      Yes, this works in conjunction with your current cable TV provider. Of course, if you DON’T have cable TV, you could always use this for movies and streaming services like Hulu or Amazon, but it immediately decreases the value.

    • JumpMan

      i don’t have any cable (i know, sucks) and i just tapped “basic TV” or “general TV” or something like that and it gave me my local channels and crap, so you don’t need cable for it to work with your local TV network.

    • Andrew Shealy

      Works with OTA as well. There’s a setting for which “providers” you have available to you.Only problem is the list view shows a few channels that I don’t actually get reception for, but… they’re obscure enough channels that it really won’t bother me. 

  • Fred

    Since the GamePad is utilized as a universal remote I’m wondering, is there a way to program it to control my surround sound system?

    • AlienFanatic

      Nope.  It should be an option, but it isn’t.  There’s no reason they couldn’t add it later, but if you use an amp or a sound bar you have to have your other remote(s) handy.

      • Fred

        That stinks. Thanks hopefully they will add it later

        •  If they do it just may replace my Logitech Harmony Remote.   If it could change all my inputs and sources with one click that would be Awesome.  Use to control the whole media experience from TVs, DVRs, DVD/BluRay Players and it would truly be a full featured entertainment console.

  • uPadWatcher

    Nintendo TVii is truly one of the best apps ever made for the Wii U.  Watching cable television and movies from Amazon and Hulu Plus (Netflix coming soon) have entered to a whole new level… and Nintendo and have made it possible.  When I get the U on January 3rd, I’ll be experiencing NTVii as well as enjoy playing games.

    • JumpMan

      commercial much?

      • uPadWatcher

        Better spoken than advertised, eh?

  • this sounds like a really strong feature for mainsteam market without having to bring crapy casual games to the console, well done ninty.. starfox please by nintendo EAD

  • Johnny Star

    Will DirecTV ever jump on the provider line up? It’s a real bust for people who have to use DirecTV and don’t have cable in their area due to being monopolized with only one provider!!

    •  Not sure what area you are in but I have it set up on my DirecTV and it works fine.

  • seriously, they were fixing bugs since the first few hours. They cut down lag time and fixed a problem with the – in channels like 6-1 not working. nintendo is really taking this seriously

  • Anthony Tavarez

    I have a cable/dvr box and am trying to change the channels but it only changes the t.v. is there a way around this or is this what their talking about when they say there is no DVR funtionality.  I figured the functionality wouldnt be there only for recording things.

    • runman1271

       I had the same problem.  If you go into your system set up and into the part where you told the Wii U what TV you have, you go in there and also need to tell the Wii U what DVR/Cable Box you have. (Main Wii U main screen not the TVii settings)

      The DVR functions do not work but the guide and channel selection do.

  • runman1271

    For me the remote function works  good.  I might just have to get used to it.  But the lag time from screen to screen makes me want to scream! and a remote control that can only last for 4 hours is a little weird too.

    The sports mode is really cool, being able to see he game on the remotes screen a (field view) and on TV is neat.  Cannot wait till Sunday.

    Tvii will not look for programming on Netflix as of right now.

    • Jewelarchon

      What remote needs to last more than 4 hours? If you are truly using it as strictly a remote (hence, just watching television) then you can easily set the GamePad in the charging dock or just plug it up if you’ve used up that much power. Otherwise, it’s not draining power just sitting while you’re watching tv. As for TVii usage, that’s not quite the same as playing NSMBU (off screen play) or something.

      • runman1271

        My bad. I thought the whole purpose of a remote control was not to have to go to the tv. I must realize that a remote should be picked up, used for it’s purpose and placed back on the charger Heck, all these years I have been using my remotes incorrectly.

        I wonder why they don’t make cell phones the same way?

        Thanks for helping me realize that remotes should be constantly charged. I will complain to logitech that the charge in their remotes should only last a few hours too

        • JumpMan

          dude, don’t get all crazy. it’s just a tiny inconvenience. some people…

  • spyridus

    Unfortunately, my cable carrier is not available on Wii Tvii (yet) in Ontario, Canada.  I can see every cable / satellite provider in my area except the one I’m with.  You guys are lucky it works for you.

  • darkstar18

    Want Naruto on the WII U??

  • DanUnreal

    TVii is officially, a REVOLUTION!!!!

  • Nicholas Smallwood

    stupid question…. but do you have to connect it to you cable providers, or does it charge anything?

    • Crillan

      It’s 100% free.  You just tell it where you live and it knows what providers are in your area.  You choose your provider and it just knows what’s on TV for you.  It’s pretty awesome!

      In addition to that, when you initially set up your Wii U, you tell it what type of cable box and TV you have, and it sets up the gamepad as a remote that works for those boxes automatically. Again, it’s pretty awesome 🙂

  • cant they put football/soccer leagues also. that would be so awesome…