If your Wii was flashing blue yesterday, as mine was, then you should know it’s not your friends leaving you a message or sending you their Mii avatar. (Sorry.) Instead, Nintendo rolled out the U.S. version of the Nintendo Channel on Wednesday, and they are eager for you to download it and agree to all their terms.
What is this wondrous new application? Depending on how much information you are willing to share about your Wii and how you use it, the Nintendo Channel can be any of several different things.
If you don’t care whether your Wii reports back to Nintendo about what you play and how much you play it, you get access to free downloads of various Nintendo DS game demos and patches. (Many of these presumably would be available already at DS download stations in places like Wal-Mart and Target.)
There’s a rather confusing breakdown of the agreement here, but this is my main concern:
Please note that if you choose to share your non-personal information with Nintendo, all of the information you submit through the Nintendo Channel will be non-identifiable and anonymous unless you have linked your Wii account to your My Nintendo account. (Emphasis added.)
Now, if you have ever used the Shopping Channel to download Virtual Console games or add Wii Points to your account, chances are you have a My Nintendo account linked to your Wii user account. (Did you ever sign up for the Nintendo message boards that aren’t there anymore, and choose to link that identity to your Wii so you could track your collection of Virtual Console games? Aha!)
I’m just not comfortable sharing any more information with Nintendo and its cronies. Sorry! But giving this information away also allows you to recommend the games you play to others and receive recommendations based on your own play habits for other games that you might enjoy. This information is supposed to appear in your bulletin board, along with the reports you already get about daily Wii usage.
So, if you’re game, downloading the Nintendo Channel sort of turns your Wii into a gaming TiVo!
If, however, you’re a cautious curmudgeon like me and don’t give up any of your data — which Nintendo cavalierly labels “non-personal information,” for some reason — then you just get a bunch of TV ad spots and infomercials for products new and not so new (from Wii Fit to New Super Mario Bros.)
And that’s not so bad. I spent a good half hour watching a comprehensive Wii Fit video, the Mario Kart Wii commercials and a commercial for Carnival Games, which I keep meaning to pick up. You can also search a game library by platform, publisher, genre or keywords. All of which you can already do online, of course, but it’s kind of neat to have your gaming console be a one-stop shop for gaming. (A concept Xbox 360 and PS3 users have enjoyed for quite a while now.)
So, basically, if you’re a smart and careful consumer, the Nintendo Channel can be a harmless and useful addition to your Wii. To get it, make sure you have the latest upgrade, then go to the Wii Ware portion of the Shopping Channel and download it (it’s free).