Australian Netflix: I’m enjoying it. A lot. It’s priced right. It’s fast, slick, works on all my devices. Keywords being: ‘all my devices’. I have a lot of them.
I have a tablet, I have a PS4, an Xbox One, I have two laptops, I have a mobile phone.
I have a Wii U.
With that, here’s a little story about Netflix and those devices. This is a story with a surprising conclusion: the Wii U is really good for using Netflix. Please allow me to explain…
This story begins with a long weekend, during which I visited relatives in Canberra. I brought my PS4 with me, for two reasons: first, I wanted to play Bloodborne, my brothers-in-law wanted to play Bloodborne. The plan for the long weekend: to have a damned good Bloodborne weekend.
The second reason: I wanted to watch Netflix.
Fast forward to Monday night. My wife and I just made the three hour journey back to Sydney. The plan for the remainder of the long weekend: watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The problem: I left my PS4 power cord in Canberra and — incredibly — I don’t have any spares at home. The solution: watch Netflix on one of the other million devices I own that has Netflix on it. Easy. But which one?
At this point in the story my mind stuttered a bit: the Xbox One? Sure. That would make the most sense I guess. It is in the process of finally becoming the multi-media device we were promised. Anything else I could justifiably use? Hmmm…
It took a while for me to even consider the Wii U plugged into my second HDMI port. Why? Because the association between Nintendo and video content is about as distant as it gets. It’s a concept as vague and strange as buying a Television from Aldi. Sure, Aldi sells TVs but nah. Just… nah.
Yet my mind did settle on the Wii U and that was weird. Gut instinct would have me choosing the Xbox One — but I chose the Wii U. Why? One simple reason. At some point during my time playing video games on the console I noticed that my Wii U, for some reason, had done me the service of automatically downloading the Netflix app and placing it on my Wii U homepage — in advance of launch. The Wii U had done this before, automatically downloading apps for me. Sometimes that feel weird: a bit patronising, like a breach of privacy or… something. I can’t quite put my finger on it. In certain circumstances I could see myself being angry the Wii U felt as though it could download an app I didn’t ask for.
But in this case it felt justified. It felt right.
And it essentially made my decision for me. I could either delve into the Xbox One, jump head first into its ever-confusing User Interface, find the Netflix app, download it, install it, and type in my log-in details clumsily with a controller…
I could use the Wii U.
Some background: the plan was to use Netflix after my wife watched what seemed like a bloody feature-length episode of The Block. She would have been happy for me to go though the pain of switching to the Xbox One while I located the Netflix app, downloaded it, installed it, and logged-in.
I could use the Wii U.
Because here’s the thing: not only was the Netflix app already pre-installed on the Wii U, I could use the Off-TV functionality of the Wii U’s tablet-esque Gamepad to log-in, find Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix while my wife was watching The Block. No interruptions. No problems. Nothing. Seamless. If I wanted to, I could plug in some headphones and watch another show while I waited for The Block to finish.
Technically, I’m sure I could have done this with the Xbox One. I could have pre-installed the Smartglass app on my tablet, synched it to my Xbox One and had a very similar experience but there are problems with that: I haven’t installed Smartglass, I haven’t synched it to my Xbox One and — being perfectly honest — that all sounds like a tremendous pain in the arse. I’d much rather do the same thing with the Wii U with a user interface designed for the ground up for tablet use. That seems like a far more efficient use of my time.
And lo and behold it worked. It all worked. Everything ran as advertised and, as someone who has had issues using the Wii U for internet related content, I was sort of shocked by that. Pleasantly shocked. I was shocked by how well Netflix integrated into the Wii U’s interface, how it worked perfectly with the Wii U’s Gamepad. I was pleasantly shocked by the possibilities: I could watch something else while my wife watches TV shows I hate. We could sit next to one another instead of stranded on opposite sides of the living room. My son could watch Octonauts on the Wii U Gamepad while I played OlliOlli 2 on my PS4.
Privately, I contemplated making the switch. Maybe the Wii U should become my Netflix companion of choice?
I’m seriously considering it. Previously, I chose the PS4: reliable, fast. I feel as though I can trust the PS4 to run Netflix without issue but I find the benefits of the Wii U intriguing: off-TV viewing, the ability to get set-up whilst watching terrestrial TV, the ability to chose shows using the Gamepad’s touch screen. There are massive benefits there.
I’m more surprised than anyone: the Wii U is actually really, really good for using Netflix.
Originally published on Kotaku Australia