Surf the Wii for Free!

Contributing Editor

Nintendo WiiThe Nintendo Wii has become the world’s most popular modern games console. Although it’s not as technically advanced as Sony’s Playstation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the innovative Wii Remote and family-friendly games has led to massive adoption outside the typical gamer market. Over 50 million units have been shipped worldwide.

The Wii has built-in wi-fi and ethernet adapters can also be purchased. Internet connectivity has typically been used for updates, multi-player gaming, downloads, and Nintendo’s specialized content “channels”.

General internet surfing is possible, but you need to download the Internet Channel. Until now, this cost $5 for 500 Wii Points (although it’s only possible to purchase blocks of 1,000 points from the Wii shop). However, starting this month, Nintendo has released the Internet Channel for free — anyone with a Wii and a net connection can download the browser and access the web. People who purchased the software recently will receive a game credit later this year.

The browser was created by Opera and is specifically designed for the console. It has a similar feature set to a modern mobile phone browser and offers HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Flash 3.1 Lite support. The Wii screen resolution is significantly smaller than a PC monitor, but Opera provides several manual and automatic zooming functions. Even complex sites remain readable.

Wii Opera screen

The browser is controlled by pointing at the screen with the Wii Remote. Typing long web addresses is cumbersome but it provides good auto-suggestions. An external keyboard is available for keen Wii surfers.

Overall, the Wii browser is simple, reasonably fast, and works well. Many people will use it to quickly check their email, catch up on news, or play simple Flash-based games.

However, we now have a situation where the Wii, DSi, Playstation 3 and PSP offer viable web browsing software (and I’m sure Microsoft could port IE6 to the Xbox!) People are using them to visit SitePoint, so could console users become an important sector within your website’s demographic? Perhaps it’s time to ask your boss to buy a selection of consoles … for testing purposes obviously!

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  • CChcke

    That’s good for america but in the uk i’ve had the internet channel free for over a year :)

  • Benjamin Dobson

    Flash 3.1? Isn’t that like saying it supports resolutions of up to 640×480?

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @CChcke
    The browser was free when it was first released in 2007 but didn’t stay that way for long.

    @Benjamin Dobson
    It uses Flash 3.1 Lite. It not as old as Flash 3.1.

  • Anonymous

    As a person who paid for the browser at least a year ago, I don’t use it very often, as the Opera browser has a fixation on silly sound effects which will drive the average human crazy. There is no way disable them.

    Wiiip Wooop Wiiip Wooop Wiip Woop goes the popup menu….

    Klonk goes the click….

    Annnnnndddddddd … it takes a looong time to load…..

  • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

    @Anonymous
    You can always mute your TV! But, yes, it would be nice to switch off the noises, especially for scrolling.

    Although it’s not a browser I’d use every day, it seems reasonably fast to me. I suppose it will depend on the sites you visit.

  • http://bitdepth.wordpress.com/ mmj

    I’ve never had to pay for Internet or the Opera browser on my Wii. So it looks like North Americans got stooged there.

    The Flash support on the Wii is enough to run YouTube normal quality with some glitches – forget high quality mode or HD mode though. It can sort of run most other video sites, but not always reliably. Pointing with the Wii remote gets tiring pretty quickly, would be much better with a mouse ie resting on a flat surface. Maybe you can control it with the nunchuck stick, I don’t know. The browser is, however, good for casual browsing, renders sites excellently given its resolution, and has good standards support.

    Note that the Wii was an excellent casual lounge room web browser for its time, coming out before iPhones or netbooks, which now offer a comparable web browsing experience but are quicker to start up. Still has a bit of a niche in allowing you to view YouTube on the big screen, though I wish it was slightly less glitchy.

  • Jay

    I suppose its ok, PS3 is a much better way of bringing youtube to the tv screen though