Netflix Instant Streaming on the Wii and PS3 – Without Discs

It is inevitable. CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays will go the way of the Dodo. The popular storage mediums of today will become no more important than 8-Track tape players or 5¼ floppy disks. A recent change to Netflix is one of the many catalysts for the impending obsolescence. You no longer need a disc to launch streaming video on your Wii or PlayStation 3 gaming consoles. Instead, you can simply download the Netflix software directly to the machine. I tested out the new software. The convenience was impressive.

After watching Short Circuit, I had the perfect frame of reference. Compared to science fiction, Netflix isn’t that spectacular. It’s not like a robot with human intelligence. It’s just an easier way to watch movies. Although, if you traveled back to the 80’s, the idea of Netflix would be impressive. Game consoles like the Atari 2600 and Nintendo Entertainment System could barely manage rudimentary video games. If I wanted to watch a movie instantly, I had to run really fast to the video store. But too frequently the response was basically, “Sorry buddy, that movie is out.”

Today, I simply wave my Wiimote at the TV and press a few buttons. It’s not magic… it’s not wizardry… it’s progress. Disc-less instant streaming from Netflix is something that the PC and XBOX 360 has enjoyed for quite some time. The Wii and the PlayStation 3 is merely playing catch-up.

I wasn’t really expecting a marvel of modern technology. I was just happy to get rid of those red discs. It’s a bit of a hassle to shuffle around games and movies when a Netflix disc is already in the drive. A 49 Blocks download from the Wii Shop Channel remedied that problem. One block on the Wii is 128KB. That means the Netflix download uses roughly 6MB of storage space. That’s approximately 1/100th the space of a CD-ROM.

Now that my Wii no longer requires the Netflix disc, I'm wondering if I should save it. Maybe it will have historical value one day.

Obviously, technology trivial was not the main concern. How did it work? I think it’s a significant improvement over the disc version. I think that the layout is more intuitive and the movie thumbnails are sharper. The overall experience felt smoother too. Rearranging the Wii Channels on my Wii Menu was the most challenging part of today’s experiment.

…this simplified Netflix access will help bring families together more quickly, more easily and in more ways than ever before. More than 3 million Wii systems have already connected to Netflix, demonstrating how easy the service is to set up and use.

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime

The PlayStation 3 is also ridding itself of the Netflix disc. I downloaded the PS3 version of Netflix to test it out. In doing so, I spotted some interesting text. “PlayStation 3 system or PlayStation Network parental controls do not apply to Netflix.” That’s interesting. Parents that are not tech savvy might not realize that the Wii and PlayStation 3 could be a conduit for the viewing of naked breasts. Although, if these gaming consoles are connected to the Internet, that was already a concern. The movies and shows on Netflix are tame when compared to the unrestricted Internet.

Like the Wii, Netflix is a free download on the PS3. Although, you’ll need a Netflix account to access the service. I was a little bit disappointed with the PlayStation 3 version. I preferred the older layout.  Regardless, it was nice to clear out the Blu-Ray player. When Netflix discs arrive in the mail, I like to watch them on my PS3. I think it’s a great DVD / Blu-Ray player.

Gaming consoles aren’t the only way to watch Netflix movies. I recently tested out Netflix on my iPhone. Now that’s impressive. With the Retina display, the picture is so sharp. Mobile technology has traveled a long way from the beeper or B&W LCD screens.

With so many ways to play movies — desktop, mobile, laptop, Wii, PS3 and more — the Wii is my favorite. I like the Wiimote. It’s easy to use and it’s comfortable. It doesn’t have the best resolution nor does it play DVD or Blu-Ray movies, but it consumes very little electricity and it just feels more fun. It just feels awkward to using the PS3 controller for navigate a digital library or skimming through a movie. Watching a movie on my iPhone is not so pleasant either. The screen is too tiny. It’s the same with a laptop or a desktop. I don’t want to watch a movie from a little screen, not when I have a huge TV in the same room.

With so many different devices, the differences are minor. You can pick your favorite. That’s what I’m happy to see. The Wii and PS3 Netflix discs were a kludge for Instant Streaming. Progress has arrived for all of the top gaming consoles.