This week, Nintendo brought to life Wii Weather, a novel new feature of its Wii game console that hasn’t been touted nearly as much as it could be: Wii Weather provides an almost instant one-day or five-day global weather forecast, accessible via a super-simple interface from any television set. Think Apple’s Weather widget for the Tiger version of Mac OS X, but a bit bolder.
Switching from the current weather to the day’s forecast, tomorrow’s forecast, or a five-day forecast is as easy as pointing at an arrow on the screen and pressing a button. If you want to switch locations, you go to a Globe view – similar to Google Earth – and easily zoom in and out of a rotating map of the entire planet. Major cities are listed, and you can simultaneously view forecasts for an entire region of the world at once.
The presentation is simple, but clean and just modern enough to make you recall visions of the future from movies like Total Recall – ever-present, simplified access to information like this on an interactive TV screen, rather than a computer.
The only problem? It’s a big one: unlike the Weather widget, there’s no way to enter a zip code or a city’s name, so the forecasts are of only modest utility unless you’re in or near a major city. I’m around 30 minutes away from the two closest cities on Nintendo’s map, and since temperatures can vary by 10 degrees by driving only 5 minutes from here, the forecasts aren’t useful at all for me.
Why did I think this worthy of a Backstage entry? One reason: Nintendo has now demonstrated that it knows how to make the Wii “sticky:” even though it’s supposed to be a game console – as compared with Sony’s vaunted, more powerful Computer Entertainment Systems(TM) – a weather feature like this adds just one more reason for mom or dad to flip the thing on and consider it more than a toy for the kids. If Nintendo properly implements its upcoming News Channel, with quick news summaries, that’ll be another convenient little feature for parents, and just one more reason to turn on the Wii.
With the release of iTV in the near future, Apple has a chance to establish itself as an even more popular alternative to a family-friendly console like this, and the message is clear: the next wave of consumer electronics stickiness will come from adding mainstream features like two-click access to weather and news, not a Blu-Ray player or other ultra-techie features. With Wii Weather, Nintendo’s first, but this could be done even better.