Netflix Can Make Streaming Movies on Nintendo Wii Better

In 2010, Netflix began to offer the ability to ​stream movies through the Wii (as well as the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3).  It’s a nice little system, but it could be so much better.  Here are 10 things Netflix needs to do to make their Wii streaming video experience great.

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Offer a Way to Organize and Categorize Queue Items.

I have over 200 movies in my Netflix instant streaming queue.  This list can be ordered via the internet, but not categorized.  If I know I want to watch a comedy or foreign film, I still have to go through the hundreds of movies to find the one I want.

A queue makes sense for mailing DVDs, but not when you can pick and choose.  It would be nice if Netflix let me search by genre and year, but even nicer if I could simply create a set of categories (comedies, TV series, movies to watch with my girlfriend) that would allow me to instantly go ​through the 10 or 20 movies that I’d actually be interested in considering at any particular time. For now, the best I can do is use the Greasemonkey script ​Netflix Queue Sorter.

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Make It Easy to See New Netflix Offerings

I always like to see what new movies and TV series have been added by Netflix, so it’s great that they have a “just added” category.  But for some inexplicable reason, they don’t list these programs in the order they have been added.  Sometimes the most recently added movies will be several pages down in the list, while at the top will be movies added a week ago.  This is how it is done in both the Wii interface and on the website, and it is a truly moronic system.

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Expand The Instant Watch Selection

Part of the list of available Tom Cruise movies, the ones with red icons are DVD only. Netflix

There are two ways to watch movies via Netflix. One is mailed DVDs, which gives you a huge movie library that includes many recently-released titles, but makes you wait to see them.

The other choice is via instant streaming. You can watch a movie the moment you decide to and don’t have to sit through piracy warnings and trailers, but your film selection is at a very rough guess 5% or less of the movies available on disk and 2% of the movies you would most want to see (of David Lynch’s films, you can watch Dune but not Elephant Man or Blue Velvet). If a major title comes to instant streaming, it will probably have been available via mail for a year already. Disks are yesterday’s technology, Netflix: get your library transferred over!

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Better Fast-Forward/Rewind

Navigation could be better. Netflix

We all know how fast forward and reverse work when you watch a DVD; you go forward or back in fast motion.  But that’s not how things work with Netflix instant streaming.  If you press fast forward, you are presented with a set of thumbnails, representing 30 second increments, and you have to choose one, at which point it reloads the movie from that point.  This is especially frustrating if yo;u miss a little bit of a show and would like to rewind 5 seconds to catch a snippet of dialogue; the best you can do is rewind 30 seconds, which will itself take 10 to 15 seconds.  Very simply, streaming video should work like regular video.

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Give Subscribers a Way To Report Problems

Users are limited to a small number of reportable problems. The Hidden Fortress has a poor frame rate, but you can't say that. Netflix

When I watched the movie The Animatrix, a collection of short cartoons related to the Matrix movies, I found that many of the cartoons weren’t very good.  So I I didn’t like a cartoon, I wanted to just jump to the next one.  Unfortunately, all the thumbnail pictures Netflix uses for quick navigation were wrong; the entire thumbnail system was about a ½ hour off, meaning I had to simply move forward a few minutes and see where I was and keep doing that until I found the right place.  I went to the Netflix site and tried to report the problem, but I couldn’t. You can only report a problem with a video from a list of selections like blurry picture, missing audio, and stops and starts. If your problem is not on the list, there is no way to report it.   An “other problem” field that allows text input would allow users to tell Netflix about rare but important flaws in their movies.

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Give me a “Not Interested” Button

Why are all the new TV shows listed for children, and why won't Netflix let me not see them?. Netflix

Since the instant streaming software only offers a subset of all the movies Netflix has available, it’s a shame that this list is full of titles I have no interest in seeing.  On the website, I can click “not interested” if I want to stop being offered season one of Barney and Friends, but there is no equivalent button for the Wii.  It would be great if Netflix would create a streaming video interface that felt more like fully functioning software and less like an adjunct to the website.

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Make It Easy to See Movie Titles at a Glance

Netflix Interface (Queue)
IMPROVED: The latest version of the Netflix software has resized the thumbnail images, making it easier to read titles. I'd still like a text list, though.

To select movies on the Wii, you are presented with thumbnail images of each movie’s poster, a few at a time.  Often, the film title is illegible in the thumbnail, even on my big high definition TV, so the only way to see the movie’s name is to point the Wii remote at the image to bring up the title.  I’m sure Netflix thinks the little posters are visually appealing, but from a practical standpoint they are terrible, slowing down the process of scrolling through a list of movies to a crawl.  A simple text list would be a million times more useful.

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Listen to Your Subscribers

Netflix, do you know why I’m posting an article on how to improve your service?  Because you don’t have a way for users to offer feedback.  You offer no way for anyone to send you an email, you have no forums on your site to request features or discuss problems.  Perhaps there wasn’t that much need when Netflix was a simple DVD rental service, but instant streaming is a whole new ballgame, and if you don’t learn to play, someone is going to come along and create a service that does it better.

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Offer Some Search Options

DONE: You can now search by title with the latest version of the Netflix Software! It would be nice if you could also search by cast, as on the website, but it's a great improvement. Yes, I can go to and search for movies, but why shouldn’t this feature be available on the Wii?  Is it really so hard to put a search box in the Netflix instant streaming software?  I mean, ideally they should give you the whole thing – searching, reading user reviews, having all the movies available for browsing instead of just a subset -  but a search would be a nice place to start.

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Make Netflix Into a Channel

What a Netflix channel would look like. Nintendo
DONE: You can now download the Netflix Channel for free through the Wii Shopping Channel.

I understand why epic games come on a DVD, but a bare-bones piece of software like Netflix seems like something that should easily be downloadable to the Wii's storage area.  It is very bothersome to have to swap disks every time I want to go from gaming to viewing, and it just seems unnecessary.