Rumor Factory: Music Downloads on Wii?

If you’ve been keeping up to date with your voting on the Everybody Votes Channel on the Wii (which you should be, btw), then you have seen a particularly interesting question that Nintendo is asking all of its American users:

“How do you prefer to buy music?”

The possible choices Nintendo has supplied are a) download or b) CD. Now, this can just be labeled as a seemingly innocuous question that tries to get more users to vote on the channel, but what if this were the first indication that Nintendo might be in the planning phases for a Music Download Channel, something akin to Apple’s iTunes store?

The Everybody Votes Channel is the perfect venue for Nintendo to better understand its customers, as well as to test out any ideas it has up its sleeve for the future. This is the first example where their customers may have direct control on what they do for the future.

It would also make perfect sense. Nintendo has been trying to define the Wii as something that everyone in the household can use. You can see this with the Weather Channel and the News Channel. Nintendo has tried to develop a system that incorporates everyday activities into their video game console, and by my logic, listening to music would be the next step. And obviously Nintendo knows the success that iTunes has been for Apple. Everyone, young and old, uses iTunes, which is exactly the kind of people that Nintendo wants buying the Wii.

Now of course, this would be a huge endeavor for Nintendo. It’s been reported that Apple makes very little money on each song purchased, as most of the profit is divided among the various record labels and bands that create the actual content. This would be the biggest reason why Nintendo would never even consider doing this sort of thing.

Also, it’s going to need a hugely sophisticated networking infrastructure to keep up with something like this, making sure there are no security holes for hackers to open up. And as we know, Nintendo has been somewhat lax on the idea of networking. At least for games, anyway. They do have the News Channel and Weather Channel set up, so it may not be completely out of the question.

But then you have the issue of memory space on the Wii, which only comes with 512MB of internal memory. The system can realistically only store a few albums. Nintendo would need to supply an external HDD if they wanted to start a music download service, and they’ve repeatedly denied the much-rumored HDD for awhile now.

One idea that crept into my head was Nintendo joining with Apple to have an iTunes Channel. Nintendo may not want to go against Apple, instead forming an alliance with them. And the Wii already has the USB ports to handle the transfer of the songs to users’ iPods, so that’s not a problem.

In realistic terms, however, I’m gonna have to debunk my own theory. The pieces are there, but I can’t imagine Nintendo ever doing something like this. It would take too much time and energy from them to see it come to fruition, and I don’t see much profit from it all. It would definitely help differentiate the Wii from the competition, as well as make the Wii more appealing to non-gamers, but I still can’t see Nintendo going ahead with it.

Rumor denied.

But what about you guys – Would you like to see Nintendo venture into the world of digital music downloads? Maybe a channel that lets users download albums from past Nintendo games?

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17 years ago

One option that would alleviate the need for increased storage space would be a streaming music channel, although from a US perspective they’d be smart to wait until the hill is done figuring out what to do about online radio royalties and (hopefully) passing HR 2060, because otherwise it’s going to be a really expensive undertaking.

17 years ago

That’s an interesting idea, Stefan. That would resolve the memory storage problem, and reduce the ability for illegal file sharing to occur. It would also be pretty cool to turn on the Wii and hit up the Streaming Music Channel, too, and listen to some tunes while I chill out. I’d still want the iTunes Channel, but getting a streaming channel would still be an awesome proposition.