Dead Console Walking: Netflix vs. Amazon on the Wii
The Nintendo Wii may be a dying platform, but there have been a number of pleasant surprises for its devotees recently. First, Nintendo released a dedicated YouTube channel. Then XSEED announced that Pandora’s Tower would be released in North America, much to the delight of JRPG players. Earlier this week, Nintendo completed a trifecta by releasing an Amazon Prime Streaming Video channel for the Wii. With the preexisting options of Netflix and Hulu Plus already available, the Wii offers a variety of entertainment choices to keep Nintendo fans who have not upgraded to the Wii U happy.
It is likely that this relative flood of new Wii channels is directly related to the release of the Wii U and Nintendo’s determination to make their new console the entertainment center for the home. Also, it is important to remember that even though the Wii has been “replaced” by the Wii U, the older console still moved almost 475,000 units in the US from November 25 through December 29 2012. With 40 million Wii units sold in the US since release, there are many potential customers for streaming video services.
So if you are one of those 40+ million Wii owners, how do the two main streaming video choices, Netflix and Amazon Streaming stack up? We will leave Hulu Plus out of this because (1) it is the least popular choice among the Wii owners we know, and (2) it requires that subscribers pay a monthly fee ($7.99 per month) and still watch commercials.
The costs of the two services are somewhat difficult to compare directly. Netflix charges $7.99 per month for streaming services, while Amazon Prime costs $79 per year. Amazon Prime also includes free, two-day shipping on orders from Amazon, but a subscription only provides access to a limited selection of streaming video, and not the entire collection that is available through Amazon Streaming. Newer releases, including the most recently aired episodes of TV shows such as Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad require an additional payment for either a 24-hour “rental” or permanent purchase. Most rentals cost between $1.99 and $4.99, with the newest movie releases costing up to $9.99. In contrast, the $7.99 charge for Netflix covers their entire streaming library.
It would seem that Netflix has the advantage on pricing due to Amazon’s extra charge for recent releases, but it is important to note that many of the most recent releases are not available on Netflix at any price. For example, the most recently aired episode of Downton Abbey’s third season is available on Amazon for $1.99, but you can only view the first season on Netflix. Another difference is that you do not actually need to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to watch new releases on Amazon Streaming; you can easily choose content a la carte and only spend money to watch what you want.
One feature of Amazon Prime that is quite nice is the option to watch movie trailers at no charge. There are also free features about some of the more popular movies and shows. For example, there are a number of short features about Game of Thrones that fans can watch at no charge, so if you want to learn what the extras on the show do between takes, you can find out without paying for it.
It comes up short on the newest releases, but Netflix has an extensive library of older TV shows, from Dragnet to Miami Vice. Netflix also has a much better collection of anime and foreign films than Amazon Prime, although if you are willing to give your credit card a workout, you can pay to rent many of them individually from Amazon.
Streaming quality seems comparable for the two services. Amazon provides a helpful graph which shows the video quality, which is mostly dependent on your internet connection. Since the Wii can only display 480p video at best, either service is perfectly adequate. I seemed to notice a slightly more consistent level of video quality from Amazon, but nothing dramatic. Netflix uses Amazon Web Hosting to stream its video, so perhaps the comparability should come as no surprise.
So which is better? If you like to watch the newest releases, and are willing to pay for the privilege, Amazon is really the only choice. If you are a fan of classic TV series and movies, as well as more obscure offerings, Netflix is the better option. If we were forced to live with only one of the services at techie, it would be Netflix. If the selection of titles included in an Amazon Prime subscription continues to improve, however, the choice will not be so easy.