The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, or Nintendo WFC, is Nintendo's online internet service. It launched in 2005 to coincide with the release of Mario Kart DS. The service was expanded for the launch of the Wii in 2006. Nintendo's online service is for use free of charge to anyone capable of connecting their hardware online.
Compared to Sony's PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection is not rich in features. The service does not support personalized service accounts or friends lists. In order to play with friends online, players must first swap game-specific Friend Codes with each other. Voice chat is a feature limited to specific titles and is not widely supported on either the Wii or the DS.
However, the service does support the ability to browse the internet. The Wii, DS, and DSi all feature browsers created by Opera for website navigation. The Wii and DSi also each feature online stores where users can purchase and download titles branded WiiWare or DSiWare. The Wii also supports a library of downloadable Virtual Console titles, or titles from a back catalog of older consoles.
Wii Online Features
At launch, the Wii supported and continues to support three default online channels. The Forecast Channel provides users with local weather and forecast information. The News Channel provides news in text format for topics including national and international news, sports, entertainment, politics and science. Finally, the Wii Shop Channel is the Wii's online store and offers WiiWare, Virtual Console titles and additional channels for sale and download.
Other Wii Channels
Since the launch of the Wii, the console's selection of channels has expanded to cover a range of information and entertainment. Some of these channels are listed below.
A channel that provides promotional information on current and upcoming titles for Nintendo platforms as well as a database of titles available for current platforms including the Wii, DS, DSi, and downloadable titles. The service also allows users to rate titles that they've played and browse play data statistics for individual games.
Everybody Votes Channel
A simple entertainment channel in which users are able to cast votes on simple questions or submit their own. Results for each question are tallied until a specific date, at which point voting stops and the results are posted.
The online video rental service Netflix offers downloadable streaming movies over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. When first launched, the service required a special Netflix disc, but has since been streamlined to the point that the downloadable channel is all that's required.
Future of the Nintendo WFC
Since it first launched, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection has come under criticism for its basic design and lack of full-fledged features that Sony and Microsoft's online services support. However, Nintendo has gone on record stating that while the company is aware of the criticism, there's little it can do to improve the service's infrastructure on the hardware it launched on (Wii and DS). A rebranded Nintendo online service known as the Nintendo Network has been launched by Nintendo for use with 3DS titles and services, and will presumably also be used by the Wii U. It remains to be seen what improvements this revised online service will feature across both platforms.