Nintendo insists the Wii is far from dead

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime recently insisted that the Wii console still has a “very long life” ahead of it.

Fils-Aime also told Businessweek that the company will refrain from upgrading its game system in the near future.

Nevertheless, a number of analysts have speculated Nintendo is prepping a Wii hardware update which will provide players with “more sophisticated” HD gaming.

“With the outcome of this generation’s console wars still very much in doubt as each manufacturer races to up the ante, many analysts believe it’s only a matter of time before Nintendo is forced to add new technology instead of new software to the Wii,” explained Cliff Edwards of BusinessWeek.

Although Nintendo could theoretically announce a major hardware upgrade during E3 (June 15-17), the company has thus far contented itself with relatively minor software updates – such as the recently announced Netflix-Wii streaming package.

Unsurprisingly, Nintendo appears unconcerned that the Wii’s streaming capabilities are limited to standard definition.

“We don’t believe that the non-HD resolution of the Wii console will hold back Netflix adoption through the Wii at all,” Fils-Aime told the Seattle Times.

“The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the instant streaming content that Netflix has available is non-HD and the fact is that many consumers who have an HD television still aren’t watching HD content through that television.”

PC World’s Matt Peckham concurred.

“Nintendo’s little-console-that-could, for all its game-related kudos, is strictly locked at 480p, the high-end spec for standard-definition TVs,” wrote Peckham.

“If you’re a Wii owner and movie/tv buff currently running a standard-def TV, and if you don’t care about the visual quality of TV shows and movies run through your HDTV, and if an Xbox 360’s just not in your budget, this deal may be for you.”

However, Peckham noted that Xbox 360 and PS3 owners “probably wouldn’t be interested” in the Netflix-Wii deal.

“The Xbox 360 version of Netflix offers superior visual fidelity, no two ways about it, not to mention all the LIVE-based perks like party-viewing and the option to upgrade your Netflix queue natively.”

Meanwhile, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter predicted the deal could prompt new Netflix subscriber growth of over one million customers a year. 

Still, Pachter emphasized that adding Netflix streaming capabilities to the Wii will have a somewhat limited effect, as fewer than 20 percent of the consoles are connected to the Internet.