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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Is The Wii U "Watchup" News App Worth Your Time?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The so-called Hulu of the News.

Today I received a push notification on my Wii U Gamepad upon turnin' the system on. It was advertising a news service called "Watchup" on the Wii U that's FREE to download off the eShop! Well, hey, I like hearin' the news (so I can commentate on it for this website), and I like my Wii U. These things should fit together.

Courtesy of their press kit.
However, this isn't an exclusive-to-Nintendo kind of thing. This is an entrepreneurial company, Watchup, Inc, that says they're out of Stanford. Their slogan for the Wii U?

"Gamer on the outside but news junkie on the inside? 

Watchup on Wii U is a multitasker’s fantasy come true!

Catch up on today’s news from hundreds of local, national and international sources on your favorite game console. Customize your daily newscast and get more in depth news coverage by reading related articles on the GamePad. Get it from the eShop for free."
Well, at least someone out there is trying to make the Wii U GamePad central to some experience out there. But how well does the app perform and does it satisfy my news junkie-ness? That's the basis of this review.

Fast Facts:

  • Publisher — Watchup, Inc.
  • System — Wii U, exclusive to the eShop. It's also on other platforms, with the only other gaming one being the Xbox 360.
  • Genre — Video streaming service.
  • Price and Memory — Absolutely free. Watchup on the Wii U takes up 35 MB of memory, plus save data which brings the total up to 42 megabytes.
  • ESRB — Unrated. However, the Terms of Service says you must be 13 or older. There are no content warnings, as we'll discuss later.
Let me make it clear: Watchup is an application. It is not a game. There is also no community element to it: There is no Miiverse community, and you may not post screenshots anywhere on Miiverse. So it's not like Hulu Plus, YouTube, or what Nintendo TVii was. This is just you and your Wii U.

Here's how Nintendo's site describes it:

Nintendo of America Hillary Clinton Watchup Your Daily Newscast

Okay, that's a damn bad start. Someone on Nintendo's web team literally went out of their way to procure a picture of Hillary Clinton to promote this app. They just wanted an excuse to have Hillary Clinton on, which is disgraceful. Do these folks not realise that if Hillary Clinton had her way, the videogame industry would be a highly-regulated disaster? We'll get into that in a future article.

Anyway, upon opening up the app for the first time, Watchup wants you to make an account with an e-mail address and a password. Optional information includes giving them an age range ("24 and below" is the lowest age range, which gives you an idea of the target audience) and your location, presumably to help tailor content.

Once you agree to their Terms (you give them a license to use any content you generate, though I'm not exactly sure how you can generate any content through this...?), you're asked what kind of news you want. I said Business, Videogames, and Politics. That shouldn't be unexpected if you read KoopaTV, you know. There are many other categories, including Sports, Religion, Food, Humour, and Entertainment.

The news provided here are a series of video clips that basically function as a YouTube playlist. I'm pretty sure all of these are just glorified YouTube videos. On the TV screen you get the video, and on the Gamepad you get an "article" that is basically the YouTube video description. The ones I've seen literally don't have any spacing and are a massive bunch of text, if there is any text. You can also scroll down for related clips.

You can thumbs-up the video to like it and save it somewhere for re-watching, or thumbs-down the video to automatically end your viewing of it and go to the next video. These will supposedly also help videos be tailored to you. You can't use your Stylus on the Gamepad to touch where in the video's timebar you want to go if you want to skip ahead or go back. You need to repeatedly tap the fast-forward or fast-backward buttons. You can tap the top of the Gamepad to go through videos, but this seems either laggy or unresponsive entirely, so it is a buggy experience.

Watchup IGN Project X Zone 2 Wii U Gamepad interface
Here's the Gamepad interface.

You can also choose to send the video to the Gamepad from the TV (off-screen watching), which leaves the TV screen only saying that the video is on the lower-screen. Sounds like a waste, and it is a waste. You can't access other parts of the Wii U or the app while the video is playing unless you close the video. So...

I have no idea why Watchup touted that this is a "multitasker's fantasy". Maybe this e-mail they sent to my e-mail address after I registered will say why.

"We've built Watchup because we wanted you to discover the best news in the shortest amount of time. Turn the app on and enjoy your newscast hands-free while you eat, cook exercise or lean back and relax."
Except... you can enjoy your newscast hands-free anyway. It's called turning your television on and watching Fox News. Speaking of Fox News, Fox News and Fox Business are included as sources, as well as many mainstream media sources. For Gaming news, you're stuck with Kotaku, Gamespot, IGN, and Machinima. And that's it. And remember, these are all video-based, so no articles like KoopaTV. You can select a specific channel and just see their video clips. Remember, these are clips, so you may not find what you want. All the clips on Fox News right now are just about the Pope's visit, for example. Nothing on presidential politics.

Project X Zone 2 Tokyo Game Show 2015 trailer Phoenix Wright Watchup
Project X Zone 2 was the only Nintendo-related news item on the whole Watchup when I was using it.
I really don't want to watch some Kotaku trash showing a crappy montage of "awesome" things in first-person shooting games that aren't even on consoles I own.

As you can see in the screenshot above, some videos have YouTube-esque advertisements that you could click on or X out of... if you were on YouTube. Since you're on your Wii U, these are appearing on your TV screen. How the hell am I supposed to even click on the advertisement (if I wanted to) if the advertisement is on my television? This clearly wasn't thought-out.

What also wasn't thought-out is the total lack of content warnings. I watched a video that was littered with swear words without any warning. (It was a good video, though.) The Wii U literally has children that use the system. If the registered user isn't the child, then maybe they have kids watching the news with them because that's what families should be doing, and families theoretically use the Wii U together. Remember, these are auto-streamed videos, so you might inadvertently step into something that suddenly swears.

Cisgender people sexual identity Watchup Wii U app Nintendo
This was the first damn video recommended for me. An explanation of sexualities.

The Wii U is a different platform than your Apple mobile garbage. But Watchup really didn't take that into consideration, so we're left with some buggy nonsense. The videos also stream very slowly and hiccup frequently. This probably isn't Watchup's fault, though I would like to say my Internet connection is exquisite.

To try to give Watchup a fair shake, I decided to consult the electronic manual. It has... only three sections. Basically, legal stuff and support. Well, here's support.

Watchup Nintendo Wii U electronic support manual information
Instead of telling us how to use the thing in the electronic manual like any other thing on the Wii U, they say to go to their website.

Fine. Let's go to their website again and figure out this thing.

Watchup now on Wii U daily newscast Gamepad website error bugs
...Well, this is the tip.

Again, the related article is just the video description.

You cannot click on the right arrow to proceed in the above picture. There is supposed to be a video on the Gamepad on the browser there, but none will ever appear.

In other words, Watchup brings some counterintuitive user-unfriendly news application to the Wii U, tells people in the electronic manual to go to their website to learn how to use it, and then once you go there, their website's tutorial doesn't even work.

It's painful to review this thing. If it just worked the way it should, this could be something pretty great. If it had more content, and content that Wii U owners would actually appreciate, then this would be much nicer. It needs to take advantage of and acknowledge the fact that it's a Wii U application. That means it should be integrated with other Wii U features (Miiverse, if Nintendo will let 'em, though you can see from that sexuality show that there are compelling reasons to not allow it) and implement common-sense touch-screening. And it should have a LOT more Gaming content. It should let you actually multi-task and let you do other things on your Wii U while you watch clips. They'd have to work with Nintendo to get that to happen, but imagine the experience!

Ludwig is fine with getting his news from non-applications, which means reading through KoopaTV's recommended sources list. And read KoopaTV itself. He'll be sending this review over to Watchup, Inc, and if prompted he'll give this app another try in the future. He used to use the News Channel over on the Wii a lot, which was just news articles on your TV screen.

Hillary Clinton being advertised by Nintendo is a disgrace, given what Hillary tried to do to the videogame industry.


  1. Sometimes when I open up the Wii U, I see what the folks on my list are up to so I can try to join their games if they are playing certain kinds of games. I saw you were using this. I would not download it anyway but nice to know it is not worth it.

    1. I feel like I should just have Smash Wii U friend rooms open for this purpose and leave 'em open for an hour and see if anyone comes.

      Hey, it could be worth it if it's tweaked a lot. It's a very nice idea. And I know there are many people out there who do like this, at least according to Watchup's accolades section of their website.

      Not sure if people like the Wii U port, I just know I don't.

    2. I did that for the 3DS version. I changed the comment to "Anyone can join" (or if that was too many characters I shortened it to fit) and got people joining. I left my room open on the Wii U a few times and occasionally gotten a taker. I am shy about entering other rooms unless I know they open it for everyone because I have been rejected out of a room a few times so I can never tell if they want private matches or not.

    3. Yeah, I'm usually wary about joining other people's rooms because I dunno if it's truly for everyone on their friend's list.

      So you gotta change your system comment to "anyone join!" AND your Smash online comment profile thing to "anyone join!"

      Right now both are "" :o

    4. Well that comment is how I found this site in the first place because I hear that one may be banned if put on Miiverse.

    5. Wot, would be banned if you put it on Miiverse?

      ...Yeah it would if you do it explicitly like that.


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