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Nintendo: Wii U won't have DVD, Blu-ray playback

The company's CEO Satoru Iwata made that statement last week at the E3 gaming expo. He said that the playback wasn't worth adding to the platform.

The Wii U's new touch-screen controller.
The Wii U's new touch-screen controller. Screenshot by CNET

Don't expect to pop a movie disc into the Wii U next year.

Speaking to analysts during a question-and-answer session last week at the E3 gaming expo, Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata said that his company's upcoming game console will not support DVD or Blu-ray playback.

"The reason for that is that we feel that enough people already have devices that are capable of playing DVDs and Blu-ray, such that it didn't warrant the cost involved to build that functionality into the Wii U console because of the patents related to those technologies," Iwata told analysts at the event.

Currently, Nintendo's Wii console also doesn't support DVD or Blu-ray playback. However, it does allow for Netflix streaming. The Wii's competitors, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, offer Netflix streaming as well, but Microsoft's console allows for DVD playback, while Sony's PlayStation 3 offers both DVD and Blu-ray playback.

Though some gamers view consoles as more than just gaming devices, and thus welcome video-disc playback, Nintendo isn't alone in finding trouble with licensing Blu-ray. In 2008, Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously said that Blu-ray wouldn't be available on Macs because licensing the technology for use in devices is "a bag of hurt."

Microsoft has also been loath to add Blu-ray to its Xbox 360 console. In 2009, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that he didn't believe his company needed "to put Blu-ray in [the Xbox 360]."

Though some took issue with Microsoft's stance, a couple years later, it's becoming clear that streaming content is becoming increasingly important in the entertainment market, making access to Netflix arguably more important than a Blu-ray or DVD drive in a game console.

Last year, research firm In-Stat discussed the impact streaming is having on discs. The firm found that between 2009 and 2014, physical disc sales are expected to decline by $4.6 billion. The company said DVD sales will plummet, while Blu-ray sales increase. However, In-Stat said, Blu-ray's gains won't be enough to offset the decline in the physical-disc market.

"Video disc rentals will continue their significant decline," In-Stat principal analyst Keith Nissen said in a statement at the time. "The convenience and utility of the online offerings are simply too compelling."

Nintendo's Wii U console is expected to ship next year. The device promises improved graphical capabilities over its predecessor, as well as a new controller boasting a 6.2-inch touch screen.