Beginning December 22nd, Wii users can download a free beta version of the Opera Web browser.
It will be interesting to see if this becomes popular. I believe it is quite possible. Other device-specific browsers have had marginal success for a variety of reasons. Browsing on cell phones is used by some, but not as common as the carriers had hoped. WebTV was briefly in use, but has faded, doomed from its attempt to mix the active (browsing) with the inactive (watching).
But having a browser on a game console may have some appeal. This will offer a mix of browsing and playing, both of which are interactive for the user. There is no mismatch between the primary activity of the Wii device, and the additional activity of browsing.
I also predict this may catch on because I’ve seen my teenage sons go to the web to get “cheat codes” then grumble that they had to print them out, and complain that finding the codes was an annoying process. (For those of you not familiar with gaming, cheat codes are unpublished controller actions that give the player some new capability, such as unlimited fuel or the ability to hover in the air.)
Why does this matter? For one thing, we may soon need to include this browser in planning and testing web sites for browser compatibility, especially when it comes to gaming web sites. The Wii browser may also eventually offer a wider range of actions than hover, click, and scroll. What if we suddenly can plan interactions in which a horizontal or vertical slash of the controller through the air has meaning? We may also have to understand gaming interactions more thoroughly in order to design sites and navigation that match the player’s (user’s) mental model of how the interaction should be structured.