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What Netflix looks like on a Nintendo Entertainment System

Netflix developers get the movie streaming service running on the 1980s Nintendo console

Netflix apps for most platforms, but few would have expected the streaming service to support a console that was launched in 1983! Yet, Netflix employees have given us a fun glimpse of what it would be like to watch shows such as House of Cards on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

The unexpected port was the result of a Netflix hack day, a day when the company’s developers drop their day jobs and have fun working on experimental projects. Hack days are generally intended to spur ideas for future products – developers Guy Cirino and Alex Wolfe decided to head in the opposite direction, however, figuring out a way to run Netflix on the Nintendo classic. 

The NES obviously didn’t have an Ethernet socket or Wi-Fi chip so the developers installed the Netflix interface and “video” onto a modified game cart. With only 2KB of onboard RAM and a 256KB cart to play with, the developers naturally had to make some compromises, not least in the video resolution. With only 48 colours and six shades of grey available, it’s frankly amazing that you’re even able to make out the opening credits of House of Cards in the demo video, but it’s clear to see – if only for a few seconds.

The tongue-in-cheek video also demonstrates a new feature that will soon be coming to Netflix – the ability to recommend shows to other Netflix users. 

Other Netflix Hack Day projects demonstrated forthcoming features that are a little more practical than playing movies on a defunct console. The Say Whaaat!!! project aims to help viewers in those moments where you couldn’t make out what a character said. Users can simply press a button on their controller (the demo video shows it being performed on a PlayStation 4) and have subtitles appear for the scene that just passed, allowing them to read what the character mumbled. Viewers can also scroll through previous or subsequent frames, allowing them to skim through subtitles for the rest of the film, if they wish.

Another hack aims to prevent “Netflix adultery”, where couples start watching a series together and then one of them “cheats” on the other by watching further episodes by themselves. The feature demands that both users enter a PIN before the show will play, ensuring the other half can’t get in a sneaky episode of Orange Is The New Black whilst their partner is out for the evening. 

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