Feeling hungry? Go boot up the Nintendo Wii and order some pizza for delivery.
If this sounds odd, that's because it was only possible to do so in Japan using an obscure app called the Delivery Channel. Well ahead of its time in 2009 and looking exactly as one would expect from the traditional Wii interface, the app allowed users to select from a broad selection of nearby restaurants. Using their Wii remotes, a player could then take an order, receive a confirmation message directly to the console with an estimated delivery time, and soon the food would arrive at their doorstep.
Nintendo released the Wii console in 2006, offering players entirely new ways to play with motion-sensor controllers that worked far better than previous attempts by other companies to do the same. The designs were first mocked by competitors like Sony, calling the controllers "lollipops." Soon after, Sony emulated the controllers in their own attempt to capture some of the market, all of which ultimately failed against the broad appeal of the Wii.
Initial sales of the Wii console were high, and fans of the system will recall the broad, often strange variety of channels to choose from in the Home interface. There was the Wii Shop Channel, now succeeded by the eShop where players bought their games digitally and were able to access the nostalgia of previous console titles. The Weather Channel too was interesting to explore, even if only for a while. In Japan however, the idea of ordering food through the console went from pipe dream to reality, though strangely enough, it did not move outside of that region.
To begin its venture into the, until then, alien world of ordering food from a video game console, Nintendo partnered with Demae-Can, a large food delivery network service that boasted 10,000 restaurant locations to choose from with locations all over the country. Restaurant owners could easily join the network with only the requirement of a fax machine to receive details of an order. In terms of initial investment to get in on a big new business idea, this was inexpensive and inviting to virtually any restaurant.
With the food delivery partner secured, Nintendo contracted game developer Den-Yu-Sha to create the app that would integrate the food delivery service to the Wii. Before this, Den-Yu-Sha was rather obscure in developing some games for Nintendo, along with three titles for the hardly known Pokémon Mini console: Pokémon Party Mini, Pokémon Zany Cards, and Pichu Bros. Mini.
On May 26, 2009, the Delivery Channel was released for download on the Wii Shop Channel in Japan.
Using the app itself was straightforward. Open the Delivery Channel to the welcoming jingle one would expect from a Super Mario Bros. game, select a sub-category of food like Pizza or Sushi among others, each with their own theme-song jingle, and place the order.
Perhaps best of all for the adventurous eater, there is an option in the corner that translates to “Cannot Decide,” which then seems to make a choice at random within your geographical area. As seen here, the results for one person are not exactly ideal, and this person received what looks like food for a larger group of people.
While the Wii has long since left production, the channel itself only shut down in March of 2017, after the release of the Nintendo Switch. This meant that players were able to order from the Delivery Channel for a total of eight years.
Ultimately, the program did not expand past Japan, and there do not seem to be many sources offering explanation as to why the project was launched and kept only in that one area despite running successfully for eight years.
Interestingly, despite being operational during that time, there is very little written about the service and the app itself. Most articles on the matter seem to be from the year before its launch, talking about the novelty of the idea, but that's it.
Perhaps the Delivery Channel was both successful in Japan but also ahead of its time. Today we have Uber Eats, which is essentially the same concept transitioned from Wii Console to Smartphone and internet browsers. Much like the incredible but doomed Sega Dreamcast, the ideas presented may simply have been too niche at the time to be considered for release outside of Japan.
It is a shame, because ordering pizza before a session of Super Smash Bros. Brawl would have been very tempting. Looking at it that way, it probably is best that it never made its way out West.