During its financial briefing to investors, Nintendo detailed plans for the Nintendo Network platform, demonstrating a long-overdue push to capture a slice of the digital market.
The Nintendo Network, a name which debuted alongside Mario Kart 7, is Nintendo’s answer to Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, and will support the 3DS and Wii U, largely replacing the existing Nintendo WiFi Connection service.
“Unlike Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which has been focused upon specific functionalities and concepts, we are aiming to establish a platform where various services available through the network for our consumers shall be connected via Nintendo Network service so that the company can make comprehensive proposals to consumers,” president and CEO Satoru Iwata said.
While no mention was made of which titles would support the Nintendo Network, Iwata said that on both first and third party fronts the company “will push forward to make the software compatible with Nintendo Network”.
Iwata outlined the services probable uses, beginning with Mario Kart 7’s Communities feature, which allows players to set up gated groups locked by an access code, but also mentioning competitions, communication between users – likely meaning text or voice chat – and digital content sales.
That last one includes DLC, of course, mentioning the Japanese 3DS title Tobidasu Pricla Kiradeco Revolution. It’s the first 3DS game to offer downloadable content for purchase, and will be followed by Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, which launches on February 16.
Nintendo has traditionally been very cagey about DLC and Iwata made it clear that stance has not changed.
“As a software maker, Nintendo believes that its packaged software should be sold to our consumers in a form so that the consumers will know in advance that they can enjoy playing the software they purchased just as it is,” he said.
“We believe that our consumers will be able to feel more secure if we offer our add-on content as an additional structure in which those who love the game will be able to enjoy it in a deeper way for a prolonged play time. ”
Beyond DLC, Iwata said Nintendo is “considering the future possibility of digital distribution of packaged software”.
“This concept was built into the design of the Nintendo 3DS, and we already have the necessary infrastructure. We will prepare the same infrastructure for the Wii U. However, we have not decided the concrete timing of when we will start it.,” he added.
“The decision must be made by taking into consideration such factors as the relationship with the wholesalers and retailers, and the best way to be embraced by consumers, as well as the environment surrounding the market and consumers, such as the required memory capacity on consumers’ SD memory cards. However, as an option for the future, the significance of this business field will increase.”
In typically Nintendo fashion, the company has concerns that the distribution of digital content will make things harder on families who share hardware, but has found a solution.
“For the Wii U, we are planning to introduce a personal account system compatible with Nintendo Network. With this, for example, the ease of using a video game system when the hardware is shared by multiple family members, which has been a challenge we needed to tackle, shall be improved,” Iwata explained.
Further assisting ease of use, Nintendo is installing Near Field Communication in to the Wii U’s controller. NFC is a technology allowing for instant payment authorisation, among other identity-confirming uses, used by MasterCard PayPass among others.
Iwata made mention of cards and figurines using NFC tech, presumably granting bonuses to the owner or opening new gameplay opportunities, but also mentioned the possibility of micro-transaction authorisation through the controller.