Despite being the top selling console of the current generation, it’s hard to deny that the Nintendo Wii has faltered when it comes to online gameplay. Now an essential component to the success of any gaming platform, the Wii U will be introducing a ramped up online service that is intended to bring their online presence on par with Microsoft and Sony. The lingering questions surrounding Nintendo’s plans to roll out these services have been circulating for a while now, with the most common one being about possible subscription and usage fees. Today, Nintendo has officially confirmed that playing online through the Wii U will not lighten your wallet.
Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata addressed the issue of price in an annual shareholder meeting, and he confirmed that utilizing the online services for the Wii U will not require a subscription and will be free for everyone to use. Iwata did note that he doesn’t feel that charging fees is a bad practice, however it would not be the right decision given that the service is just launching along with a new console. Having a free online service is a move to add value to the Wii U consoles and ultimately result in higher hardware and software sales. It is a smart decision due to the competitive climate of the gaming market. This will no doubt come as welcome news to those fearing that a monthly fee would apply.
The free services will include the Nintendo Network, which is their unified network similar to the Playstation Network and Xbox Live, and the Miiverse, the new social hub that Nintendo showcased at E3 2012. These are services designed to make online gameplay more user-friendly and to enhance social interaction with other gamers, two features that felt underdeveloped on the Wii. The absence of a fee should help to win over a few undecided gamers, as well as those who are skeptical that the Wii U will offer the gaming experience they currently get on other consoles.
The success of the Wii U should ultimately be determined by how well it works and the library of games, and the online component will play a big part in that. Xbox Live has proven to be highly successful despite having a subscription fee, illustrating the fact that many gamers will pay for a service they enjoy. The Playstation Network has also done well by offering gamers both a free option and Playstation Plus, their subscription-based service that comes with additional perks and benefits. Whether Nintendo will adopt either practice remains to be seen, but starting off with free online gaming is something I am certainly not complaining about.