Last week we reported some good news about Nintendo‘s plans for the Wii U’s online offerings. We were riding high on a wave of “Free U”  and “FreeVerse” jokes, safely tucking out wallets away. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that we’ll be able to keep them in our back pockets forever.

Fresh from a recent investor’s meeting, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has revealed that the Nintendo Network may not always be free of charge:

“We cannot promise that Nintendo will always provide you with online services free of charge no matter how deep the experiences are that it may provide. But at least we are not thinking of asking our consumers to pay money to just casually get access to our ordinary online services.”

From the sounds of it, Nintendo is considering a two-tier online system for its upcoming console. My guess would be one service would stay free for certain, more casual services, while the full online play system would have some kind of monthly or yearly fee. Iwata also stated that he knew that Nintendo had both casual and hardcore fans:

“…we therefore believe that services which ask our consumers to obtain paid memberships are not always the best.”

I’m not sure how many gamers, whether hardcore or casual, would be willing to shell out a fee for the services Nintendo is currently offering. Unless the Wii U brings with it an extremely improved online experience, the choice to implement a fee could be a mistake. I’ll withhold judgement until I see what the future has to offer, but for right now, I’m worried that Nintendo might be poised to make a rather significant blunder. On the other hand, Iwata may only have been speaking cautiously. Years down the road, this statement might be quite valuable for the company should anyone accuse them of reneging on a promise.



  1. He is saying that not all content is going to be free, not that they will start charging at some point. Kind of expected that.

    • That’s the more desirable outcome. Unfortunately, my inner pessimist likes to poke his head out every once in a while, and when he read this, he immediately thought of the worst, as pessimists are wont to do. There’s definitely room for interpretation in Iwata’s comment, though: it’s somewhat vague. I prefer what you came up with.