The Wii U's Online Strategy Is A Rorschach Blot

The Wii U will have better, more impressive online functionality than any Nintendo console before it, we learned last week at E3. What does that mean?

Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, told us: "We've spent a lot of time talking to a variety of publishers about what they want in an online environment. What they've told us is that they want it to be flexible. And they've told us that they want it capable of connecting across platforms. So we're building a system that is able to do that. ["Cross-platform," we asked? What do you mean? He said:]Whether it's social networks or mobile or things of that nature. We've built that system. We have that capability."

Katsuya Eguchi, tenured Nintendo designer, creator of Animal Crossing and multiple Wii U demos, told us: : "I can't go into details... We're trying to find new experiences... In looking at the approaches on the Xbox and PlayStation - what they've done and what people have responded really well to - we've definitely considered including those kinds of experiences, and we think that our third parties also want those as well... but there are also things Nintendo does and other companies haven't. We need to balance out what exactly what we need to bring to the user to bring the best experience possible."

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata didn't talk to us at E3, but he did talk to investors, and said:

To start, I'll have to say that I don't have any materials with me today that can illustrate precisely what our online environment will be like, but I can speak generally about the direction that we are moving in.

I think, in general, the online environment is changing quite rapidly.

So, what I have come to feel lately is that the idea of saying, "we are going to create this style of online structure and that we would like you, the developers, to fit into the online structure that we are creating" is perhaps already out-of-date.

I think that Nintendo's past console business has often included this idea of a set and fixed online structure. So, I think that, going forward, the question is really to what degree Nintendo can create a more flexible system for its consoles.

And, what we found at this point is that, as we discuss the online structure with different publishers, the things that the different publishers want to do are in fact seemingly rather different.

Our current direction is how we can take the desires of the third parties and create a system that's flexible enough to enable them to do the types of things that they might want to do.

So, for example with the question of VoIP [voice-chat] , I think then what we would like to do is work with them on how to enable them to do that. But, what we're not going to do is to consider as prerequisite conditions that every game includes features like that because obviously there are some developers who may not want to do that.

As for social networks, after examining the penetration and adoption rate of social networking services like Facebook, etc., we've come to the conclusion that we are no longer in a period where we cannot have any connection at all with social networking services.

Rather, I think we've come to an era where it's important to consider how the social graph of the social networking services can work in conjunction with something like a video game platform.

So, once we get to a point where we're able to talk more concretely about our online plans, I think that once you hear what we'll have to say, you'll feel that Nintendo has a policy of adapting itself to changes in the network environment in a flexible fashion rather than the one of sticking to a rigid mechanism, or perhaps you'll notice that we have found ways to take advantage of these types of features like VoIP and social networking, where our systems have been seen as being weak in the past. However, unfortunately, we won't be able to share anything concrete today.

Got it now?

We don't have details about whether there will be a unified Achievements system, though we do know that Nintendo's internal teams aren't a fan of such a thing. We do know that Ubisoft showed at E3 that they're planning all sorts online match-making and stat-tracking, some of which will be available without the game fully being turned on, right off the Wii U's screen-centric controller. We do not, however, have anything close to a vision of what Nintendo's answer to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network is.

The pessimist will say that Nintendo is once again not aggressively promoting a unified and specific online strategy and certainly not leading the way with online-centric Wii U software. The optimist will say that Nintendo finally gets it. They finally sound like they care about online.

All of you will probably want more details. Us, too.


Comments

    The http://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/01/a-nintendo-argument-against-achievements/s
    link actually goes here:
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/2009/09/s-t-a-l-k-e-r-call-of-pripyat-oozes-atmosphere/

    it sounds like they are still thinking about what they want to do online wise. It was all very vague.

    This is extremely disapointing as I expected at least some details at e3, what with the console launching in less than a year and a half.

    So they must be planning on making some decisions fairly soon right? What with needing to get their whole online infrastructure up and running, not to mention getting the details to developers.

    How on earth does Nintendo expect to make, or get 3rd parties to make, proper current gen games, with no idea what the specs for the box, or what the online infrastructure will be, and with that screen to program for, all in less than a year and a half?

    Their inability to have local multiplayer working at E3 (which every console has had since the NES back in 85), is not confidence inspiring.

    Iwata ! R.E.S.I.G.N. !!!!!!
    i think i want tshirts made with this on :)

      Yup and while your at it lets sack Steve Jobs the head of Apple? Lets forget he makes his company a tonne of cash, but hey lets listen to this guy and sack successful CEOs.

      Just look at Iwata's competition. Kaz Harai has overseen the complete wiping out of profits that both ps1 and ps2 had accumulated thanks to ps3. And xbox, well they have yet to dig them selves out of the hole (debt) that the original xbox and 360 has made. Do you actually think before you type? Do you actually understand logic?But thanks to this guys reasoning we should sack Iwata (who made Nintendo #1 in the home and portable markets) and give the other 2 bonuses. That sounds like the logical thing to do *rolls eyes*

      Business' purpose is to make money to please stock holders. Iwata is doing his job. maybe its you that should resign from making silly comments.

    How can Nintendo not know the basics already? You need to have a unified system! Also it should be one system that WiiU and 3DS uses.

    That is the most basic of requirements for a solid online. Add in whatever other features you want but unless you have a unified online system then your online experience is only on par with the PS2. A system that will be 12 years old when WiiU launches...

    It would be amazing if all the consoles just linked together in crossplatform playability harmony.

    Won't happen though :(

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