Xbox was the first out of the online network gate with Xbox Live in 2002. Sony got into the swing of things four years later with PSN (though the paid subscription arm of their service, PSN Plus, just launched in 2010). At long last, Nintendo has decided to step up to the plate with the “Nintendo Network.”
Nintendo has been halfheartedly offering multiplayer capabilities for Wii and DS (and now 3DS) for a while now via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, but most of the features that fans of Xbox Live and PSN know and love have been left by the wayside. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in a quarterly financial briefing on Friday said that he’s aware that WFC has always been “focused upon specific functionalities and concepts” instead of offering the wide range of features that online gamers want, such as player accounts/profiles, multiple players on a single device, and achievements.
Nintendo’s efforts here seem largely tied to the launch of the new Wii U console, though Wii and 3DS users will also be able to take advantage of its services. Iwata says that his company intends to use Nintento Network tie together its disparate online offerings into a single, unified service, including downloadable games and DLC, gamer competitions, and of course multiplayer gaming. He made this jab at the glut of DLC plaguing the industry these days:
Nintendo, as a software maker, does not plan to deploy businesses where our consumers cannot know in advance which item will appear as the result of their payment and they have to repeat the payments and, before they know it, they end up spending a huge amount of money in order to obtain the items they originally wanted to purchase.
His comments aren’t unwelcome. Having to download additional content in order to finish a game or play it the way you want to play it rates on the annoyance scale right up there with the Red Ring of Death.
But is anybody else struck by the hypocrisy in what he’s saying here? Replace the word “software” from his statement with “hardware,” and you get an exact description of how Nintendo handled its last few console launches. Most early Wii owners “originally wanted to purchase” a motion controlling console that offered precise motion tracking, but we didn’t get that until the add-on “Wii Motion Plus” controllers came along a few years later, requiring an additional purchase. Most 3DS buyers wanted to buy a handheld device that offered all of the controls we needed right there in the device, but less than a year after its launch, the “Extended Slide Pad” was released to add the second thumbstick that Nintendo suddenly realized should have been there all along.
Iwata didn’t provide a launch date for the Nintento Network, but it’s safe to assume it will launch alongside the Wii U as one of its key selling points.