News Article

Satoru Iwata: 'Deep' Online Services May Have a Cost

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

'Ordinary' services should be free

Satoru Iwata has recently chaired the latest Nintendo Shareholder's AGM, and as expected faced some tough questions about the future of the company and its plans. One subject that came up was online services, primarily whether the enhanced functionality on Wii U and the developing role of Nintendo Network on 3DS would lead to subscription rates, similar to the monthly and annual costs of Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus.

Iwata has said that the aim is to connect as many users as possible and that those accessing basic services on a casual basis won't have to pay, but that extra charges for some online features may become a reality in the future.

We plan to expand various network services for the Wii U. The first thing to do is connect the Wii U to a common large network platform called the Nintendo Network. Next, the Nintendo 3DS, which is now partially linked with the Nintendo Network, will be more deeply connected. Also, when we create a new platform in the future, we will have it connected to the Nintendo Network.

We have a wide variety of consumers, from the ones who enthusiastically play video games to those playing more casually, who are not always interested in them but try to play a game only when it has become a public topic or play it just during certain periods, like a year-end season and summer vacation. We therefore believe that services which ask our consumers to obtain paid memberships are not always the best. We cannot promise here 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.

However, our aim is that network services will eventually contribute to our overall profits even if they are available for free. More specifically, network services will let you communicate with other people, visualize what they are interested in and tell you something you did not know. Haven’t you ever had an experience that one of your friends introduced you to a song or a movie and that you regret not watching the movies by a certain director or listening to the songs by a certain artist in your life until then? If we are not aware of them, they are virtually nonexistent to us. Exactly the same thing can be said about video games. In developing a network service called “Miiverse” available for the Wii U, we are pursuing how to amplify and transmit consumers’ empathy about a game.

... Therefore, our answer to your question is that, while we are not considering asking our consumers to pay periodic subscription fees, we are going to make it so that more software can be sold through the services and that we are making preparations with the belief that results worthy of our investments can be achieved eventually.

It's unsurprising that Nintendo will aim to keep certain services free, and although it wasn't clearly mentioned we'd expect some games to carry their own subscriptions or one-off fees, in a similar way to monthly charges in Japan for Monster Hunter Tri online multiplayer, or the recent expansion of the Call of Duty and Battlefield online services on HD consoles to include additional fees and costs. As for titles in series such as Mario Kart, we'd expect Nintendo to work hard to keep those free of charge because they are, by nature, targeted at the so-called 'casual' audience.

What do you think? What kind of online play or content will you be happy to pay for? Special servers, DLC extras, enhanced Miiverse networking in specific titles? Let us know in the comments below.


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User Comments (36)



Alienfish said:

This all sounds pretty good to me. PS+ is a really nice program for people who want to get the most bang for their buck as far as downloads go and I think Nintendo and its consumers could benefit from a similar program. As long as they don't go the route of Xbox and charge for simple access then everything should be fine.



Lew3107 said:

As long as it's like a PS+ service, that's fine. But if it's like XBL where you have to pay to play games online or talk to your friends then you can forget about it. They'll definitely attract more people if the online service is free.



hYdeks said:

yup, a ps+ type service would be great, otherwise I'm not paying a penny for online, EVER



Kirk said:

Well at least they're planning on keeping it mostly free. I think they need to go a bit further in their online service offerings overall however so it will be interesting to see where this goes in the future.



Shock_Tart said:

i agree ps+ service works for me but if its like x box live service where you HAVE to pay per month then forget it.



NintyMan said:

I think this should go a mostly free route as well. I don't want to pay a monthly bill like I would a TV or cell phone bill. By keeping it free, they can attract more "casual" people and games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. can have a good, free online service that works for everyone. They should realize that.



TruenoGT said:

I feel if they can provide something novel (like some of the interesting features of MiiVerse), then it will worth some cash. I've been turned off of XBox and Live because they simply started charging for services that were/are available for years for free on the PC (such as game demos, online play and chat). On top of that because MS and/or 3rd parties managed servers, games simply lose online play once they are tired of supporting these servers. By contrast user hosted games from 15+ years ago (e.g. Quake, Unreal Tournament, etc) on the PC can still be played with no hassle! I don't expect the WiiU to be like this, but some unique Nintendo magic can go a long way to providing something worth paying for.



theblackdragon said:

casuals don't want to pay for anything, and Nintendo spent the entire last generation hooking all those casuals. the PS+ route would be the way to go IMO; give people free games for the duration of their paid status and extra discounts and early access to goodies... the XBLA route, making people pay to play anything online, that'd just piss people off, and given the crappy online support Nintendo's offered in the past, there's a good chance people might not trust it enough to pay anyway.



rjejr said:

I thought I was the odd man out for being hypocritical about Sony charging $50/yr for PS+ but not OK for Microsoft charging $50/yr for Gold but apparently everybody thinks this way. It's one of the main reasons I haven't purchased a 360 yet but I've been a happy camper PS+ since it's inception. Guess it's ok as long as it isn't mandatory. Does Microsoft even have the "free" Silver anymore, I never read about it anywhere?



odd69 said:

No not reasonable, Sony may not be the best company, but they provide FREE DEEP ONLINE gameplay. But hey You can pay extra for a service that is horrible. Nuff said.

I understand this is Nintendo though, but still not quite sure about this.



SkywardLink98 said:

I think they should do what Sony did. It has a lot of the normal-to-"deep" stuff for free but you can choose to upgrade at a cost.



GameLord08 said:

It's rather admirable that Nintendo's main ambition is to keep online services free for consumers, at all times possible. I don't mind if certain games come with subscriptions or fees of their own (reasonable ones at that), but so long as I can access the basic utility of the online Wii U services, it's all good. (glares at Microsoft)

Though for other extra-hardcore kinda features of Miiverse (premium accounts, exclusive content etc.), I'd like to see them go the PS+ route in their own way. It'd be reasonable, and rather nifty. It would definitely appeal to more intense gamers on the Wii U.



Raptor78 said:

It seems that Nintendo will want to get as many people online so generally everything will be free to pull the consumers in, but I dont think they want to put off big developers like Capcom from offering charges for their services and in the long run it will probably encourage those developers to offer their own private servers via Nintendo's online services for mabey a small game related fee. After all im sure Nintendo have mentioned that with the wiiU they were looking into those "freemium" type games which will offer free play but with the option of purchasing additional content. Mabey we could see a World of Warcraft sytle MMO on the wiiU system which may be free a low levels but would require a subscription at higher levels... thus pleasing both the casual and hardcore audiance.



SilentHunter382 said:

I have to agree that a PS+ type subscription would be great but they need to have a great online services to even think about doing a subscription charge not just an it will do attitude.



ueI said:

I refuse to pay any subscriptions. Other costs are fair game.



1takauchiha said:

So long as it's not expensive and there's no monthly fee, I'm fine with it. Nintendo better not make something like XBOX Live. If they do, I may just dumb my Nintendo stuff and go Sony all the way.



Marks said:

I agree with you bro, except I kind of like the option to pay only for one month or something just to try it out. If there's a monthly/yearly pay option I think it's good.
P.S.: Cool avatar, LOL.



k8sMum said:

i love nintendo, i really do. but they never get anything to do with the 'net right. i keep hoping, but they will have to change their mindset to do it and it hasn't happened yet. they have to be able to live with not being able to control everything and i don't think they are capable of doing that.



Retro_on_theGo said:

As long as I dn't have to pay just to play online, it's fine Nintendo. Seriously, their track record with online play is so horrendously bad even I wouldn't pay to play online on the Wii U.



Ernest_The_Crab said:

So free online play and basic account features (like friends). I get how everyone wants some PS+ premium service but I think they should go a step further with it for premium services. They're Nintendo, they can have special events and promotions for premium users only (doesn't have to be specific to buying games).



Emaan said:

Sounds good to me, we shouldn't have to pay to play online. However, why was Mario Kart labeled as "casual" at the end? Quite the opposite really.



Hokori said:

Emaan I think marked as casual as in pick up and play for anyone, not nessicarly as a game that takes a while to actually unlock everything, that being said I'd call COD as casual as well



Kage_88 said:

I'm not much of an online guy, and I don't use PS+ or Xbox Live Gold.

However, I do hope that Nintendo can provide its online services free whenever possible.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Ugh, I hate periodic subscription fess. Just let me buy something and be done with it. As long as I can play online multiplayer, download game and system updates, and get access to the downloadable shops and DLC, I'll be just fine with the free "casual" plan.



hYdeks said:

I would also like to see games like Phantasy Star see a home on Wii U, I'ld pay a small fee for that. Or if they made a online pokemon game for the wii u.



KromCompany said:

I want to still be able to play online games free. But if the system is getting a makeover, i might just be like- MEH... I got online games, who cares



CrimsonLoftwing said:

To be honest, if what Nintendo charges for deep online services, I'm mostly sure of it to be worth the value. I mean, not always, of course. But, I'd certainly hope that Nintendo doesn't go too "fee crazy".



Drawdler said:

As long as it's only things like DLC, and not actually playing online multiplayer, I'm okay with this. It's what's kept my 360 off all this time. Not like I'll use it anyway



UnseatingKDawg said:

As long as they DO NOT make us pay for online play, I'll be content. I don't mind paying for DLC either, as long as it's relatively cheap.

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