Dealing with changing times
Image: Nintendo of America / Bob Riha Jr.

While many of us watched Nintendo's formal presentations at E3, as would be expected of a trade event there were low-key meetings and Q&A sessions as well. An analyst Q&A has been published by Nintendo, where Satoru Iwata was grilled on a range of topics such as Wii U hardware, costs and bundles, which were genuinely brushed off as Nintendo wasn't ready to reveal details.

Questions that did get some detailed answers revolved around subjects such as the social networking aspect of Miiverse and, intriguingly, a number of questions about the importance of digital services and concepts such as free-to-play gaming. Below are a collection of answers that address Wii U's digital platform and the benefits of giving developers the opportunities and tools to make good use of the system.

With respect to the Wii U system, when we began working on it, one of our goals was to have a variety of purchase options and additional e-commerce options available at its launch. And because of that, we have prepared a Digital Rights Management system. We have designed the system from a technical standpoint to allow developers to freely take advantage of things like free to play and micro transactions...

As we’ve shared with you previously, for the Wii U hardware system, from the beginning, we’ve planned to make it possible for people to release their games as either an optical disc or as digital content. So publishers would be able to choose from both of those options.

Currently, we are in discussions with the publishers by sharing with them our offer in this area. Through that process, if publishers accept it as reasonable, games in the digital format will be available from the launch time. There are no technical restrictions...

I do think that we can improve profitability because with digital goods you avoid things like the cost of goods for media. You do not have the cost of shipping physical goods and you also can hold down inventory risks.

When asked directly whether Nintendo would explore free-to-play for its own games, Iwata made clear that conventional Nintendo titles such as those in the Mario franchise are not considered suitable, but admitted that the company may consider the model if the right ideas and concepts are developed.

We would like those who highly recognize the value of the products we have created to play them. What I am trying to say is that we are not considering introducing a free-to-play game if the game itself is not suitable in that fashion. I have no intention to deny every possibility of free-to-play.

As expected, Iwata was vague enough to suggest that Nintendo is still some distance from experimenting with different pricing models in its own franchises, but did say enough to suggest that the Wii U eShop may open the door to other developers trying free-to-play and micro transactions. It's a potentially touchy subject, so where do you stand?