When Wii U was unveiled at E3 this past June, one of the first questions that crossed my mind was whether or not Nintendo would simultaneously launch a new online network that would either rival or surpass that of Sony and Microsoft’s, each of which has been building members and content for years.
Months upon months of rumors and speculation were confirmed on Thursday when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata formally announced the Nintendo Network’s existence, its basic features, and its compatibility with Wii U as well as 3DS. Based on what we now know for certain, the Nintendo Network sounds a lot like Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.
Here are the Nintendo Network core features that has been revealed thus far:
The Nintendo Network will allow gamers to electronically purchase and download post-launch content for packaged media, otherwise known as downloadable content (DLC). The first game expected to receive DLC is Mario Kart 7 for 3DS in the “near future.”
Based on DLC coming to 3DS before Wii U, it stands to reason the Nintendo Network will be up and operational well ahead of the Wii U launch this upcoming holiday season.
Again looking at Mario Kart 7, the Nintendo Network will allow for community features such as groups, events and matches.
The Nintendo Network is being modeled after the Xbox 360 in that you can have multiple personal accounts on a single console. Hopefully this means no more 16-digit unfriendly friend codes that no one currently bothers to remember, much less share with friends.
And lastly, Nintendo is considering offering future Wii U games digitally versus as traditional packaged physical disc media. If they do move that direction, it won’t be something that happens at launch.
Nintendo has never sought to be a leader in the online space. That’s not their strength and I don’t anticipate it being one in their future. With the Nintendo Network they are, at least for now, keeping up with the competition and offering some of the features gamers have considered “basic functionality” for many years. I wouldn’t be surprised if other “basic features” like voice chat across any game, messaging and friends list are also part of the Nintendo Network.
These features, coupled with Nintendo’s core strength of making one-of-a-kind first-party software, should help bolster the Wii U launch in late 2012.