When Nintendo’s President Satoru Iwata answered an investors question about the Wii U’s online services, he probably wasn’t expecting international headlines to be misquoting him.
But that is exactly what happened, as usual.
Iwata told investors that while Wii U’s main online services will be free, the company is leaving the door open to offer paid servies in the future – much like the way the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DSi and Nintendo Wii work already. You can use the bulk of the online features for free – these include playing games over the internet and using online application features like “Nintendo Video Channel”, etc.
If users want premium experiences, they can pay for them. The premium features include buying games online, or pay for subscriptions like the upcoming Dragon Quest X title. Nintendo 3DS games can also be updated at an additional cost, one of the first being New Super Mario Bros. 2 which will eventually allow players to download extra stages for a small fee.
Here’s the actual question and Iwata’s answer so you can jump to your own conclusion;
For the launches of the Wii U and other products, I am anticipating increased costs for their online services and others. How will you compensate for these costs? For example, do you have an idea of receiving a monthly fee from dues-paying members or increasing the price of packaged software?
Iwata: 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.
On the other hand, some of you attending here must naturally wonder if the company can afford to say such a thing when it is attempting to improve profitability. 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. For example, when you see another user enjoying the same game you also play say, “I enjoyed another game like this and that too,” you might be interested in a game which otherwise would not be on your wish list at all. In other words, even if we will not directly get paid by such online services, they will help build the circumstance where consumers are more constantly playing games on our platforms, which will increase the sales potential of new games, or a consumer who has played two games a year would be inclined to try three or four games a year. In short, we expect that online services will contribute to our profits in the form of increasing the number of games to be sold for one platform. From an economic standpoint, with that as an objective, the company is considering the necessary and appropriate services.
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.
So, just like Sony – if Nintendo want to add a “premium” service in the future, they might. If they want to offer “Free-to-Play” games in the future, they might. Why this was warped in the gaming media is beyond my level of comprehension.