Wii U online services will be free

You won’t have to pay anything to take your games online with Nintendo’s newest console.

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata made that clear during an annual shareholder meeting. It was his way of dodging the more important question of how much the Wii U console itself would cost. The system’s online network, called Miiverse, was introduced last month at E3.

Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold platform is by all accounts an incredibly outdated infrastructure. The concept of paying a monthly fee just to use a device’s basic online functionality simply does not work in this industry anymore.

Imagine, for example, having to pay a monthly fee to Apple just to be able to connect your iPad to iTunes. It’s just something that doesn’t make sense at all.

But Microsoft has managed to get away with it because the Xbox 360 was built in the early 2000s, when online console gaming was something that only the hardcore crowd was interested in. It seemed like only a small slice of the Xbox community would want that service.

What makes a lot more sense is Sony’s approach to monetizing its online platform. The PS3’s Playstation Plus service gives extra features and content to those willing to pay an extra fee, but anyone who wants to play online games for free is more than welcome to.

Nintendo could of course elect for something like that, but the exact details of Miiverse remain something of a mystery. We only saw bits and pieces of it at E3, and it was not presented as something that ties the Wii U experience together like the Playstation Network and Xbox Live do for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

We’ll see exactly what Miiverse has to offer when the Wii U launches later this year.