Nintendo is not planning to charge a subscription fee for the Wii U's online service, company president Satoru Iwata said during a recent shareholders meeting, the English translation of which was made public today. Iwata explained that the decision to make the Nintendo Network (which also operates on the 3DS) free to access was due in part to an effort to accommodate gamers' play habits.
"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," he said. "We therefore believe that services which ask our consumers to obtain paid memberships are not always the best."
Nintendo posted its first-ever annual loss in April, with the Mario Factory losing $458 million for the year ended March 31, 2012. Iwata acknowledged shareholders must wonder how Nintendo is able to offer the Nintendo Network for free when the company is trying to return to profitability. The answer to this, he said, is that the Nintendo Network will be a social forum, which will eventually lead gamers to making purchases based on their friends' activity.
"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," he said. "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."
Elsewhere during the shareholder meeting, Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto said museum guides like the Audioguide Louvre 3DS app could be a major part of the company's business in the future.
"One big thing I recently handled is the Audioguide Louvre Nintendo 3DS, referred to earlier in this meeting," he said. "This has not made money yet, but it has the potential to be one of our core businesses in the future."
Miyamoto also said he often finds himself thinking about the future of the Japanese movie industry and ways that Nintendo can be a part of it. However, Miyamoto tempered his comments by making clear that Nintendo is "not announcing any concrete business plans here."
Lastly, Miyamoto addressed his eventual retirement. He said the last time he spoke about leaving Nintendo, his comments were misconstrued, leaving the press to believe he was retiring. While he has no immediate plans to leave Nintendo, he is aware that the day will come.
"As I am getting older, I have already started thinking of Nintendo without me in the future and I strongly feel that the company has steadily been preparing for doing business after I leave here," he said. "However, last year when I said at an interview overseas that I was doing various things in prospect of Nintendo without me, it led to a direct report on my retirement. So I am aware I have to be careful in talking about this sort of thing."
Iwata also chimed in on the matter of Miyamoto's forthcoming departure from Nintendo. He said Nintendo is working to make sure appropriate replacements are found for Miyamoto and the rest of the aging directors at Nintendo.
"What I can add is that Mr. Miyamoto still will be actively creating things, but we are working for the transition of power to go to younger people at the same time," he said.