Nintendo Network Announced; Digital Distribution of Games Envisioned

Hinted at in the boxshot of a 3DS game last week, the Nintendo Network was formally announced by the Japanese games maker today in a meeting with investors. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata says the service will offer features different from the Wi-Fi Connection supporting its current Wii and DS hardware, and is seen as a distribution channel for full versions of retail video games.

"Unlike Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, which has been focused upon specific functionalities and concepts, we are aiming to establish a platform where various services available through the network for our consumers shall be connected via Nintendo Network service so that the company can make comprehensive proposals to consumers," Iwata said.

Notably, Nintendo is exploring the possibility of selling full retail titles for the 3DS and the upcoming Wii U console through Nintendo Network. Iwata wouldn't say when such plans would begin, but the company does have the means to put them in place now. Significantly, Iwata said Nintendo would have to consider its relationships with retail vendors. SD card capacity also would be an issue.

Nintendo Network's other features will include the means to deliver (and purchase) premium downloadable content, hinted at in an earlier firmware update. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, whose box cover tipped off the Nintendo Network, will be the first title supporting this. It goes on sale in Japan Feb. 16.

The Wii U controller could also change the way gamers shop, thanks to onboard NFC tech.

Nintendo Network also will offer personal accounts for Wii U users. The accounts will allow multiple users per system and will move online profiles from the console itself into the cloud.

Nintendo Briefing to Investors of Jan. 27, 2012 [INintendo, via IGN]