If there's one area Nintendo have never really been willing to be industry leaders in, it's online. Reluctant to ever truly commit to a proper online service, with friends list, the ability to invite people to games, no matter what they're playing, and a fully functioning store, Nintendo have been somewhat left behind by superior providings from Microsoft and Sony. With their latest home console, the Wii U, however, Nintendo have been making much more aggressive noises, and are apparently set to offer a service which "rivals Xbox live and the PSN"
Since then, Nintendo have remained mostly tight lipped about what will or won't be happening - but their development partners, like Ubisoft, have been anything but. Spilling the beans to MTV, the producer of the upcoming Ghost Recon Online confirmed to the outlet that the Wii U would feature a much greater online service - including the ditching of the infamous "friend codes", which have provided many a headache back in the day.
Requiring you to exchange a unique friend code for each and every game you wanted to play with your friends online on the Wii, the process was awkward, dull, and not incredibly user friendly. The 3DS improved things a little bit, but still retained friend codes - although in a much streamlined manner. Now, you only had one friend code per system, and could press a button to have your system automatically link with your friends - so long as they were in the same room.
Talking about the Wii U's online mode, Adrian Blunt, the Ubisoft producer, said "Rather than a machine having an account, each individual user has an account." When MTV pushed further, and specifically asked if this would be like a gamertag, a handle, or username you create in order to use Xbox Live, Blunt replied "Yeah, exactly".
In separate, but relevant news, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata recently held an investors briefing to discuss the Wii U, and offered a few guarded statements about how the Wii U will connect to online networks.
"I think we've come to an era where it's important to consider how the social graph of the social networking services can work in conjunction with something like a video game platform." Iwata said, "[Next time we show the Wii U], perhaps you'll notice that we have found ways to take advantage of these types of features like VoIP and social networking, where our systems have been seen as being weak in the past."
Nintendo have already said that they're going to be getting an external company in to help with the Wii U's online, although the identity of their mysterious benefactor remains unknown. One thing's for sure though - if you're looking for an improved online service from your console, you shouldn't be disappointed with the Wii U. So long as it doesn't come at the expense of local multiplayer games, we won't be complaining either.