Plugged In

Nintendo reveals online network plans

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Nintendo might have a stable of terrific game franchises and groundbreaking systems, but when it comes to online gaming, the company is woefully behind.

It's hoping to change that with its next-generation system, though, and started down that path by announcing a few details about the 'Nintendo Network' late last week.

It's a big step up from friend codes, the oft-maligned stopgap multiplayer functionality the company currently uses. The network, which will be available for the Wii U (and, ultimately, the 3DS), puts the company a step closer to catching up to online gaming leaders Microsoft and Sony.

While Nintendo didn't go into depth about what the Network will offer, it did confirm plans to launch by the end of the year. President Satoru Iwata hinted at full game downloads, but stopped short of saying this would be a service. (Iwata has a history of floating trial balloons about upcoming features, as he did with 3D video recording with the 3DS.)

What we will see, though, are 'communities' of Mario Kart 7, add-on content sales and the introduction of personal accounts for the Wii U, according to a slide shown to investors.

"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," said Iwata.

Nintendo says it still isn't a big fan of DLC, preferring to give players everything it has in the retail package. But as the practice becomes more common in the industry, it's trying to be more open to the requests of third-party publishers.

"Please understand that this is totally up to each developer, and I am not in the position to say yes or no," Iwata told investors. "Again, we will not turn down such requests by third-party developers as far as they can establish an appropriate relationship with their customers."

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