If there is one thing that can be universally agreed upon about the Wii, it’s that its online system is a joke compared to PC, console, and even mobile competition. Nintendo is looking to change all that when its next generation platform, the Wii U, launches sometime in the second half of next year. Rumors on the website Wii U Go point to EA’s Origin digital distribution platform possibly being a major part of the manufacturer’s new approach to online.
The ol’ rumor trail on this one is a bit of a stretch, but the supposed intel is hardly outlandish. An intern at Electronic Arts was reportedly tipped off by a systems engineer and passed along the scuttlebutt to the site. In any case, the word is that EA, supposedly in response to being pleased with Xbox Live’s feature set but peeved over its strict rigidity, is said to be working directly with Nintendo on system featuring leaderboards, voice and video chat, friends lists with detailed play info and the whole nine.
Many publishers are happy with Xbox Live’s features, but they aren’t happy with how strict Microsoft’s guidelines are. Nintendo went with an open flexible approach with online because when Nintendo asked developers/publishers what they wanted in an online service, that was the number one thing they asked for.
The second largest third party publisher in the game also wants to make Origin the de facto platform for digital downloads on the Wii U. Nintendo is said to be looking at it “as an opportunity to rebuild relationships with Western gamers because they feel that only a massive western company such as EA understands what is needed to make an online service attractive to western gamers.”
Nintendo has historically had poor relationships with the major publishers/developers in the Western World and no one would argue that the Wii has an extreme dearth of hardcore games from said sources. This partnership would be a wonderful opportunity for the Kyoto, Japan company to get back in the good graces of the Western third parties and serious gamers in North America and Europe.
Recall that EA President Frank Gibeau made an appearance at the console’s E3 2011 coming-out party and spoke highly of the system. This strategic union would allow them to get a strong foothold in the console digital games space and gain a higher brand awareness. That’s something that would no doubt interest the company that is fighting an uphill battle against Valve’s Steam platform.
And in case you’re wondering what Gordon Freeman would do in response, there are some rumblings that his creators out in Washington state have shown an interest in getting their far more popular Steam service onto the Wii U as well. The reports make it sound as if Valve is only pursuing it in passing, though, whereas EA is “aggressively persuading Nintendo to go Origins exclusive with Wii U’s online so they can gain a competitive advantage over Steam.”
There is no word as to how, if at all, Origin would be different on the Wii U than it is on the PC. Unfortunately, we could be waiting all the way until E3 2012 (or later) to discover how this all shakes out. Nintendo recently stated the console would not show the Wii U in “final form” until the annual trade show rolls around.
[Source: Wii U Go]
[Images via Engadget and Wii U Go.]