Nintendo vaguely announces “Pay and Play”

pay-and-play1.jpgOn Friday, the final day of this year’s Game Developers Conference, Nintendo’s Takashi Aoyama dropped a proverbial “megaton” when he revealed plans to implement a “pay and play” online program for Wii.

In frustratingly ambiguous fashion, Aoyama announced Nintendo will soon introduce a new service for online Wii gaming requiring players to “pay and play.” Users will subscribe to the service on a game-by-game basis using Wii Points purchased in the Wii Shop Channel. But he did not discuss which titles will utilize the service or how many Wii Points a subscription will cost.

Aoyama offered little explanation for the introduction of “pay and play,” but he stated Nintendo hopes it will alleviate the costs of future online services and Wii channels. According to Aoyama, Nintendo will place a red “pay and play” logo on the boxes of games requiring the subscription service in order to avoid consumer confusion.

But will the service be used only for downloadable content? Will it foster premium online services, such as potential MMO offerings like Animal Crossing? Will games that use the “pay and play” service also have Nintendo’s traditional, free online options? Unfortunately, Aoyama left Wii owners with more questions than answers.

In a solitary piece of specific, positive news, Aoyama also announced the games-focused Nintendo Channel, which launched in Japan last year, will come to the U.S. and Europe “in the coming months.”

Aoyama joined Nintendo in 2000 as a member of its Corporate Planning Division. He moved to the Integrated Research & Development Division in 2002, contributing to the creation of GameCube hardware. In 2005, Aoyama was made a team leader on the company-wide Wii Menu development project.

For more on the “pay and play” service, as well as the Wii Menu and the philosophies behind its creation, check out Chris Kohler’s comprehensive coverage of the Aoyama keynote over at Wired.