The Wii U online network — Nintendo Network — will be free to use. Playing games online will be free as well, said Nintendo during their latest investor’s Q&A session. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said that a paid online service is not the best approach for the Wii U. He did however acknowledge that Nintendo isn’t necessarily ruling out a paid online service completely, only Wii U online service will be free to use. Iwata mentioned that having a free service will make it easier to attract users to the new Miiverse service as well.
Microsoft were the first to kick off a paid subscription plan with Xbox Live, and Sony followed suit with its PlayStation Plus service. However, PlayStation 3 users don’t have to pay to play online, and those who pay usually get quite a lot in return, including free games. It’s unknown whether Nintendo could offer a premium Wii U online service in the future.
The Wii U will be the first Nintendo home console to offer a full fledged online system, years after its competitors. Nintendo has always been struggling on that front, and it looks like it’ll make up some ground with the Wii U online capabilities and the new Nintendo Network. We still haven’t seen any major titles to offer online multiplayer gaming on the Wii U, besides Ghost Recon Online, which is scheduled for release in 2013.