While both Facebook and Twitter exist in various forms on current consoles like the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, Nintendo, by forging their own path into social networking are doing something Sony and Microsoft haven't been brave enough to do: take risks. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told Kotaku that "I feel that we need to create-or present-a gaming platform as the place to create that 'social graph' for folks who are in gaming circles." Charting one's accomplishments in-game, or charting one's progression through a game's narrative is an interesting approach for Nintendo, as they try to make their social network a big draw for fans.
Microsoft and Sony's reliance on Twitter and Facebook are interesting in that it weaves existing social networking sites that most everyone is familiar with into a near-seamless gaming experience. On both ends, gamers can post Achievements or Trophies to their Facebook Timelines, even inputting a bit about the accomplishment itself. Twitter handles about the same, with users able to quickly throw their gaming accomplishments up with relative ease. Nintendo bucking this trend of utilizing existing social networks by forging their own path is an interesting experiment.
The online Miiverse service will launch on the Wii U and then spread across Nintendo's other platforms, including the 3DS handheld system. The Miiverse networking system is aimed at bringing gamers together. It's less about bragging rights, as opposed to seeing what your friends are up to and perhaps joining them while playing a game like "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" or whatever new "Smash Brothers" title is released for the system. While some can argue that this is similar to Xbox Live's avatar system, it's streamlined to look and feel almost like Facebook, only with a bit more personality and life to it.
"We have reached an era where even a single-player game experience [can] have a social component that is very important," Iwata said to Kotaku, "and I think, again, that social component is mandatory." Single player games often will include a social aspect to enhance gameplay. Capcom's recent title "Dragon's Dogma" is an exercise in lengthy role-playing coupled with using player-created characters as companions during the journey. Players access a pool of player-created "pawns" and use them during the main single-player quest. The concept has worked well for Capcom with millions of players creating pawns and using one-another's creations during their adventures.
Nintendo could be looking to Capcom's concept as a way of creating a more user-centric experience with the Wii U. The Wii itself was notoriously lacking of any serious online play (making use of complicated "friend codes" instead of Microsoft's Gamertags system), however; a system that links Wii U owners and 3DS owners together through a shared network, and allows the freeflow of content and user-generated material would certainly increase the use of the network exponentially.
Iwata was quick to note the comparison of the Miiverse to existing social networking entities by saying "of course the Internet does provide a lot of that interaction," he added, "but it's not built for that purpose. For example, Facebook is something that connects you socially with a lot of different folks, but that doesn't guarantee that the people you are going to have interactions with via Facebook are interested in games. And what I'm saying is that I don't believe that the life experiences that you have-and those might be with the people you are connected with on Facebook-are not equal to the gaming experiences you might have with a lot of different folks."
The Miiverse is said to include online hints and tips posted by friends and other players, should playing a game become too difficult. Basic online messaging, through the use of the Wii U's gamepad, which will also serve as a full QWERTY keyboard. Iwata added that Nintendo focus-tested the Miiverse system before deciding to implement it, "When we looked at the timing of how we are going to be implementing it, [we said], 'Okay, when are the best points when people want to have social interactions and makes them want to reach out and say, 'Me too,' 'I did that,' 'I feel the same way,'?' I think, on a very human level, that is what will give them a sense of satisfaction."
"If you look at gaming services, for example if you look at Xbox Live, one of the more traditionally or generally accepted features of the gaming service is the ability to play with folks at different locations at the same time," Iwata said to Kotaku. "On the other hand, you're not always going to be available at the same time to play with each other. And of course we're going to have that service of head-to-head [multiplayer, when you are] on at the same time playing games against each other, but what we really want to do is create a place where folks who are playing by themselves will not feel like they are playing by themselves. They'll be able to share those experiences and have that empathy that we mentioned earlier."
As of right now, there are no announcements as to what Wii U titles will make use of the Miiverse, however; Iwata added "We will be making announcements as we are talking more about specific software and we'll ask you to wait for those announcements of how we are implementing it with those software titles."
With the press conference in September hosted by Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime, it'd be interesting to hear if there are any further announcements related to the Miiverse.