Speaking to shareholders in Japan, Nintendo boss Saturo Iwata has said that Wii U may offer some online services exclusively to those who pay a subscription or premium.
We plan to expand various network services for the Wii U,” he explained. The first thing to do is connect the Wii U to a common large network platform called the Nintendo Network.
Next, the Nintendo 3DS, which is now partially linked with the Nintendo Network, will be more deeply connected. Also, when we create a new platform in the future, we will have it connected to the Nintendo Network.
We have a wide variety of consumers, from the ones who enthusiastically play video games to those playing more casually, who are not always interested in them but try to play a game only when it has become a public topic or play it just during certain periods, like a year-end season and summer vacation.
We therefore believe that services which ask our consumers to obtain paid memberships are not always the best.
We cannot promise here that Nintendo will always provide you with online services free of charge no matter how deep the experiences are that it may provide, but at least we are not thinking of asking our consumers to pay money to just casually get access to our ordinary online services.”
Both Microsoft's Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Network offer free and paid-for versions, though the former is more heavily restricted for non-paying users.