The news, which scotches rumours of appearances by titles such as Mario Kart Online, Pokemon Online or Animal Crossing 2 Online at the show, highlights once again Nintendo’s isolated stance as the only platform holder without any (official) online ambitions.
“Online is what everyone is currently focusing on,” Nintendo of Europe PR manager Shelley Friend told C&VG, “but that does not necessarily mean that it is here and now. The fact that all these games can be playable online doesn’t mean people will be.”
“Nintendo is about making things mass market and we do not see this yet as mass market. If online can bring that element of unique surprising gameplay, then it will form a part of Nintendo’s plans, but until that is ready then we won’t.”
The contention that online gaming isn’t mass market is an interesting one; Sony and Microsoft claim about 1.5 million online console gamers between them, before you even begin to count the legions of PC gamers whose lives are sucked away on a nightly basis by games ranging from Counter-Strike to Everquest to Warcraft III.
What still seems eminently more likely is that Nintendo is waiting to see how online offerings from its competitors fare, and hoping to learn from their mistakes – even if this comes at the expense of being a late arrival to the network gaming party.
Our prediction is still that Nintendo will roll out a network gaming plan sometime this year, with the aim of creating innovative low-tech games (using mass-market connectivity such as modems rather than the still rare broadband connections) rather than focusing on the cutting edge of high tech online gaming like its competitors, and using key brands like Mario Kart and Pokemon to drive the uptake of the service.