Following up on his announcement yesterday regarding a release date for their next generation console, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has revealed that the Wii U will be built around an online service similar to Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PlayStation Network.

Iwata noted that Nintendo Network, which will also be compatible with the 3DS, will offer competitions and communication between users as well as the ability to access digital content like add-ons and full downloadable games. Each user will have a personal account, although we don’t yet know the specifics of this such as if the profile will store downloaded content or if that task will remain hardware-restricted.

The Nintendo Network is in stark contrast to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection found on the original Wii that only allows limited connectivity on a select number of games. Wi-Fi Connection was designed to be easy to connect to, safe for everyone to use and free. Nintendo has in the past deemed online play to be mostly for hardcore gamers, going against their key strategy of a broad audience on the Wii.

Also new for the Wii U is the inclusion of NFC, or Near Field Communication. Iwata said that the Wii U will utilize non-contact NFC that is compatible with FeliCa and MIFARE which is expected to be widely used around the world in the near future.

"By installing this functionality, it will become possible to create cards and figurines that can electronically read and write data via non-contact NFC and to expand the new play format in the video game world,” said Iwata.  “Adoption of this functionality will enable various other possibilities such as using it as a means of making micropayments.”

The Nintendo Network should be online by the end of the year in time for the Wii U’s launch although the two may not launch alongside each other.