In an interview with the UK's Financial Times (registration required to read) newspaper Nintendo president Satoru Iwata states that the company is interested in exploring an "Amazon Kindle" like service for the future of the Nintendo DS. "I'm interested because it's a new business model in which the user doesn't bear the communications cost," he said.
Amazon's Kindle portable reader connects to a mobile 3G service to download new books, but the service is included in the device's price and is not billed as a monthly subscription. Iwata's thoughts on the subject could highlight a possible tactic that the company may take to counter Apple's iPhone and Sony's PSP Go with their rapidly expanding online app stores. The future of mobile gaming is quickly revealing itself to be based on always-on connections to vast libraries of available content.
"Only people who can pay thousands of yen a month [in mobile phone subscriptions] can be iPhone customers," Iwata told the FT. "That doesn't fit Nintendo customers because we make amusement products." The Kindle's upfront price would better suit Nintendo's customers, he explained. "In reality, if we did this it would increase the cost of the hardware, and customers would complain about Nintendo putting prices up, but it is one option for the future."
When pressed on when he felt that digital distribution would dominate the games market, Iwata was typically conservative, much as he has been in regard to previous online initiatives. "I think it will take quite a long time," he said. Given the speed at which the concept is evolving on other platforms, and Nintendo's previous reluctance to embrace online initiatives, this perspective may count against him, especially in light of the slowing of Wii and DS sales highlighted in the company's recent financial results.