One of the reasons Nintendo has lagged behind Microsoft and Sony with their online gaming experiences is the lack of a unified identifier for players. On Xbox Live you have a gamertag. If your friend knows your gamertag, all they need to do is type it in and add you as a friend. On the Wii, your friend needs your friend code, a 12 character series of randomized letters and numbers. And, even if they have that, you'd need their friend code entered on your end for the two of you to become friends. It was initially created to prevent kids from befriending random adults online, but has since become more of a pain than anything else. According to Ubisoft producer, Adrian Blunt, the days of friend codes are numbered.
Blunt was on hand at E3, demonstrating "Ghost Recon Online" for the Wii U. The game is definitely focused on the multiplayer experience, so I asked him why he thought the Wii U would be a good fit, since Nintendo consoles traditionally aren't very online capable.
There's a few things on that. The first is the ability for individuals to make accounts. Rather than a machine having an account, each individual user has an account."
So I asked him, "Equivilent to a gamertag on Xbox Live?" "Yeah, exactly," he said.
He continued, saying that friend codes are no longer required for adding friends:
"Also the ability to easily find friends. Rather than using friend codes, which we've had in the past, we're able to connect players in a much easier way, which allows us to have a community that's playing together in the game."
Blunt wasn't willing to get more specific about the Wii U's online functionality, but the removal of friend codes and the addition of user-specific accounts is a huge step in the right direction for Nintendo's online plans. Now what about achievements? "I...can't answer that at the moment," said Blunt.