Nintendo detailed several previously unknown aspects of the Wii U online experience in a Nintendo Direct presentation this morning. You can see the American version of the video above. Notably, Nintendo's online "Friend Codes" have been replaced by a Nintendo Network ID.
The ID will be usable on other Nintendo systems – strangely, 3DS was not specified – as well as smartphones and PCs. The Nintendo Network ID is also the account associated with eShop purchases, though other users on the same Wii U can play downloaded software. Up to twelve distinct users can sign up on a single console.
Users can exchange this numeric identifier to add friends, just like the Friend Code, but it will also be possible to register friends you meet in the "Miiverse" community and the "WaraWara Plaza" lobby that appears when you turn the system on.
"Miiverse is a service integrated into the game console itself," president Satoru Iwata explained in an Iwata Asks interview with Miiverse co-developer Hatena, "so if players can check each other's play histories, they can interact on that basis." In this way, players can talk about shared game experiences and become friends.
Registered friends will also be able to talk to each other over Wii U Chat, transmitting video from the Wii U GamePad's camera. Users will be able to draw images on the chat window while they talk, opening up a world of possibilities. Okay, one possibility that we won't name. You can see Iwata demonstrating the Wii U Chat software with NOA president Reggie Fils-Aime above. "We can all feel better about my job security after hearing Reggie's Japanese," Nintendo director of product marketing (and Miyamoto's interpreter) Bill Trinen noted in the video.
Users can place calls to one another through Wii U Chat, with a light on the GamePad blinking to indicate an incoming call.