The NFC (near-fields communication) reader and writer is due in the first half of 2015, and uses infra-red to communicate with the 3DS. On the Wii U side, the GamePad has built-in NFC functionality that eShop game Pokemon Rumble U used last year with its own line of Skylanders-like accessories.
The character figurines, which Nintendo is calling NFP (NFC Featured Platform or Nintendo Figurine Platform), are set to launch towards the end of this year. Nintendo will showcase them and games they're compatible with at next month's E3 conference in Los Angeles.
"In other words, the figurines, which consumers buy and collect, are going to work with multiple software titles to be released in the future," said Nintendo President Saturo Iwata in the company's financial results briefing today, "and we are aiming to develop more software titles compatible with the figurines. Nintendo has a lot of well-known character IP that has originated in video games, and we have been regularly releasing titles from game franchises that make use of this character IP. This is why I believe a brand-new type of platform will be born when the character IP becomes compatible with NFP."
A day after Nintendo posted a $229 million loss for the fiscal year, Iwata said the company needed to take risks to establish new ways of using character IP. He described NFP as the first step for a new operation that will become one of Nintendo's "core activities."