When it comes to making free Wi-Fi access available to the masses, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) isn't the only game in town. At least not anymore. Yesterday, Nintendo (NQB: NTDOY) announced that it, too, will be building out a network of free wireless Internet hubs.

Promising "thousands" of Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection hot spots, the video-game specialist is looking to take advantage of the wireless functionality of its handheld DS system, which has always allowed gamers the ability to communicate between devices within short range. The portable system comes with built-in virtual chat features. The popular Nintendogs series even lets players interact with others' make-believe pups.

Some of the upcoming DS versions of Mario Kart and Animal Crossing will come equipped for free online play, either through your home's wireless network or at a Nintendo hot spot. Activision's (NASDAQ:ATVI) next installment in the successful Tony Hawk series for the DS will also come ready for live multiplayer action.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Sony (NYSE:SNE) have provided online play and subscriptions for years on their home-based consoles. Nintendo is clearly now serious about making the same things work for its handheld stronghold.

However, what does this mean for the providers of premium Wi-Fi access? T-Mobile would love to sell you wireless access through its T-Mobile HotSpot. What will become of such providers if companies like Google and Nintendo begin canvassing the country with free Wi-Fi access? More importantly, what will become of Internet service providers if free access continues into residential pockets of metropolitan cities, as Google is doing with its push into San Francisco? Broadband providers had better pay attention, too. Quick.

Google and Nintendo have good reasons to bankroll as many hot spots as possible. Google can serve up contextual ads on landing pages, while Nintendo would love to move more DS systems and related software titles. With pricing flexibility taking off, it looks as though it's time for some models to morph into something that will be practical given the cheaper access of tomorrow.

Activision was recommended in the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter service in March of 2003 and has gone on to more than quadruple in value.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz misses the free Wi-Fi hot spot at a now-shuttered Schlotzsky's near his home. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.