Speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton, UK, Braben had this to say:
It's a fantastic way of de-risking publishing. This is a game we probably wouldn't have done through normal publishing channels. It was a very difficult game to work out who's going to buy it, and so on. We just wrote this game for ourselves, and that's one of the reasons why we enjoyed the process so much.
[The LostWinds idea] turned, over time, into a game idea - not fully formed. We thought the art style should come from somewhere that was naturally windy, and ideas like Tibet, the Incans and the Mayans came forward...those were compressed into a really natural look.
Design documents were prepared, discussed and criticised openly in a forum where criticism was expected - and then they gathered dust for a while, before Nintendo came to us with WiiWare.