News Article

Some WiiWare Developers Won't Get Paid

Posted by Corbie Dillard

It seems that being an independent WiiWare developer isn't all it's cracked up to be for some.

According to Gamasutra publisher and Independent Game Festival chairman Simon Carless, Nintendo has a threshold in place that determines whether or not an independent developer is paid for their game release.

Carless goes on to say that this number is in the neighborhood of mid-quadruple digits for America and low-quadruple digits for other regions around the world. If a game fails to sell this required number of units, the developer doesn't see a single penny of their investment back. Ouch!

The explanation given for this threshold is that Nintendo feels this sales requirement will keep developers from introducing a host of shovelware onto the WiiWare service. Of course we can see what a rousing success that's been so far judging from many of the WiiWare release review scores since the service's inception.

While this threshold might seem a bit harsh, some developers have already chimed in regarding their approval of this policy. Of course we're sure there are those opposed to it, but maybe they feel it better to keep that opinion to themselves, since many of them would like to continue to develop WiiWare titles in the future.

We'd like to hear what you all think of this policy that Nintendo has instituted with their WiiWare program.

[via wii.ign.com]

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User Comments (58)

CorbsAdmin

#2

Corbs said:

Unfortunately, some of the shovelware is selling better than the good stuff. :D

Plus these developers already have to submit their games to Nintendo for approval, is that not a good enough measure of quality control, or does Nintendo not know the difference between a good and bad game? :D

Will

#3

Will said:

The Nintendo seal of approval dosent mean squat anymore anyway. Wiiware is 98% shovelware as it is, some of the stuff there is just crazy bad. This threshold hasnt stopped these developers so far...

Adam

#4

Adam said:

Nintendo has to approve the games themselves, so this reasoning is completely redundant and hoaky. Nintendo just wants more money. Seems underhanded to me, but developers know what they're getting into, so I don't care that much.

thewiirocks

#5

thewiirocks said:

If you're not selling at least 10,000 copies, I can't see how it could possibly be worthwhile anyway. A few thousand is hardly going to pay for the game's development. Especially since Nintendo does not allow one-man garage developers.

CorbsAdmin

#6

Corbs said:

@ thewiirocks - A very good point. But not getting a single penny back is much worse than not getting the full development cost back. :D

MarkyVigoroth

#7

MarkyVigoroth said:

So they DO have quality control! Unfortunately, they are doing thing a bit wrong. (They should team up with NintendoLife to prevent a Beer Toss II!)

Then again, if there is no freedom to make mistakes in the form of shovelware, then new developers would be put off.

subzerobf

#8

subzerobf said:

What the hell. You sell things, you get paid, that's the capitalist quota both USA and Japan been running on for years. Nintendo is screwing development companies and it's wrong. Example, Jungle Speed and Niki Rock n Ball are solid games, but not big sellers, so the developers did not make shovelware and deserve to be paid. If it were me, I'd sue Nintendo.

Olimar_91

#9

Olimar_91 said:

Quality control is good, but I can't see how this is the best way of going about it.
Maybe it is for Nintendo, but definitely not for developers.

bengyenah

#10

bengyenah said:

Who is showing off their black Wii? You make me drool all over my painfully white Logitech wireless Wii-Board!

Neomega

#11

Neomega said:

Black Consoles are always used for development (even PS3?) yep even sony uses a white PS3

AlexSays

#12

AlexSays said:

If it were me, I'd sue Nintendo.
Uh, for what?
Developers know the terms when they agree to develop for the platform.
They already know this before making a game, and some of them like this rule.
I'm not sure why someone, with absolutely nothing on the line and in no way a part of this, would get upset over this while the people it does affect are perfectly okay with it.

Quality control is good
No it's not, it's horrible.
It's asking a company to decide what is "good" and it discourages developers from making games based on quirky ideas that might not exactly be instant classics.

Nintendo tried quality control with Disaster and everyone threw a fit.
So no, quality control is good in theory - having nothing but store shelves of amazing games - but it's not something people actually want (even if they think they do) and it's certainly not something developers want.

Maybe it is for Nintendo, but definitely not for developers.
Which is why developers have said they like this?
Yeah, no.
Unless you can provide insightful input from some part of the industry, it's impossible for you to make that claim while on the outside looking in.

Who is showing off their black Wii?
Nobody.
It says "Revolution" right on the thing, chief.

CorbsAdmin

#13

Corbs said:

That's an early Wii development kit, back from when this system was code named "Revolution".

MarkyVigoroth

#15

MarkyVigoroth said:

"Quality control is good
No it's not, it's horrible.
It's asking a company to decide what is "good" and it discourages developers from making games based on quirky ideas that might not exactly be instant classics.

Nintendo tried quality control with Disaster and everyone threw a fit.
So no, quality control is good in theory - having nothing but store shelves of amazing games - but it's not something people actually want (even if they think they do) and it's certainly not something developers want."

Hence my comment: "[I]f there is no freedom to make mistakes in the form of shovelware, then new developers would be put off."

quakster

#16

quakster said:

Shovelware sells better than many of the good games, this is the main problem.

CorbsAdmin

#18

Corbs said:

I've never heard of this policy before. Come on Luc, you could have said something! :D

KDR_11k

#19

KDR_11k said:

I think what we really need to put this into perspective is sales numbers. How many games made the threshold and how many didn't? So far many developers were satisfied with their WiiWare performance so I can't imagine that they ended up with no money.

Of course we can see what a rousing success that's been so far judging from many of the WiiWare release review scores since the service's inception.

7/10
Of course that means nothing if we keep in mind that Niki got an 8/10

Plus these developers already have to submit their games to Nintendo for approval, is that not a good enough measure of quality control, or does Nintendo not know the difference between a good and bad game?

I think Nintendo is being cautious, people have interest in many things and just because something was produced cheaply and with low quality doesn't mean there won't be people who want it anyway. We're living in a time where different people have different understandings of quality and it's hard to establish a fixed scale for quality as you could easily miss a massive hit with that. If you asked someone like Metacritic to define quality you'd get the result that non-hardcore games suck while hardcore games are awesome and in the real world few people care about hardcore games and a service using the Metacritic method of quality control would end up with zero appeal to most people.

EDIT: Take, for example, My Aquarium. 46% on Metacritic yet many people bought the game and the WiiWare service would have been poorer without it.

Wiiware is 98% shovelware as it is, some of the stuff there is just crazy bad.

WiiWare has 80 games, 98% shovelware would mean you think there's only 1-2 games that are more than just cheap crap thrown together with no regard for quality. I count 36/80 games rated below 7/10 which most people see as the threshold to crappy (claims that 5/10 means average make no sense when the median is at 7/10 though I'm too lazy to calculate the mean), that's 44/80 games or 55% acceptable and higher quality. Hell, even if you move the cutoff up to 8/10 you've still got 33% good games which is way above the 20% Sturgeon's Law predicts. Yes, I'm only using the WWW numbers here since they're easy to grab but I'll just assume they won't have too many misratings to significantly affect the statistics.

Wiiloveit

#21

Wiiloveit said:

Hmm... this is both good and bad. Good, because it puts off Shovelware Co. developing for the platform, but bad, because those companies that do try, but fail to succeed, won't get a dime. Some underselling games aren't even that bad, so not getting ANYTHING back is a travesty. You'd think they'd at least get enough to pay off the ESRB and PEGI ratings bills.

Sean_Aaron

#23

Sean_Aaron said:

Yes, but the real question is: do the devs control the rights to their game on other platforms? If they really believe in the title they could always try the larger PC market; especially true if the game started out as a flash game. Of course I think this would meet with even less success because many people expect games they play on the net to be free.

It's not the greatest, but devs clearly know the Ts&Cs when they decide to produce a WiiWare title, so them's the breaks. I expect if Nintendo started putting out 10 titles a week a lot of developers would get rightly ticked off that there was too much software vying for attention and they weren't getting a fair shake -- maybe developer activism is responsible for the trickle of software on the NA/EU schedules?

KDR_11k

#24

KDR_11k said:

The 2000 and 5000 sales thresholds (I presume that's what that fuzzy talk about "four digit numbers" means) aren't really high, assuming a 50% cut for Nintendo on each sale the threshold amounts to 5000-15000€ (for games priced 500-1500 points) or 12500-37500$, most games are going to be roughly at the center of those ranges. That's NOTHING.

Lotice-Paladin

#25

Lotice-Paladin said:

I think the threshold should be more to the quintuple digits if you ask me.

Most of the games aren't great but the ones who sell the bad eggs still manage to make a profit from it when the development cost was small to begin with.

@Adam - It's true that Nintendo want to make money where they can, it's a business and will do whatever it takes to gain from it, but like Reggie said, Nintendo don't really participate as much as the indie developers because they want people to experiment with their ideas for a good game.

Then again, Wiiware, Live Arcade and the PSN all seem to act like a developers version of the X Factor to me, I wonder if SEGA, Konami etc are keeping a close eye on these developers to snatch them up if they create quite a decent amount of WW/XBLA/PSN games?

This would be plausable but I doubt it since this is more or less a chance for those indies to shine and would like to have someone to publish their games on the respected service anyway.:)

As for the titles that do very well on the service, I am glad that the developers are gaining a decent amount of profits and hopefully make other great games too in the future!

ALDAWGZ

#26

ALDAWGZ said:

funny we all know wiiware is mostly shovelware but the same can b said for wii games in general look @ the titles from last year 2 present time has anybody noticed the loads of crap that nintendo lets 3rd party gamers put out

Neomega

#28

Neomega said:

Black Wiis/Revos are still used for development (Super Mario Galaxy, Brawl....some other first party published games)

I think this prevents certain games that are doing well in flash to come over to Wiiware.

Djungelurban

#29

Djungelurban said:

People wondering why we never got Gyrostarr, High Voltage Hot Rod Show, Planet Pachinko, all those awesomely crazylooking japanase games and possibly not even Gradius ReBirth? Well, now we know... As much as I love Nintendo games and consoles, the company itself is extremely dickish...

Firkraag

#31

Firkraag said:

I feel bad for the developers, Nintendo is really screwing them over with this deal. Sure it would inspire people to make better games, but this isn't the way to go about it.

longtimegamer

#32

longtimegamer said:

Maybe this is one reason that the person at Steel Penny was so ticked off. I wonder how badly they got screwed on this.

JRAPOCALYPSE

#33

JRAPOCALYPSE said:

Exactly! nintendo does not know the diff between good and bad games or the shovelware would not be there,so quality control at nintendo you say,lol there is none.

Hardy83

#34

Hardy83 said:

It's rather funny because they allow so much shovelware with their more expensive physical games, but suddenly have a quality control with their digital downloads?

Atlantis1982

#35

Atlantis1982 said:

I find this bull(Censored) on Nintendo part; its not like they're already discouraging to go indie development, and when you read about this, this is just shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to 3rd party support.

Keep saying that is a way to keep shovelware. Please, keep telling yourself that.

vherub

#38

vherub said:

Nintendo needs to get more people into the wiishop. Whether that means packaging wii points with wii systems, 1st party games, or 1st party controllers.
If they bundle a 500 point coupon into wiiplay or wiiresorts, it would create gigantic, exponential growth in wii shop purchases.

bengyenah

#39

bengyenah said:

@AlexSays: Normally I DFTT, but I did make it pretty clear I was using the Internet Channel on my Wii -- not easy to see the sticker, even on a large screen

@Corbie: Thank you for explaining, I appreciate it!

PALgamer

#40

PALgamer said:

Aha, so this is why PAL releases are like they are. Why release it in PAL when the NTSC game isn't making money.

AlexSays

#41

AlexSays said:

I'm bemused as to how you people are managing to spin this as a good thing.
If people in the industry think it's good who are you to say it isn't?

That's an early Wii development kit, back from when this system was code named "Revolution".
That's why I said nobody was showing off anyone's Wii.
So whoever said that doesn't think there are black Wiis in every country but his.

I did make it pretty clear I was using the Internet Channel on my Wii -- not easy to see the sticker, even on a large screen
Everyone knows I only read two or three words into anyone's post and fill in the rest on my own.

Ricardo91

#42

Ricardo91 said:

Terrible idea. If a developer makes a good game that sells poorly, they won't get any money for it, which is just plain wrong. And given how much crap sells on Wiiware, it would just make the whole shovelware problem worse. Definitely not my idea of "quality control".

Oh, and it would be nice to see Nintendo finally make Wiis in some color other than white. Why did you choose a pic of a Revolution anyway, Corb?

motang

#43

motang said:

I don't know I have mixed feeling about this one. As a developer I see developers point of view, I would like to get paid for the web development work I do. But as Nintendo puts it they don't want "crap-ware" which is also understandable.

Kid_A

#46

Kid_A said:

People are saying that WiiWare is 98% shovelware--and that's true--but think about how much MORE shovelware there would be without this "threshold" thing.

Starwolf_UK

#47

Starwolf_UK said:

I've never heard of this policy before. Come on Luc, you could have said something!
Appartently the policy was said about the same timer as the one game a month rule. I don't remember it being said either. Guess we all missed the tree for the forest :(

Aha, so this is why PAL releases are like they are. Why release it in PAL when the NTSC game isn't making money.
Sad but true :( I'd understand this threshold if Nintendo sorted out all the ratings (i.e. actually spent money on the game*) but it seems Nintendo wants developer to find a local publisher and if you're selling a 4 figure amount the local publisher might be able to pay off the PEGI raitng at best with their cut of it...which probably explains why so many developers are having trouble finding EU publishers :(

*-Server cost is absorbed as server was already there.

J_K

#48

J_K said:

Before anyone should ultimately care and or get pissed off by it we should know what that cap is before you get your added pay. As I get it, there's a general paycheck involved in making the game, and then this part here is added royalty you get for sales of the unit once you breech a limit. That seems entirely fair to me as this is all running off Nintendo's server to shovel up the stuff to people, and if something sucks bad and people know it, then you get what you deserve. Sure a few may get hosed, but if people mix up reviews with Nintendo Channel reviews/previews/clips I think it's fair to say most will get what they deserve.

Crazed

#49

Crazed said:

I'm not in full agreement with this rule. Sure, maybe Nintendo should take some of the profit from an unsuccessful company, but not all the profit. Yes, this does prevent some shovelware from getting on WiiWare, but ultimately this is a counter-intuitive system. A company might produce a shovelware game, but if they recieve some of the profit, they can use that profit to produce another game that might become a classic. This is unlikely, but Nintendo is run by Shigeru Miyamoto, a man who helped develop Radar Scope (a so-so successful game), then created Donkey Kong (an uber successful game). If this happened to Shigeru, why can't it happen to someone else?

Kristof

#50

Kristof said:

Hi,

As one of the smallest developper for the Wiiware, my point of view is that the threshold system is not the most problematic problem for indies. The fact is that getting a game to the Wiiware service cost relatively lot of money. Above the work on the game itself, you also need to pay the "publisher" part (that is the creation of the manual, translations and pay the age ratings (4 organisms worldwide) ).
So even the smallest "shovelware" will cost quite lot of money.
The second problem is getting all clearance to go into Wiiware (becoming approved Nintendo developper, getting insurance, buying dev hardware, going through Nintendo technical verifications, ....).
This is a real pain to go through all of this.
So no developper would do all of that for releasing a "shovelware that have absolutly no sell potential".

I'm quite surprised on that fact that some of you complain about the bad quality of Wiiware games. As far as I know, you are not forced to buy a game ?!!
As a player, I highly prefer having lot of choices instead of waiting infinitely for high quality games (that maybe would not pleased me).
It would be nice to have more experimental gameplays games, or original things. No matter they have the best graphics, if only they are fun. Sometimes I got of pleasure playing with small flash game. Some worth 5 bucks.

I'm from the "old" generation (mainly C64 and Amiga) and I remember some very original games with low quality but interesting fun potential. ( For example "Trashman" or "Hower Bover". That fun to collect trashs or use a lawnmoyer .... :) ). I guess, players were less exigent at that time.

Wiiware (and DSiware) is a new way of creating and selling game. This is important that players support that system. To me, that's better than buying crappy and expensive sequels or licences in stores.
I agree with Crazed, small teams may developp crappy games first but one day they'll surely bring a very nice games.

Sean_Aaron

#51

Sean_Aaron said:

@Kristof: Agreed and thanks for posting your views as an "insider." I quite enjoy the variety of software available on WiiWare and the cost of ownership is much lower so I don't feel as put out by dropping 500 points on a title that might only occupy me for five minutes -- especially since I'm also from the 8-bit era of home gaming and one of these titles that cost £3 today would have been a full £35 release back then!

Bass_X0

#52

Bass_X0 said:

I think we only complain about WiiWare games here because we want them to be games we would enjoy and download but we become disappointed when games don't live up to our, perhaps unrealistically high, criteria of what we want.

Bad games do get created, just scan the 'out now' list for games scoring very low marks. Usually these games had no hope of being good from the start. Do you think the developers of The Incredible Maze (for example) had much love and pride for their work judging by its content?

J_K

#53

J_K said:

Thanks Kristof, nice to see the opinion of an active developer on this. I gave my short bit there as someone who was in the game 8 years ago and then ended up in the media end for awhile. While a good deal of WiiWare may have questionable quality, a good deal of it also is damn good, or at least good enough for the price if you're into the style. In the end coming from someone who did them, reviews are subjective. I for one hated the scoring numbers, forced to do them, but made them useless in the descriptions in my review as I stuck to the facts not fanboyism and the rest. :) I like you am from the old age of the 80s with gaming so I know what really can be good even if it looks like trash, some of those old $5 games were damn fine under an even then ugly coat of paint.

Crazed

#54

Crazed said:

@Kristof- Congrats on Equilibrio. If I'm correct, it still is in the top 20, which is a great achievement.

On topic- Another things that we also need to remember is that the term shovelware is highly opinionated. Yes, there are bad games out on Wiiware, but there are also games that might have gotten poor reviews, but are still loved by gamers. A prime example of this is Boingz, which recieved a 3 from Corbie, but many other people thought otherwise. Also, some people think that World of Goo is shovelware, even though it is the only game to recieve a perfect score on this website. These games are created with the attempt to entertain gamers of all different sorts, and I never think a game company tries to create "shovelware", since it takes a ton of time and effort to create one of these games (just ask the Steel Penny guys.) It's fine if you think a certain game is shovelware, but make sure you do some research on that game before you call it shovelware and not just see someone else call it shovelware and think it's shovelware yourself, since that game could be way better than you expect (Bonsai Barber.)

BlackKnight

#55

BlackKnight said:

You have a lot of time to get the threshold, normally every game should get that currently, that has a bit quality.
But another problem is, that you have to wait for the money. This is a bigger risk, if you need the money after selling the game to pay your workers.
All big publishers pays in quarters. So it can be, that you have to wait several month. .

Kristof

#56

Kristof said:

You are right. The risk is high as the people/team/studio has to fully fund the game development (and publishing part) and then wait to get some money back.

Stuffgamer1

#57

Stuffgamer1 said:

I obviously don't know too much about sales numbers of WiiWare games, as any number fitting within only four digits sounds incredibly tiny to me. It's not the same as retail games, obviously, where people are moaning over a "low" sales number for a game that hit the upper quintuple digits (not to mention the game in question...GTA Chinatown Wars, in case you couldn't tell...has only been out a month). But still...is it really all THAT hard to sell in the thousands?

I agree with vherub. Nintendo isn't trying hard enough to get people to even TRY the Shop Channel out. They were wise to do the free points deal with DSi, but the Wii really needs the same deal. With the market Nintendo is selling to, awareness of such features tends to be frighteningly low unless people are slapped in the face with a reason to try it out (like how the DSi promo is plastered right on the system box in a way that it'd be really hard to miss).

cecesigue

#58

cecesigue said:

is like when in marketing you add a price of $1 to a free product, coz if you say is free, they will think is not that important. If Nintendo, would let developers pick up the phone and say " hey here is a new videogame" imagine that! besides like people already said here, developers really think the video game they are releasing can sell, otherwise they wouldn´t even bother.

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