Although Nintendo UK has just started on a high-profile advertising campaign to draw more awareness to the Wii's online features and WiiWare titles, for many developers it's something that should have happened years ago.
Until now, Nintendo's efforts to promote the Wii's online capabilities have been limited to references to online play in selected first-party titles, with little or no mention of the huge array of games available in the Shop Channel. The Wii itself comes with a pre-installed video to promote Internet access through Wii, but clearly it's had little impact, as some analysts put the take-up rate of the Wii's online services to be as low as 20 per cent.
The Nintendo Ambassador programme, launched last year, aimed to widen that base using connected folks to get their friends and family members online, but judging by the 20 per cent marker there must be plenty of Wii owners who don't know anyone able to get them online.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Nnooo's Nic Watt said:
Nintendo, in my opinion, could do more to keep the WiiWare and DSiWare stores in customer's minds. It is great that every new customer knows about and uses these services when they first connect their Wiis or DS. However, how many continue to frequent those stores? I think it is and should be Nintendo's responsibility to have a continued marketing presence to maintain people's awareness about the service.
It seems that Nintendo's after-care on WiiWare leaves a little to be desired, too. Jag Jaeger, VP of JV Games, had this to say:
Nintendo's stance to developers from the start has been: here's the service, follow our rules, you're on your own and we're not getting involved unless you create controversy. Nintendo could really help by throwing developers a bone. Help create a more even playing field by allowing developers to use Nintendo resources. Even a more fair use of the Nintendo Channel would help. Pokémon will be advertised for months while third party titles get a week usually.
Of course, having longer-term advertising on the Nintendo Channel would only be half the solution if the main problem is Wii owners not getting online in the first place. However, it's certainly interesting to hear that some judge Nintendo's assistance as a rather "fire and forget" policy, something no doubt made worse by the last minute announcement of release dates for download titles. Small studios have a difficult time marketing their titles anyway, which must be made harder when not even they know when their game is due for release.
Nic is happier with the service, citing the excellent download figures for myNotebook matched EA's high-profile download release of Burnout Paradise in its first month, as well as the fact Nnooo have broken even on every WiiWare title within just six weeks, indicative of both the lower cost of download development as well as the high uptake of Nnooo titles. Nic also sings the praises of the Nintendo community and its dedication to quality software:
If you are looking for advice on what WiiWare and DSiWare game to buy, you can find a site in seconds with a review of that game. Show me a website for XBLA or PSN which does the same. How many users of the iPhone actually care about or research the software they buy?
It's always interesting to hear about WiiWare developers' experience of the platform they create for, where the responsibility for marketing and promotion is clearly a thorny issue. With Nintendo now clearly promoting the system and its games - Bonsai Barber is getting a lot of TV advertising time at the moment! - more and more Wii owners will start switching onto WiiWare, something that must please every WiiWare developer out there.