News Article

Broken Rules Feels Let Down by Nintendo's Online Strategy

Posted by Trevor Chan

Co-founder Felix Bohatsch explains the issues he has with the Wii Shop Channel

Let's face facts: Nintendo could have implemented a more robust online service for the Wii. If not only for the gamers, then at least for developers and itself. Ironically, limitations are probably what encourages alternative gaming concepts but no one wants to work with restrictions, either pre- or post-release.

Austrian indie developer Broken Rules successfully brought its PC puzzle game And Yet It Moves over to Nintendo's download service with a selection of new control methods, levels, and play modes to entice those already versed in the original, but studio co-founder Felix Bohatsch still feels disappointed in Nintendo's online offerings, despite the critical success the Vienna-based company has enjoyed with its latest release.

We caught up with Bohatsch to clarify his stance on Nintendo's current strategy for the online market as reported in an interview conducted by No Added Sugar. We asked what caused him to be so critical of Nintendo's online services, and this is what he had to say:

This generation, Nintendo's goal was clear and precise: expand the user base and empower more people to play games using intuitive controls. Luckily for all of us, they have succeeded with a bang and everyone else is now desperately trying to achieve something similar. Nintendo’s innovation has always been a major factor in our industry and this generation has shown this like no other. It has also shown that Nintendo makes the best games (for their hardware) and only few others are able to reach their standard. To sell their hardware Nintendo only trusts it’s own game design expertise, and rightly so.

The game industry needs Nintendo to be this innovative, so I think it was great that they focused on broadening the market this generation. But because their focus was somewhere else, WiiWare was left behind. It hurts, but the truth is that today it's really hard to reach gamers through the Wii Shop. Personally I always enjoy playing WiiWare games. I think there are a lot of really great games on the platform, but too few people find them. As a long time Wii fan — I think I was one of the first people in Vienna who owned a Wii — I have even grown accustomed to the Wii Shop and know how to find the games I'm looking for. But even so, I never go into the store to just browse around and see what's new, because the Wii Shop doesn't encourage such behavior. I read about a game somewhere and then I go into the store and buy that specific game. It never happened to me that I accidentally found another game of interest while buying. That's a bad sign.

The Wii Shop could be a tool for third-party developers to cater to the market Nintendo has so successfully created. Of course this will benefit the developers the most, but I'm sure it's good for Nintendo as well, because it will strengthen their position in the core market again. As long as they take care that the market is not flushed with bad shovelware, which is, in my opinion, one of the key points why so many core gamers turned their backs on the Wii.

Well, anyway, I hope they will improve the experience on the 3DS, because I would really like to make another game for their hardware!

Indeed, it can be quite tedious to navigate through the Wii Shop Channel if you don't know what you are specifically looking for. Messages from Nintendo that utilise the Message Board are few and far between, and the majority of them consist of system update notices. Nintendo already seems to be taking a more proactive approach to online services with the upcoming 3DS, as features like StreetPass, SpotPass, and a more user-friendly online shop are all steps that will hopefully bring Nintendo closer to satisfying gamers that feel somewhat disappointed with its current foothold in the online department.

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User Comments (45)



Chris720 said:

This is very true. I never go to the Wii Shop to have a browse, and that's a shame really. If they utilized the Wii Message Board and sent Wii Shop Channel updates, it'll be getting the message out there.

Also, linking both Wii Shop Channel and Nintendo Channel together would of helped more.

I think it would of helped slightly if they made the Wii Shop Channel more noticeable, lets be honest, it doesn't spring out at you like the other channels.



Raylax said:

The Wii/DSi Shop interfaces are awful, yeah. They both need some serious overhauling in the next generation. Nintendo would do well to change its entire online strategy for developers too. The current system has an expensive and restrictive dev kit, a tiny filesize limit, a region-based release system, the advertising and pricing is taken out of your control, and as the article states, it's very easy to have your product completely lost in the sea of software within weeks of release. This system would have seemed outdated and awkward 10 years ago. There's just no reason for it to exist at all today.



MasterGraveheart said:

My disappointment comes at the fact that online seems to be more of a premium then it is a rule for games that were made for multi-player. I mean, New Super Mario Bros. would have been ripe for online. It isn't so much the channels that bother me but the online gaming methodologies.



DiggerandIndy said:

I always felt that practically every week was a bore, with at least one or two games to show for. I'm especially disappointed with the VC. I know tons of games that deserve to be on the VC, and all Nintendo is doing is goofing around with junk that only the most video-game-illiterate would care about.



odd69 said:

i may be the few who browse the channel just to look at stuff. with a site like this one i dont really have to because yall do a good job covering all things wiiware.



Ganserk said:

From wii-ware to virtual-ware and to online play over wi-fi all have a faulty design on them. Both wiiware and virtualware are limited with how much space they can have and how much it can be download such as patch to fixed some glitches or bug that are present in the game. On wifi is restriction on communication and making new friend with one another. There tons of more but I do hope nintendo fix this on 3ds and on future console.



Kyloctopus said:

I think the real problem is the dsi menu. For some reason, they decided 4 fifferent price ranges, the most popular game was Mario vs DK for a long time. Now that Shantae is out, it's going to be the most popular for maybe a longer time (at least until something like Tetris Party live comes out.) It's lagy at times, and 75% of it is filled with cheap titles.



Punny said:

It's true that Nintendo really needs to step up its online offerings. Bring on the improved 3DS online!



CanisWolfred said:

Again, I definitely have to agree with them. I was just using the shop yesterday for the first time in a while. It took me a while to find Bit.Trip Runner, since there were few ways to search for games. Ironically, I did stumble upon "And Yet it Moves" and decided to look at it since I remembered it's name from somewhere, but of course, what was shown there didn't entice me to buy it, and nothing else caught my interest despite fumbling about the shop.

This is in stark contrast to XBLA and PSN, where I can always find what I'm looking for, and I'm always stumbling upon or being introduced to new and exciting games I had never heard of before, and about a third of my games were impulse buys from when I was looking for something else. Now that's how you run a service. I certainly hope Nintendo manages to take some of the lessons learned with the 3DS, since right now the Wii's shop is feeling like a major misopportunity for both Ninty and Indie Wiiware developers.



Burning_Spear said:

I guess I'm in the minority in that I check the new releases and even for new channels each Monday. But I get it: Someone who is less enthusiastic probably finds the shop less enticing.



Slapshot said:

Nintendo DS Super Mario Kart Online > Nintendo Wii Super Mario Kart Online

... That is a problem!



Kirk said:

The Wii Shop Channel is, to be absolutely fair and objective, total crap.



Odnetnin said:

Nintendo's online strategy is terrible yet WiiWare is the main reason I still own a Wii. Ironic.



HanuKwanzMasBif said:

I only have one WiiWare game: WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase. And I nearly never play it. So I completely agree!



ExploderReviews said:

Non of my frirnds with wiis even knows what wii ware is (besidedes the add for pokemon rumble, but even then they wete like, "wait, how do you get that?). I think that speaks for itself.



jbrodack said:

The wii shop interface wasn't too bad when there were fewer games but now with a lot of games it can be hard to get to the good ones. It needs to be redesigned so that its easier to browse through the whole library of games.



brandonbwii said:

More fuel for the fire. Well at least Nintendo promises to do better next time with the 3DS. I'm counting on you Nintendo! Start sharing SOME common ground with your competitors.

What makes you say that? I found Mario Kart Wii to be much better online than MKDS.



grumblebuzzz said:

Nintendo's entire online strategy needs a re-evaluation and a reinvention. I never really noticed how disconnected the Wii and DSi felt until my friend gave me his old model PSP with LittleBigPlanet. I was blown away; the online modes on that game are superior to anything Nintendo has ever done with the internet, period, and that's just one little game. I felt frustrated by that fact, being that I've been almost totally Nintendo exclusive pretty much my entire life. I really hope 3DS addresses some of these issues and gives us things like friend lists, more online-centered modes of gaming -- How amazing would it be to be able to create NSMB levels and post them a'la LBP for the world to play? -- and just a generally better interface to get you there. This is 2010: There are cellphones more powerful than a Nintendo system? That shouldn't be.



IanUniacke said:

My comments will obviously be ridiculed and seen as controversial, but it is my considered opinion that nintendo is actually leagues in front of its competitors (with the exception of apple) in terms of its online strategy, when applied to regular consumers. Obviously when a system like Xbox 360 has 90% hardcore gamers as their customers, there will be more success online then a system like the wii with its 90% casual gamers, "REGARDLESS" of the online design. Having used both the 360 and the wii online, the wii is much less fuss to use. I had to go and register an account on my "pc" just to get my xbox online for crying out loud.

Systems like SpotPass and StreetPass show that Nintendo are fully aware of the big hurdles overcoming online becoming mainstream and are working to solve these problems. Other companies are finding success in the increasingly crowded hardcore market and therefore have no impetus to solve these problems. But where will these other companies be when the hardcore market for online is saturated? I will tell you where, they will be at 1st base.

The perfect example is Nintendo's backing of wifi with the ds. No cables. Uses a device that many people are already using for their laptops. To the average consumer, a cat5 cable is an arcane piece of technical wizardry that they really would just rather not bother with.

Apple went a step further and made their device use 3g, so the consumer doesn't even have to bother with configuration. The only main drawback of this is that it is (and perhaps will always be) expensive and perhaps prohibitive to the mainstream consumer.

As for wii offerings I have found Mario Kart Wii to be one of the best online games I have played. It is no fuss to get started you just say "play online please" and you're off racing against random people. I have probably spent more time playing that one game online then any other game outside of mmo's or rts's.



IanUniacke said:

Also keep in mind that Nintendo said a few years ago that they feel the market for online has not reached a significant proportion of customers yet, AND they were right. A recent study showed that only approximately 4% of consumers download games and apps to their electronic devices.



thaantman said:

The shop channel can be loads better, but my real issue is playing games online, the friend code crap, wii speak never been really utilized, and no wii ware and vc demo service,. not to mention lack of messages on the wii board, i only change my wii to stand by mode to check the weather, games need to go up on sell to, put a nice hand full of games on sell a week and send messages about the sells more ppl will be likely to check out the shop channel, advertise the new releases on monday and put games on sell for maybe a weekend



brandonbwii said:

I don't know what a manufacturer is supposed to do when it comes to shovelware because the most successful system will always have some of the worst games imaginable. PS2 suffered from a similar problem. It's just a little more pronounced this gen on Nintendo consoles.

Online multiplayer is what worries me most as that has not been directly addressed as an issue Iwata cares about. I hope, at the very least, matchmaking is faster and easier for third parties to implement.



LztheQuack said:

@badmouth: well to be fair at the same time those more powerful phones tend to be quite pricey and sometimes have crap for battery life.

I never really cared for online anyway because I usually have a lousy internet connection, but I do agree there needs to be a serious overhaul.



irken004 said:

I'm sure Nintendo is doing something about the online/shop interface with their next home console. If not, they might be screwed in the long run.



Objection said:

There's a number of ways that Nintendo's online (or even just the Wii Shop Channel) could be improved. Demoes, better search, faster navigation, a more clear loading screen, etc.



SolarJetman said:

Well, if every Wii owner supported WiiWare like I do, and I imagine most of you do, no one would complain, regardless of the clumsy interface. Like zee mega-kuel Austrian dude said, WiiWare does have great games, just not a good marketing plan.

Here's a partial list of excellent WiiWare games I've downloaded: And Yet it Moves, Astrobugs, Excitebike, Blaster Master, Star Soldier R, Castlevania Rebirth, Mega Man 9 and 10, Orbient, TV Show King 2 (really!), Cave Story, That Art Style game where you race lines, Contra ReBirth, World of Goo, Sonic 4, Arkanoid, Bubble Bobble Plus, Space Invaders, Gradius Rebirth, that racing game like Super Sprint Konami made, Tetris Online, NYX QUEST, Rotohex, You, Me and the Cubes, Lost Winds 1 and 2, Mides.... I'm sure I'm missing at least a dozen...

And since SquareEnix/Taito has a solid presence, maybe they should create a new Darius game for WiiWare with 2- (or even 4-!) player robotic fish destruction.



SolarJetman said:

Cubello, the Bit Trip games, Rotozoa, Final Fantasy After Years, Art of Balance, Maboshi's Arcade, Pearl Harbor Trilogy...



Sadsack_Awesome said:

@Kirk I'm guessing you haven't played Sonic 4: Episode 1 yet...
@Objection_Blaster There actually was a Wiiware Demo service once... I don't know why they stopped the demo service... probably because the Demos were free and Nintendo wanted people to spend their Wii Points.



SolarJetman said:

Tomena Sanner, Gyrostarr, Toki Tori, Magnetica Twist...

... and ThruSpace, which I just downloaded and heartily recommend if you need a challenging puzzler.



CanisWolfred said:


If they wanted people to spend points, they would've left the demo system there so people could realize just how awesome those games are and buy the full versions. Obviously, Nintendo doesn't want our money.



ETLN said:

I agree with xDemon720x they should look at merging the Shop Channel and Nintendo Channel together, would make sense and promote the games in a better way. I also think Nintendo should look at adding fullscreen pictures instead of tiny low resolution images they currently have. People can't really see what the games are about and something like fullscreen pictures would help, plus if they merged the Nintendo channel, videos could also be included.



CanisWolfred said:

A demo is just that, a demo. It's a free sample, not a whole meal. If you like what you see, you probably won't be satisfied with just that. That's why demos are so common on every other console, both this gen and last.



HolyMackerel said:

@xDemon720x They need to not just merge the Wii Shop Channel and the Nintendo Channel, they need to merge those with the Wii's main menu! That way we get on-the-fly news, play info, recommendations from the Nintendo Channel without having to access it specifically, and then we get a shopping experience available right at our fingertips. Not only will that bring down the barrier of entry to online services, it will also ensure that people who play the Wii know that it has online capabilities, and it will encourage them to use them.

It doesn't make sense to hide the Wii Shop and Nintendo Channel behind channels. They should be part of the menu and easily accessible.



JimLad said:

They just don't seem to get this online thing.
Seriously Nint, hand it over to someone that knows what they're doing and stick to what you do best: making games and hardware.



Golgo said:

He's right. If you don't already know what you're looking for and know when it comes out, there's every chance you'll miss it. I've never bought anything by chance after just 'browsing' as the shopping experience just doesn't lend itself to that.



invmat said:

Here in Europe, Club Nintendo gave you stars each day you logged in, but they stopped with that. Why don't they do something similar with the Wii Shop? Each week you open the Wii Shop Channel and watch what is new, you get 20 stars or so. It could at least stimulate to look at the shop more often...

And yes, the Wii Shop was doomed but it couldn't be updated completely that easily so there isn't much that can be changed. Lets hope Ninty does everything right from the start with the 3DS.



Iggy said:

I totally agree with him ive never gone on the wii shop to browse around for a game i always know what game to get thanks to this site of course.



PSICOffee said:

I agree with what everyone else has repeated: wii shop channel blows, friend codes, ds better, 3DS perfect, no buying games on whim, need ads for games, demos and incentives....

of course if they had demos and things people would try all the games and see that most of them are crap shovelware and thus not buy them which in turn Nintendo loses money they would have gained had that user bought the shovelware blindly with a no-return basis. However maybe have demos on certain games, which would entice people to try them, and thus force developers to work harder on shovelware games to raise their quality.



JakobG said:

More folders, specials and shorter loading times.
That's what to be improved at least.



Ren said:

I think ianuniake makes some good points that are worth considering, mostly that it's a great service but the types of new yuppie/ older gamers that Nintendo created this generation just don't know it's there at all.
the interface isn't very good, things just get kinda lost since there is just so much on there. it should at least be easier to just slide the game images around and see more screenshots so you know what you are looking for.
For me, though, (I come here are read the reviews) it's dead simple. The main problem for me is just how much GREAT content there is on there. I literally don't know what to get next since I don't buy games that often. Lately I fit more into a casual audience, as far as how much time I spend with it so when I do I'm overwhelmed.
The real problem is just that they own this new demographic of non gamers types who simply have no idea it's there and are baffled about what to get. There are no free points to try anything with, and nothing to explain clearly the difference between VC and Wiiware.
It's easy for me, but I have other relatives who say they're annoyed that it's so hard to find games for their kids on there and hard to find any info either. And those are people who are lucky enough to even know that the channel is there. Where is the advertising push? It's a massive missed opportunity for everyone involved.



darthstuey said:

I think the worst of all is that we are still tied to a game to a system. I have stopped buying all WiiWare/DsiWare/VC games until this is changed. I;ve spent too much money to have games I own lost if my system is stolen etc. Also if my son wants one of my dsi downloads to play on his system, why should I have to buy it again? It's utterly crazy.
I'm in the Sony camp now Nintendo and I'm really sorry as I had been buying your systems for over twenty years.
I won't be getting a 3DS or the next gen home console unles I can feel safe knowing I can port downloaded content to them.

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