Broken Rules Feels Let Down by Nintendo's Online Strategy

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.