News Article

Talking Point: Nintendo Should Offer Indie Game Bundles

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Competitive download prices for a good cause

We’re just one month away from the 3DS eShop's first anniversary, a busy period that’s seen the service grow and evolve. A modest start, including a slow-burn of actual 3DS exclusives, made way for a vibrant period of service improvements, game demos and, most importantly, some top quality games. The shop front has seen the latest update, with a new two-tiered look that gives exposure to weekly ‘channels’ and spotlights on games, with the standard categories below. All of these enhancements taken together demonstrate that Nintendo is actively thinking about and improving its download service on 3DS, a sharp contrast to the history of the Wii Shop Channel.

In fact, it’s been tempting to write off the Wii Shop entirely, mainly due to a dearth of interesting new titles and a poor output, overall, of Virtual Console games in recent times. The digital store shouldn't be abandoned, however, as Nintendo may have a substantial period where many gamers who dipped their toes into a new hobby with Wii won’t immediately upgrade to the new console on the block. There’s also the fact that many developers still have titles on the Wii Shop and Wii U may carry WiiWare onto its platform, leaving some still holding out hopes of income for their efforts.

With that in mind, we propose that Nintendo tries something bold with its online platforms not only on 3DS and Wii U, but Wii as well. The first part is that these platforms should introduce a flexible pricing structure that accommodates sales and discounts, as it’s difficult for titles that have been available for a long period to attract any attention without any incentives to offer the consumer. That’s a basic idea, however, and we think that there’s a specific way for Nintendo to attract the attention of gamers accustomed to smartphone prices, support smaller ‘indie’ developers and avoid the pricing race to the bottom that it fears. Nintendo should introduce ‘humble bundles’.

Sell games, make money and do good for charity

For those unfamiliar with the idea of a humble bundle, it’s a limited period special offer that includes multiple titles at a price set by the consumer. Two prominent websites that run these promotions are http://www.humblebundle.com/ and http://www.indieroyale.com/, both running similar projects, though in this case our main focus will be Humble Bundle. At regular intervals Humble Bundle unveils a new package of games, sometimes focused on a specific theme or developer, and invites gamers to pay whatever price they want. The twist is that paying above a certain amount earns extra content, which can include an extra game or soundtrack, for example.

The Humble Bundle has covered a variety of platforms so far including Mac, PC and Android, and a purchase provides you with download copies of the games through the bespoke online set up. What truly impresses about the process of purchasing a bundle is that you can determine how your voluntary payment is distributed, with three recipients: the website itself for running costs, the developers and a nominated charity. You are perfectly entitled to pay above the minimum if you please, and you can determine if you want most of your cash to go to charity or the developers: you're in control.

Why do we think this could work for Nintendo? For one thing, it would help to break the static pricing of download titles and potentially attract apathetic gamers to the platform. These offers typically only run for roughly one week at a time, with a period of a month or more between promotions, so it wouldn’t have to represent a permanent downgrading of prices. Nintendo could also set a minimum price, so if a bundle contained three eShop titles priced at £4.50 each, or perhaps WiiWare games at 800 Nintendo Points each, Nintendo could set a minimum contribution of £6 or 1200 Points, still representing a saving of 50% or more. Unlike Humble Bundle, Nintendo could even allow gamers to buy the games individually, if they already have some of the titles in the bundle but want to contribute.

Reviving and supporting indie developers

There will always be some who'll complain if they’ve paid full price for a game only to see it appear at a discount, but that’s the reality of a gaming hobby. Even at retail, you may buy a title at full price only to find it in the discount bin the following week; it's just part of gaming's rich tapestry. The Humble Bundle partially avoids that issue, though not on every occasion, by exclusively distributing a title before it arrives on Google Play for Android, for example. That would be unlikely in a Nintendo equivalent.

This kind of promotion could be invaluable to low profile or under-appreciated titles worthy of a boost of publicity.

To dwell on that is missing the point entirely, however. This kind of promotion could be invaluable to low profile or under-appreciated titles worthy of a boost of publicity, especially when eShop style ‘channels’ aren’t enough on their own. The developers will receive less per unit, clearly, but will nevertheless have more gamers experiencing their titles. Nintendo's contract — at least in the case of WiiWare — doesn't pay out to developers until they've passed a certain sales threshold, so such bundles could also help some developers receive the first pay cheque for their hard work.

An indie bundle also has a feel-good factor for the buyer: you have the freedom either to save money or pay full price, while also determining how much of your cash – within sensible boundaries – is given to the charity and developers involved in the promotion. It’s a limited offer that can grab attention and encourage gamers to try titles that they may have ignored otherwise. It’s marketing for a good cause.

With a simple system update the infrastructure for these promotions could be added to the 3DS eShop, as well as Wii U’s service. The same can be said for the Wii Shop, however, and that is a platform that is in greater need of a new lease of life. Wii isn’t dead yet, and even accounting for systems that have been traded in or packed away over the years, there are still millions of them in living rooms around the world; some will still be there even after Wii U arrives. As mentioned earlier we can also speculate, if the 3DS eShop is any indication, that WiiWare titles will be available on Wii U’s download store, so these developers and titles still deserve support.

It’s possible that a number of WiiWare titles, some of which are undoubtedly excellent games, have made little or no money. The idea that a download game should cost the same throughout its entire lifespan is archaic, and defies the logic of the industry: if physical retail games drop in price, why not downloads? The pricing on Nintendo’s download services doesn’t need to join the ‘race to the bottom’ seen on smartphones and tablets, but it does need to be active, compelling and competitive. Small developers need help, and limited edition indie bundles could give them the exposure they need, while giving gamers an opportunity to enjoy new games, give to charity and feel good about their purchase. Everyone wins.

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User Comments (45)

SkywardLink98

#2

SkywardLink98 said:

I'd like the eShop and Ushop be a little more like steam, where everyday a different game is on sale. And to avoid getting a game and having it go on sale %50 off, the sales for the next week would be up for display. So I'll say (for example) you get a new eShop title for free (Or $0.99 would be a gold mine for nintendo) where it's a calender where the previous sales, the current sales, and sales for the next 7 days are visible on the calender. Then you wouldn't have to worry, will it go on sale, is it worth waiting to see etc. You'd still have to worry about it going on sale in the week after but at that point it would become harder to forecast the sales because they might not be planned at that point.

TwilightPoint

#3

TwilightPoint said:

I agree. Nice article. It would be nice if they included digital content in special bundles.
On a semi-side note I also love the Humble Indie Bundle.

Hyperstar96

#4

Hyperstar96 said:

"The Humble Bundle has covered a variety of platforms so far including iOS, Android and most recently PC"

They've never done iOS, only two bundles support Android, and every single one since the beginning has supported PC.

Reala

#5

Reala said:

Good idea not sure nintendo is all that open to good ideas regarding how it runs its online side, making retail downloads the same price as actual retail summed that up quite clearly to me.

hydeks

#6

hydeks said:

I agree they should have deals like they do with PSN and XBLA on there WiiWare games, that I totally agree. Now with the whole WiiWare thing...

...stick a fork in WiiWare cause it's DONE! No offence but it was crap when it started and still continues to be crap. Time to move on and look at the Nintendo eShop (I think it's gonna be called eShop for Wii U too) cause it's such a better service and so far has a WAY better name for it than WiiWare will ever have.

Can't wait for the future of eShop, but WiiWare should die out when the original Wii does...

hydeks

#8

hydeks said:

@Reala yay if nintendo makes the download the same price as the retail game, there gonna learn the hard way that no ones gonna care about there new "retail download" service.

They seem to like to fail with these online ventures first and than learn from that...could skip a few steps if they would for once turn on a PS3/360 and go on there service and realize what they should do and not do...but whatever -_-

Platypus

#9

Platypus said:

I don't think the Wii U specifically needs indie bundles. But what it REALLY needs is sales in general. If the Wii U could do sales every week or so like the PS3 store(or better yet, Steam) then it would be an instant success, at least for me.

accc

#10

accc said:

Nintendo seems very reluctant for some reason to run any sort of special promotions on their digital stores or to even do anything to give people a reason to visit them. They really need to take a more modern and consumer-friendly stance next gen if they want to be competitive with the other platforms in the realm of digital downloads.

Rapadash6

#11

Rapadash6 said:

For whatever reason, Nintendo seems keen on making it as hard as possible for developers to get there projects into the hands of consumers, at least in the case of the Wii. I mean how long have we been waiting for La Muluna, only to have it pulled out from undernieth us? Hopefully Nintendo changes their policies with the Wii U, but until I see it, I don't see indie developers picking up what Nintendo is putting down.

Ernest_The_Crab

#12

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@Rapadash That's already been covered in another article. The issue was between the developer and the publisher. For the most part Nintendo wasn't involved with the delay.

I can see the need for sales on their platforms, but I think they should implement a time-based lock before you can put your game on sale. You never know if another company will just put their game on sale for a short period just to kill a competitor's product. They need to make sure that there are plenty of integrity based rules and regulations put into place before they even think about having sales.

Mercury9

#13

Mercury9 said:

@Rapadash6

Nevermind La Muluna! I want Earthbound! Take out The Beatles references Nintendo and get it released! No excuses!

Back on topic, Bundles would be a good incentive but would they entice a new gamer? Would it be wise to try and sell virtually unknown games to a fledgling Nintendyte rather than a bundle featuring the good old regulars?

Bundle VC games if anything but advertise Indie from the get go.

Mercury9

#14

Mercury9 said:

Maybe we could have themed consoles. Wii U's bundled with say, 10 NES, SNES, N64 games pre loaded and varying in price.

Imagine if Nintendo had made available all Zelda games currently on 3DS eShop and pre loaded them on the Zelda themed anniversary 3DS. That would be awesome right?

Maybe Nintendo could sell Wii U's with point cards tied to a particular series. I like Mario so I'll buy a Wii U and get a Mario point card with it, get it home and download 10 Mario related games.

Bundles may be abit restricted to a new console unless they include current available content rather than new games. You'd want it to be somewhat recognisable especially if you're unsure or new to gaming.

Do people recognise Mario more than say Super Meat Boy?

ThomasBW84Admin

#16

ThomasBW84 said:

@Hyperstar96 You're absolutely right, and I've updated the article. I only became aware of humble bundle personally earlier this year with the first Android bundle, and I had the (incorrect) impression that iOS games had been included previously. Clearly I was wrong :)

Squiggle55

#17

Squiggle55 said:

Temporary sales and permanent price drops that reflect street value are all I desire from the eshop on Nintendo HD (still crossing my fingers for that name change)

Mercury9

#18

Mercury9 said:

They should just go with "Nintendo" as a console name :) Back to it's roots but keeping it's focus.

CanisWolfred

#19

CanisWolfred said:

I personally find them very annoying, and often wonder how the heck people can make money if they sell their games for "whatever you want," especially when so many people who pay as little as a penny if they could.

ThomasBW84Admin

#20

ThomasBW84 said:

@Mickeymac I do think it could work if there was a minimum price, so to some it'd ultimately just be a sale. For those actually interested in supporting the devs and charity, they can pay more. From what I can understand the average spend on the likes of Humble Bundle is reasonably good, which suggests that it's a minority that takes advantage.

dizzy_boy

#21

dizzy_boy said:

if nintendo did a bundle sale, i can see exactly what`ll happen.
they`ll just bundle up a bunch poor selling games that nobody is interested in or really wants, and then complain ebout it being a total disaster because everybody saw through the sham.

DerpSandwich

#22

DerpSandwich said:

Altogether I would just be happy if they would put anything on sale, EVER. I don't even need a bundle; just the occasional discount would be nice. Nintendo has always been stubborn on the pricing front.

Doma

#23

Doma said:

Nice idea... but before that, they really need to sort the pricing out properly between regions. Is there a specific reason for why the UK eshop prices are almost double to what to the US' are? 'cause that alone is usually enough to repel me from wasting cash on their piss-poor excuse of a DD store. I'll probably continue to use it as a (sub-par) demo service and nothing else.

Geonjaha

#24

Geonjaha said:

That'd be great - but it's asking a lot. Having sales or price drops would be a good enough leap for Nintendo and their online shops...

SomeBitTripFan

#25

SomeBitTripFan said:

@NINTENDOLIFE: this is off topic but Gaijin Games has unofficially announced Runner 2 for Wii U. In their latest post on the Runner 2 dev blog they wrote,"Wii have a few fun little updates coming for U, so keep your EYES out!!!" It is part of their post with pictures of Timbletot.

ATDI

#26

ATDI said:

It's not about bundles or indy game prices for me. It's about this crap (US dollars):
Little Big Planet 2: Around 25 bucks
Super Mario Galaxy 2: Around 50 bucks

XCWarrior

#28

XCWarrior said:

Nintendo put things on sale? Ha! Better chance an elephant will fly while a bunch of crows sing about it.

It's a good idea, it really is, but it's not going to happen. The machines taking over though, yeah, that could actually happen.

Hardy83

#31

Hardy83 said:

Competitive digital prices PERIOD would be nice, not just special bundles.

Henmii

#32

Henmii said:

We all know that Nintendo is greedy! Games on their download systems are rather expensive compared to the competition. Nintendo doesn't hold sales either! Hopefully that all changes on the Wii u, but I doubt it!!

CaPPa

#33

CaPPa said:

I don't really like this 'humble bundle' idea, but I wouldn't mind occasional bundled collections with a 50% discount. The only problem with continual sales such as on XBLA is that I find myself only really looking at the sale items each week and ignoring games that I may have bought at full price. So it reverses my digital buying trend, from buying the new game I want into buying it a few months later because it'll be half price. It has ended up with over 90% of the games being on sale when I've bought them on there, with the exception of Perfect Dark and Limbo.

On WiiWare I've pretty much bought every game I wanted when it was released though (with the exception of some early VC) as I had no fear of any weekly sale. There isn't much left that would be worth me buying and a few of the titles that I thought might be worth a look have been available on Club Nintendo (which counts as a sale for the dev right?). In fact that is a system that I'd rather see, the Club Nintendo games offer expanded onto the consoles, with it having your coin/star balance linked and a larger selection of older titles offered each month - each one counting as a full sale for the dev when somebody redeems their coins/stars for it.

"The idea that a download game should cost the same throughout its entire lifespan is archaic, and defies the logic of the industry: if physical retail games drop in price, why not downloads?"
My guess would be that the downloadable game still has to be stored and distributed at the same cost throught its lifetime, where as a retail game hasn't got such maintainance costs and can just be thrown into a big bargin bin.

I'm just hoping that Nintendo will continue to improve with each downloadable service, starting with the Wii, then DSiWare, then 3DS eShop and next the Wii U shop.

Ren

#34

Ren said:

this is a nice idea and a nice editorial but so very hypothetical, almost fantastical.

It would also be nice if nintendo would have upgraded the Wii to HD a year earlier, or added some power gloves or a frying pan peripheral, or got smart and gave people some free wii points packed into the system, but we all know Nintendo here and it's pure fantasy.
Have they ever discounted anything? Heck no. it takes maybe two years before they discount retail games and Wiiware never, even in the face of failure. Maybe with the WiiU they'll smarten up, but I'll believe it when I see it. Until then it's dreamland.

Pastry

#35

Pastry said:

I feel like Nintendo has drifted away from this sort of behavior dramatically. I still see copies of Mario Kart DS and Super Mario Galaxy drifting around with $40 price tags, while I see copies of Halo 3 for $5. Nintendo either just doesn't understand this generation's approach to games and the people who buy them, or doesn't want to. If I want a Nintendo game. I'm paying the price they tell me to. If Nintendo goes at this in a different way now than they have in the last 25 years, I'll be surprised.

Grackler

#37

Grackler said:

Sales would so help. Steam gets constant purchases from me thanks to them, and I end up paying more than I would without them, no doubt. Also: general support for the e/u/wii shops, it's good to be a little hands-off on people's work, but it does sound like Q&A testing just takes too long.

Uncle_Optimus

#38

Uncle_Optimus said:

@CaPPa while there are costs that go into distributing a digitally downloadable title, just the act of the game sitting on a server is not incurring significant upkeep. There will be costs when a purchase is made (bandwidth and potential credit transaction fees) but that is dependent on getting the sale in the first place.
Higher sales should make everyone happy and I have to believe Nintendo can design a game sale scheduling system that allows developers to remarket their game while not having customers just sitting on their wallets waiting for the inevitable sale (as I do with iOS).
The major issue I have with the eshop currently is CONTENT, or rather curious lack of it. Before we get into humble bundles and eshop game sales in general (also important!) I think a considerably more robust library of software is needed.

LeasTwanteD

#39

LeasTwanteD said:

With the current prices for the downloadable games personally i don't care much for discounts in any form. But anything that makes devs bring their great games to Nintendo's download stores is a good thing in my book of course.
If on the Wii U you can also buy the Wii's downloadable games it would be a good idea to have discounts though. Heck, while there are some really great games on the service it already feels old to me today.

ThomasBW84Admin

#40

ThomasBW84 said:

@Ren I think it's a reflection of what we've come to expect from Nintendo's digital strategies that the idea of bundles is 'fantastical', and to a point you're actually right. It shouldn't be so unlikely, frankly, because ideas like this are a vital part to any modern digital strategy, though each platform has its own style. Sony has PS Plus, Xbox has sales, indies have humble bundles etc. If Nintendo is actually serious about its download stores becoming a major part of its business - rather than just a sideshow - then it needs to join in with modern methods.

rjejr

#41

rjejr said:

I think it's a little late to be talking about anything new on the Wii, especially Wiiware. What I thought they should have done many years ago is bundle their OWN games. Buy a SNES game, get a comparable NES game free or 50% off. They own the games, they are probably making money at ANY cost, so get the good publicity and the sales of the more expensive games. This seemed like such a no brainer years ago, but it never happened. Hopefully the Wii U will be better.

japzone

#42

japzone said:

If this happens my Faith in the Gaming Indistry, or at least Nintendo, will be completely restored.

odd69

#43

odd69 said:

Last time I looked, there is enough games on the service to enjoy it for a while. If you cant find anything to buy you aren't looking hard enough. The last year It has been dead but check the libray of titles it already has, and the quality of them. If anything we should complain there isnt more but the service isnt total crap. Discounts are welcome, but at this point Nintendo needs to focus on WII U . So i guess in a way it missed its chance.

MeloMan

#44

MeloMan said:

Any and all good suggestions, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see how the big N will continue to evolve it's online.

MrWu

#45

MrWu said:

They need to offer sales too.

Jools from RK hinting at going Steam is somewhat concerning to me, when your #1 indie developer wants to branch out for more revenue, I can only guess they figured sales of Mutant Mudds on the 3DS have peaked.

The only way to renew interest in the game is to feature it again or bundle it with VVVVVVV , CaveStory or a future 2D platformer in a sale.

Why Nintendo won't do this is frustrating, They need to line up their app store for Wii U, but post Xmas, it seems like North American and European eshops are back to sleepwalking their way through the year again.

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