News Article

Talking Point: The Wii U eShop Could be a Developer's Dream

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Nintendo hands over the reins

When it comes to download game platforms, Nintendo's had to evolve rapidly. The arrival of the DSi and Wii online stores brought the famous company into the realm of the download market for the first time; both services have produced a number of top-notch gaming experiences, and in some cases proved to be the making of small, independent development studios. Of course, as early steps into the market both of these services had flaws, some due to the limitations of the respective systems, and others a result of Nintendo policies that were, perhaps, stringent and difficult for developers to work around.

Nintendo has shown a habit of continual improvement, however, as the 3DS eShop has demonstrated. The painful file size limitation of DSiWare software was lifted for the new system's download exclusives, no doubt enabled by the improved technology and flexibility to play games directly from an SD card. That lifted some shackles for developers, which has brought us some high quality games that also come with meaty file sizes — Mighty Switch Force! is a notable example. We've had developers such as Shin'en Multimedia tell us directly that the 3DS eShop is a "big step forward", while sharing its hope that the progress will continue to Wii U's platform. For plenty of developers, the possibilities of the download markets are obvious, and Nintendo is gradually making changes that ensures its systems are attractive options.

As expected, the Wii U eShop — as the branding suggests — follows some of the precedents set by its 3DS forbear. For one, we still use real money to buy games, rather than dreaded Nintendo Points, and the layout has undoubted similarities. Of course, it has a big TV and touchscreen to work with, so the structure promises to be more enjoyable to use, over time, while content-wise it's come out of the gate with five intriguing download-only titles and an extensive range of retail options. Add in neat touches such as ditching the mysterious memory "blocks" in favour of a straight-up file size in MB, and we have a platform that is full of potential.

The user experience will evolve and, in all likelihood, improve with future system updates. Content is king, however, which is why it's heartening to see a thoroughly solid-looking launch line-up, but more importantly positive words from Trine 2 developer Frozenbyte have brought to light vital improvements in the publisher/Nintendo relationship. Speaking to IGN, marketing manager Mikael Haveri explained that developers were being given greater power and independence with their content, notably with pricing.

That's what we love about the new eShop. We have the power to price our products as we please, with just some basic guidelines from the big guys. The step to this is purely from Nintendo’s side and they clearly see that [their] previous instalments have not been up to par. We can set our own pricing and actually continuing on that by setting our own sales whenever we want. It is very close to what Apple and Steam are doing at the moment, and very indie friendly.

The previous policy of Nintendo setting pricing is clearly an area that Frozenbyte is pleased to avoid, and it's the promise of publishers being able to run their own sales that's enticing. The 3DS eShop has seen some sale periods, often with one sale item per week, but it seems possible that we'll see an expansion of this on Wii U.

Of course, there are likely to be a number of necessary limitations. We can't imagine that Nintendo will allow a race to the bottom to occur with eShop pricing, with publishers outdoing each other with increasingly cheaper offerings. It's quite possible that the "basic guidelines" referenced by Haveri mean just this, that certain limits are in place. If this is the case then it seems perfectly sensible, as Nintendo will want to maintain its policy that games have a value, and that throwing downloads at consumers for pennies and cents, as happens on Android and Apple devices, simply won't be sustainable. The launch prices, ranging from $9.99 to $19.99, reinforce this, as they're all solid prices that rest in increments of $5. There was no developer pitching a day one download at $0.99, effectively undermining the value of their own game to chase more downloads and making the others seem too expensive.

Yet still, developers can set the bar, which is only right as they'll know their games better than anyone else and will have instincts in terms of what their value should be. The empowerment of indie developers goes further still, with Haveri also explaining that Nintendo's told them that there are no basic payments for each patch or game update, suggesting that frequent updates will be allowed "almost as much as we want".

He described this as "huge" for developers, and it's easy to see why. A high profile example of a game suffering from patch fees is Fez on Xbox Live Arcade. The developer, Polytron, had produced a patch to fix various bugs in the game, yet it was discovered that it corrupted a small percentage of gamer's save files — it was a big seller, so plenty were affected. Fez owners were told to avoid this update due to the issue and it was withdrawn, yet it re-appeared weeks later with the save corruption issue still present. The developer stated that it would have cost them "tens of thousands" of dollars to re-certify a new patch with Microsoft, which was considered too expensive.

As you can imagine, that caused great consternation for gamers that wanted an improved version of the game but risked destroying their save data. Both Polytron and Microsoft were criticised, yet based on Haveri's comments this shouldn't be an issue that arises on Wii U. It's common that games aren't absolutely perfect when launched, it's a fact of the industry, but committed and conscientious developers will have the means to improve the experience over time. With indie developers working on tight budgets, the only constraints will be on time and staff, and its refreshingly open of Nintendo to remove the barriers of excessive fees.

The policy on pricing and patches may only affect us in terms of getting the occasional discounted game or downloading some updates, but the potential impact on developers could be significant. Nintendo's in, arguably, the toughest gaming marketplace we've known with its download offerings. Developers have options with PC platforms, Android, iOS, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network; that's a lot of competition. Yet it's steps like these, that match or perhaps exceed the options on other platforms, that could win smaller developers over while also encouraging loyalty in those already on board.

It'll all help, and as a site that likes the concept of download games enough to review every single one, we can't help but be optimistic about the possibilities.

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User Comments (23)

Squashie

#1

Squashie said:

There's so many great indie-games out there, and hopefully this attracts more of them to the Wii U. Fingers crossed for a Minecraft release on the Wii U eShop!

Lalivero

#2

Lalivero said:

"Nintendo has shown a habit of continual improvement, however, as the 3DS eShop has demonstrated. The painful file size limitation on DSiWare was lifted, no doubt enabled by the improved technology and flexibility to play games directly from an SD card."

Wait...are you talking about the Dsiware limit on the 3DS or about 3DSware being allowed to be pretty sizeable in comparison? I wish they allowed the former to be playable off of the SD card because the space reserved for it in the system is severely limited.

ThomasBW84Admin

#3

ThomasBW84 said:

@Chriiis I've tweaked the sentence, as I meant that file size limitations were lifted for 3DS eShop downloads, which had no impact on DSiWare.

FiveDigitLP

#5

FiveDigitLP said:

@3Dash
I used to want Fez, but I got so sick of the lead developer's egotistical comments that I decided to ditch the idea of buying the game.

pntjr

#7

pntjr said:

Great read! Hopefully content produced for PSN and XBL(A) would be considered for the NN. We'll see.

shingi_70

#8

shingi_70 said:

I like the sound of nintendo the indie king.

Also fez is an amazing game, but I'll. Never buy a phil fish game again.

Ernest_The_Crab

#9

Ernest_The_Crab said:

@FiveDigitLP @Sony_70 Is he really as bad as everyone makes him out to be?

I like the idea of the developers having control over pricing and sales. Perhaps we'll see a big sale next week for Black Friday or during the holiday season.

rjejr

#10

rjejr said:

I think this could be a win-win for developers who have been making 99c games for touchscreen Apple and Android devices who can now market those games to a larger audience. see $30 Angry Birds Trilogy. There will be no race to the bottom on home consoles, though PS3 does have $2.99 minis, but I see them more as the exception than the rule.

brooks83

#11

brooks83 said:

Only thing that would make eShop better now is get the VC games compatible with the Wii U's OS so we can buy them from the eShop and not have to play them in Wii mode.

SCAR392

#12

SCAR392 said:

Great system so far. Anyone who got a Deluxe bundle, and noticed you couldn't register your copy, it will sho up afer 7 days of linking your account to Club Nintendo. I e-mailed them to ask why there was no clode indluded. My family is really liking the console, and can't stop playing Nintendo Land. I was pretty pissed and confused about the transferring Wii to Wii U. The proccess is ridiculous, but I do understand the mesures they go through to avoid illegal copying and safety for themselves in the business. Miiverse is pretty vool, and my brother lies drawing weird things on the post section. My system has already frozen twice, but it probably because I'm leaving it on a long time, and doing multiple things at once, so I do ope an update fixes this! I bought the Deluxe, w/ NSMBU, and Black Ops 2. Black Ops 2 on Wii U is the best version, especially if you dont like splitscreen, and play first payer on the gamepad. I was really surprised to see most of the launch titles on the eShop, and happy because thats my prefered way of buying games. I also got the Turtle Beach Wii U headset, so I'm pretty content with my console!

Slapshot

#13

Slapshot said:

Glad to see that Nintendo is finally getting up to speed, but there's nothing new here, seeing how all of this is available on other platforms and has been for years now.

While Wii U might not have file size restrictions, the lack of a significant HDD is a restriction and Wii U owners will see that they'll have to shell out the cash to upgrade it because of it. HD downloads are big!

Sam_Loser2

#16

Sam_Loser2 said:

I really want Fez on Wii U. Minecraft is so far behind on everything but PC I'll just stick to that.

TrueWiiMaster

#18

TrueWiiMaster said:

Some of the problems mentioned with the Wii Shop Channel seem unfounded. I mean, what was dreaded about Wii points? They even converted directly to pennies (in the USA anyway). And what was the real problem with using blocks for storage space? It might not have been a real unit, but you knew exactly how many blocks you had left and exactly how many blocks each game took. I'm looking forward to this new eshop being awesome, but I think the Wii Shop is all too often wrongly attacked.

TrueWiiMaster

#19

TrueWiiMaster said:

@Malic
The Turtle Beach headset's for sale at Gamestop and Best Buy for $40 and $50 respectively. They might be different, but they look pretty much the same to me.

retro_player_22

#20

retro_player_22 said:

Man how I wish Pier Solar HD come to the Wii U eShop. It would be the only game I would pay full price for.

SCAR392

#21

SCAR392 said:

@Malic There is a $20 Nintendo made headset that does what it needs to, and there's the Turtle Beach Wii U headset(licenced by Nintendo), for $50. I got the $50 Turtle Beachs, and I'm pretty satisfied with them. They offer the best stereo quality sound on a headset thus far for Wii U. You can also use any mic that plugs into the headphone jack. I heard people using mainly their cellphone earbud and mic that cam with their iPhone or Galaxy phone, so any headphones will work(which I pretty much already knew before launch, so I was confused why people were complaining... oh well). Anyways, I reccomend the Turtle Beachs over the Nintendo ones if you plan on playing online alot in the future. I must warn anyone who buys these though: You can't hear the sound ONLY from the headset, if you are you have hthe TV on, and are using the gamepad as your main screen. If the TV is on, you will only hear the voice chat and and some menu dings and bells of that sort. I still reccomend them none the less, and there probably will be a update option where you can hear the sound through the headphones only in the future, whether it be a whole system update in the audio section(most likely), or for COD(which I've been playing), where you can send the sound only to the headset and the TV will mute. Hope this helps headset wanters.

SCAR392

#22

SCAR392 said:

Sorry for such a late post. I was having too much fun playing COD online. It's my first COD game I've played, and I've heard from people online that it is the superior version of the game(reall? haha). It's still good to hear...

@TrueWiiMaster I would go to Best Buy for the Wii U Turtle Beachs. As far as I know, Gamestop doesn't have the Nintendo licensed ones, and only the XBOX 360 and PS3 ones, which I'm not sure use a headphone jack to plug in. The Wii U ones say Wii U on the box, and are obviously Nintendo licensed, and packaged in the same style as the other Wii U accessories. I really like them, and are the best headphones even w/o a mic, that I've ever had. I'm not a big audiophile when it comes to headphones/sets, but I think they are really good.

sinalefa

#23

sinalefa said:

Good news. I am pretty sure some prices scared off potential sales of many nice wiiware games that deserved a chance. Sales are always a good thing for both developers and consumers.

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