This week we've been publishing an extensive range of Developer Interviews with all of the indie studios that released download-only games at launch on the Wii U eShop. Naturally, there's been plenty to talk about, so some of the Nintendo Life team decided to weigh in with their thoughts.
Joining features editor Tom Whitehead for a chat were reviews editor Mike Mason, retro editor Corbie Dillard and US reviewer Ron DelVillano. Please bear in mind that this conversation took place before this week's download update in North America, so references to a lack of price discounts in the region were accurate at the time and are retained here to keep the right context. There's also some silliness and censored profanity to look out for, too. Enjoy!
Tom: First of all, please introduce yourselves to our lovely readers.
Corbie: I'm Corbie Dillard, Retro Editor for Nintendo Life. Hardcore old school all the way.
Ron: I'm Ron DelVillano, US based reviewer and team stud.
Mike: I'm Mike Mason, Reviews Editor and Funky Barn specialist.
Tom: And I'm Tom, the features editor who'll be winging it and making up questions as I go...
OK, so what was your very first reaction when you loaded up the Wii U eShop?
Corbie: Is that before or after I stopped giggling like a little school girl?
Tom: That would be after, Corbs...
Mike: I was impressed by the layout — really easy to spot everything, big images everywhere and not an intrusive advert in sight.
Corbie: I too loved the layout and simple menu system. Very easy to navigate and shop.
Ron: The first thing I noticed was that there was a boat load of content, but I thought navigation was sort of a pain, and I still do.
Mike: It was great to see the games from independent developers slotted right in next to the big publishers' titles.
Tom: That was the first thing that struck me, Mike. Seeing Trine 2 next to ZombiU seemed peculiar, initially, but excellent at the same time.
Mike: Of course, Mario got pride of place at the top as expected...
Corbie: I think just seeing some really good content on day one was exciting.
Tom: In terms of the layout, Ron, what bothers you in particular?
Ron: I like that the indies are mixed in with the retail titles, but it's difficult to spot the eShop specific titles mixed in.
Tom: I do tend to agree with that, it's just game art everywhere, with some non-descript titles dividing things. I'd prefer clearer categories. Corbie/Mike, what are your thoughts on that?
Corbie: I think it could be much more streamlined, but it looks like Nintendo wanted to make it big and visual for more casual users not used to using the online shop.
Mike: There's always room for more categories. At the moment I'm finding eShop-only titles by clicking the 'Under £20' button, but that might not be viable forever.
Tom: I guess this is the first time that Nintendo's catered for a range of retail games alongside download-only titles right from the off. It seems harsh on indies, to me, that they're bundled in directly alongside the big boys.
Mike: I quite like it that way myself, it gives them equal importance.
Corbie: I do too Mike. Gives those indies some showcase time with the big boys. Doesn't make them feel like such an afterthought.
Mike: Some of the eShop only games deserve to be going toe-to-toe with retail games already, so I'm happy to see them there. That said, it would be good to have easier ways to filter things out.
Corbie: I agree, at least as an option.
Tom: I'm actually coming at it from a different angle. I don't only think they should be toe to toe with the big games, but they should be prioritised above them. This is their primary marketplace after all.
Corbie: Exactly Tom. This is their only means of sale, so they need some exposure.
Tom: But that's my point, I feel they're being dominated by recognisable brands. Retail should be relegated to a selection area below download exclusives.
Corbie: Ah, so you want to see the big boys not as prioritized, to give the downloads a chance. That's a good point.
Ron: I actually like that the download-only games are mixed in with the retail titles for the sake of respect being given to them, but I'd also like to see the DL titles given a specific section so they're easier to locate in the eShop.
I actually like that the download-only games are mixed in with the retail titles for the sake of respect being given to them, but I'd also like to see the DL titles given a specific section so they're easier to locate in the eShop.
Mike: I would always prioritise download-only titles in a shop environment like this, but I do find it quite interesting to see the two categories mixed together. If there's a balance and retail games don't swamp out the download titles, I don't mind it as it is.
Ron: Another thing with the layout, I'd also like to see a separate header for demos. I know there are only about three on there right now, but they're not easy to find unless you know exactly what you're looking for.
Mike: I think there is a 'Demo' button on the EU eShop — is there not one on the NA one?
Ron: Mike, where do you see the demo button?
Mike: On the EU shop at least, there are category buttons tucked right away at the bottom of the eShop. They're not easily noticeable, though.
Tom: Let's talk about these early download-only games. Firstly, what's your broad impression of what we've seen so far?
Corbie: I think we've seen a great group of titles with some really amazing gaming experiences in the mix. I've downloaded several titles and so far not a bad one in the bunch. Not as much filler as I expected this early on.
Mike: I'm with Corbie. Having played most of them so far, I'd say that the starting line-up is incredibly strong. Good mix of styles, too.
Ron: I completely agree. The quality of eShop titles so far has been outstanding. I'd obviously love to see more of them now that a month has gone by since launch, but I'm still enjoying what we've got.
Tom: I've only played two of them so far, Little Inferno and Nano Assault Neo, but they're a good example of that variety you're talking about. To see half a dozen strong titles to kick it off is encouraging, much better than the early days of the 3DS eShop.
Mike: I'm kind of worried that I'm going to end up spending a lot of money on the eShop, based on the starting point.
Corbie: Good to see Nintendo getting some quality download titles out this early. But I too would like to see some more.
Tom: Patience is a virtue...
Corbie: That's what people keep telling me!
Ron: I'd also like to see some sales on the North American content just to get more people interested in purchasing them.
Corbie: Especially after people just threw down $300+ for the console.
Tom: That is a strange one, Ron. On the flipside, this week's EU sale irritated me. I bought a three-week old game and its price was confirmed to be slashed the next day. Frustration is definitely the word. Too early for sales?
Corbie: Not with the holidays coming on strong and everyone being broke soon!
Ron: I think it is pretty early for sales, but they're already happening in EU, and you guys haven't even had the console as long as us North Americans!
Corbie: Agreed Ron.
Tom: What do you think, as a fellow European, Mike?
Mike: There were sales on day one, so I'd say it's not too early; it's really good for those early sales boosts and for pushing activity on the eShop as a whole. It's always irritating when that happens, though.
Corbie: But that's always the case with us early adopters. We know that could happen going in.
Mike: It does make me a little cautious about putting money down though, at the same time.
Tom: It was interesting that two opted for sales and 3-4 didn't, I wonder whether the other devs knew that Puddle and Trine 2 were coming in with their own special discount category on day one in the EU store?
Mike: I doubt it, otherwise everybody would have been getting on it I reckon!
Tom: Exactly. I also agree with Mike’s earlier point, I'm cautious about buying Mighty Switch Force, in case it gets reduced next week.
Mike: The impression I get from developers is that it's an 'ask and you'll get' situation for European sales, not something that Nintendo offered to everybody as a starting package; hence Chasing Aurora and Little Inferno hopping on sales a few weeks later after seeing the placement of Trine 2 and Puddle on the front page.
Corbie: Just depends on how badly you want it and how fast. There's always the chance that these games will get discounts in the near future, especially with these indie developers needing to get sales.
Tom: At least in North America gamers know what's going on, though naturally want stuff cheaper! It certainly doesn't seem to be particularly structured or planned in the EU.
Mike: I'm quite happy, because I was waiting for sales of both the games this week...
Corbie: I think the sales would probably be more effective in January after everyone has blown all their money on Christmas shopping; sales typically lag in January.
On page two we talk about pricing, retail downloads, our favourite Wii U eShop games so far and hopes for the Virtual Console.