Talking Point: The Wii U eShop Needs Patience
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
As did the 3DS eShop
In our most recent Talking Point that reflected on a potential shift in Nintendo Direct expectations, we described the attitude among many gamers — including us here at Nintendo Life — that demands new content as quickly as possible, a relentless ongoing compulsion for more news and games than we can handle. It's human nature, but that doesn't make it correct or reasonable, so we thought we'd tackle the perception in some areas that the Wii U eShop has somewhat ground to a halt since the system launched in mid-late November.
With each passing Nintendo Download update that provides 3DS or DSi downloads but no new Wii U content, enquiries about why that's the case often surface. News this week of delays to Toki Tori 2 and Cloudberry Kingdom don't exactly help matters, adding to an impression that content for the Wii U eShop is slow out of the gate. On the surface this frustration at a perceived lack of movement on the Wii U eShop, apart from a much anticipated Rayman Legends demo, is understandable. And yet, when compared to the initial launch and level of content on the 3DS eShop, the new home console equivalent is in a far stronger position.
The 3DS eShop launch seems like an appropriate comparison, and this isn't the feature to delve off into deeper issues about Nintendo's offerings in comparison to rival systems and, whisper it, smartphone and tablet competitors. Nintendo is still going its own — relatively traditional — way, with a licensing system that gives it significant control over content and scheduling. That doesn't stop games being sold that are downright bad, of course, but the cost of entry for developers and the interaction between both parties is far greater than on some other services. That's not to say Nintendo's not evolving, with the Wii U store loosening some restrictions to allow developers greater control over pricing and the ability to determine promotional activities.
And so to the 3DS eShop, let's recap some key facts about the service. The most important point is that it missed the launch of the system by over a month, arriving as part of a major system update. When it arrived it included Pokédex 3D and 3D Classics: Excitebike as free downloads, partly as compensation for the delay actually delivering the platform. In addition it introduced its own Virtual Console and included much of the DSiWare back catalogue and most of its new releases, though in the early days some titles seemed to fail to make the jump to the new platform. Notably, 3DS-exclusive downloads were thin on the ground — in Europe there were just four new titles released between 7th June and 20th October, with over a month between some releases. The Virtual Console did weigh in with a share of Game Boy titles, in particular, but when you consider that three of the new releases were actually in the 3D Classics range, they were slim pickings for those seeking new experiences.
It was in November and December 2011, five to six months after the service launched, that a batch of high-quality must-have titles emerged onto the scene — Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive!, Zen Pinball 3D, Pushmo/Pullblox and Mighty Switch Force! all made good impressions, with two of them published by Nintendo. After a diet of Virtual Console updates — not all of them memorable — and some sporadic new titles, the Holiday season brought a glut of intriguing downloads within a short space of time. The Q1 period for 2012 brought more downloadable goodies, and the release schedule for the service from Spring 2012 onwards shows new releases, sometimes two or three at a time, arriving almost every week. Some are forgettable and have incurred the wrath of our reviews team, but others have been high quality games worthy of strong recommendations. This Holiday season brings its own big-hitters, with our Crimson Shroud review awarding a 9/10, and many expecting good things of Nintendo-published Hydroventure: Spin Cycle — known as Fluidity: Spin Cycle in North America — as well as Nnooo's escapeVektor. After a stuttering start, the 3DS eShop has had a solid year with some excellent games and a consistent flow of new options on a weekly basis.
So, what about the Wii U eShop? Well, it's certainly had a better start than its 3DS namesake, with the system's day one update meaning that it's available right out of the gate. It's offering up industry standards such as retail downloads, though only one demo prior to this week, but has also started off with a number of download-only titles — none of which are classics revived by Nintendo. In fact, the big N is nowhere to be found in the launch line-up, with six individual developers kicking the service off worldwide; the only exception is Puddle, currently only available in Europe. The titles on offer aren't exactly samey ports or remakes either, with each offering a diverse and — judging from the reaction of our reviewers so far — enjoyable experience. While Trine 2: Director's Cut is an attention-grabbing multi-platform release, all except Puddle are exclusive to the Wii U eShop or, in the case of Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition, an expanded spruced-up version of a 3DS eShop exclusive. That's a lot of gaming that can only be found on Wii U.
Another multi-platform port, Zen Pinball 2, is due this month, while a couple of other releases such as the delayed Toki Tori 2 are on the way. The fact that, for our money, there aren't any duds in the line-up so far shows that there's plenty on offer to satisfy various gaming sensibilities. We also have no idea what Nintendo's bringing to the service yet, but we can be sure that it'll throw its weight into its home console eShop in the coming year, just as it did on 3DS.
Unless Nintendo is roping us along ahead of some surprises — not entirely out-with the realms of possibility — then there may be a lull in the Wii U eShop in the early part of 2013. Yet for all of the concerned murmurings that surrounded the 3DS store in its early months, it's now evolved into a strong platform with a comprehensive library of games. Development cycles mean that new releases don't arrive overnight, or certainly not good ones, and at this stage we obviously don't know about all projects currently in the works for next year; we also know that a Virtual Console will arrive eventually. Perhaps the 3DS eShop precedent should give us hope, and we should also acknowledge that the Wii U store has started strongly.
So once again, and against many of our better instincts, patience is perhaps needed. When the next download update without a Wii U eShop title rolls around let's remember some of these facts, and be grateful that the new platform's off to a better start, arguably, than its 3DS predecessor.
Next week we're planning to bring you some interviews exploring the Wii U eShop launch. In the meantime, let us know what you think about the platform's beginnings in the comments below.