This is an important week for game developers of all sizes, as the Game Developer's Conference (GDC) gets underway in San Francisco. Nintendo will naturally have important members of the team on the scene, taking the opportunity to weigh up trends, discussion points and, most importantly, meet and discuss the industry with developers.
One figure that will be there is Dan Adelman, manager of business development at Nintendo of America. While that title may not explain much on its own, in practice he's a figurehead in working with small developers and studios to bring their games to the 3DS and Wii U eShop platforms, a role he began back in the days of WiiWare. With download games being an increasingly competitive marketplace, he's one of a number of key figures shaping Nintendo's strategies to keep its platforms moving forward and improving.
Ahead of GDC getting into full-swing, Adelman has spoken to Gamasutra about Nintendo's download platforms, while also taking the chance to clarify and refute some claims that cast a poor light on the services in the eyes of some developers. Three key issues from the WiiWare generation, or perhaps misconceptions about the current platforms, were tackled directly by Adelman — definitive clarification was given on the requirements to become an approved developer, confirmation that an office address in no longer needed, and a clear statement that country of residency does not affect making games available in NoA (Nintendo of America) or NoE (Nintendo of Europe) regions:
Yes, they [indies or individuals] do need to become licensed Nintendo developers, since they will need access to our development tools. It's actually pretty easy to become a licensed developer. We really have only a few requirements to sign up as a licensed developer with Nintendo. The most notable ones are that you have to have some experience making games, you have to be able to keep any confidential materials like dev kits secure and you have to form a company. None of these should be prohibitive to any indie developer.
...So that second requirement — the ability to keep confidential materials secure — was originally defined in terms of an office that was separate from the home. Back when that rule was created, that seemed to be an appropriate way of defining things.
As you point out, more and more people are working from home, and we recognize that developers are forming virtual teams around the world. I know we've shied away from talking about these things publicly in the past, so I'm glad that I can officially confirm that the office requirement is a thing of the past.
...Anyone from any country can make their games available on the eShop within the NOA and NOE region — i.e., pretty much everywhere outside of Japan.
Adelman also explained why the WiiWare sales threshold — a cause of controversy for developers that failed to earn any money — was originally in place, but confirmed that it's been long since dropped.
Let me give you a sense of the thought process behind the threshold in the first place. Even as far back as the early WiiWare days, we allowed developers to forgo the need to hire an intermediary publisher to get their content on our system. We didn't believe that Nintendo should screen game concepts. That should be up to the developer who's making the investment. Instead, we wanted to have a mechanism that would encourage developers to self-police their own game quality.
The threshold was thought to be a convenient way to go about it. Unfortunately, some great games that just didn't find an audience wound up being penalized. So for all systems after WiiWare — DSiWare, Nintendo 3DS eShop, and Wii U eShop, we decided to get rid of the thresholds altogether. Developers receive revenue from unit 1.
The over-riding theme of the interview is a focus on making life as easy as possible for smaller developers to publish on the eShop platforms. It's explained that development kits aren't prohibitively expensive (a Wii U dev kit's cost is comparable to a "high-end PC"), development tools are being improved to allow seamless integration of engines such as Unity with Wii U-specific functions, and developers have a single point of contact to typically receive answers to enquiries within 24 hours. All of these efforts, and more updates and development tools in the pipeline, are with the goal of encouraging smaller developers, along with the creativity they can bring to the table.
To me, one of the best things about the indie scene is its willingness to try out new ideas and take risks. If someone is attempting something that has never been tried before, I want to do everything I can to support that. Little Inferno is a great example of that — a game about buying things and burning them! When Kyle Gabler from Tomorrow Corporation told me about the idea a few years ago, my response was that I loved the fact that I could not imagine what that game would turn into. As an industry, we need more of that!
And let's not forget about Unkle Dill, the dancing pickle in Runner 2. So very, very awesome.
We do recommend checking out the full interview if you want to read more details, and if you missed it during the Holiday season you can also check out our very own extensive interview with Dan Adelman.