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Talking Point: The "Indie Spotlight" Was A Bright Point of Nintendo Direct, But More is Needed

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Both sides of the Atlantic should make noise for the Wii U eShop

Last week's major Nintendo Direct, by which we mean the full-fat multi-game broadcast on 7th August, served up the odd surprise and some release dates, with plenty also left in the tank for future presentations. What was certainly surprising, and one of the most popular news articles on the broadcast here on Nintendo Life, was the Nintendo of Europe sizzle reel of upcoming Wii U eShop titles. In a little over two-and-a-half minutes we saw a number of titles coming to the platform, and it was the perfect appetizer for under-fed download fans.

The trailer was surprising for a number of reasons. First of all, it featured a lot of titles that were previously unannounced and completely under the radar. Not many will be exclusive to the Wii U, but they represent early signs of the potential influx of Unity-based games, the engine that's enthusiastically supported by Nintendo with free tools available for developers. As a result games that have been designed for tablets, smartphones, PC and other consoles are clearly being adapted for Wii U, and this trailer helped to demonstrate that, for all of the talk about these development tools bringing smaller studios to the fore, we finally have evidence to support the claim.

If you haven't seen it yet, the trailer is below.

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And we come to our second point — if you were focused on the North American broadcast and not following post-Nintendo Direct coverage, you may not have seen a lot of these games at all. This was included in Satoru Shibata's portion of the European presentation, which is a positive in that it shows an exciting number of games coming from European and Australian developers, but surprising in that there was no North America equivalent. With the exceptional work of Dan Adelman often at the vanguard of promoting Nintendo's download platforms, it's surprising that the team responsible for the NA regional presentation didn't opt to show some of the rewards of that work. Adelman has spoken positively of a potential 20-30 games coming to the eShop this year, and this video shows some that may be part of that list, but the absence of a sizzle reel for the North American contributions on the way seemed surprising, to say the least.

Whatever the decision-making or logistical considerations behind the absence of such a video in North America, it nevertheless brings us to the over-riding point — Nintendo needs to make more noise about download-only games coming to the Wii U. We've heard of Nintendo "doing the right thing without making a big fuss about it" in supporting download developers, but we would suggest the company shouldn't play the role of the quiet and nice platform holder, but rather both confident and nice. Sony has earned a lot of good press and credit by shouting repeatedly about its PlayStation Network agreements being favourable for developers, and Nintendo should make the exact same points. It'd be pleasing for good deeds alone to earn the credit they deserve, but in the modern industry it seems that doing the right thing and using persistent PR with noise-making are both required.

Our third major point, and why more should be made of these download-only games for the Wii U, is the potential importance of these titles for the system. Much has already been made of the value of small studios increasing in the current market, as modern development tools and expertise have transformed download games to, arguably, a higher standard of quality than that seen 4-5 years ago. We're talking broadly, of course, and there's always been a mix of the excellent and abysmal, but we'd argue that many $10-$20 games of the current era stand up well to major retail standards. The approaches and genres are often different, but some download games have become success stories, commercially and critically, because they're expertly crafted, creative and playful in a way that many big-budget triple-A games are not.

Download games often show less fear, and more willingness to be simple and focused, while also trying new ideas or bending established mechanics. It's easy to see why "indie" developers are seen by some to have such a notable stake in the balance of gaming power, as they can provide experiences simply not found on a full-priced retail disc. While these download games are unlikely to have the power to sell a system on their own, especially as many are multi-platform, they arguably contribute a great deal to retaining existing customers and changing the "message" around the Wii U. As retail shelves fill with the major releases for the system later in the year, having a dynamic Wii U eShop will also play its part in promoting a vibrant, active gaming system that consumers want to own.

A challenge for systems, as we saw with the Wii in its last year on the market, is not just initial sales — which are hugely important — but maintaining relevance as months and years pass. Consistent game releases are key, and in the HD big-budget era of retail games, where lengthy development times can be the norm, it can be the download market that fills gaps and keeps a console ticking over week to week. As the user-base grows, the Wii U's fortunes will also rely on strong software revenues over a consistent period, and filling a 4-6 week period between major high street games will be the responsibility of the eShop, and by extension the teams that support and encourage smaller developers on the platform.

Satoru Iwata has spoken of targeting a "critical mass" of Wii U system sales to change the message and bring positivity to the Wii U brand. A criticial mass of games seems equally important, so that those picking up the console feel that there are endless exciting options to consider. It seems that, with all of the work Nintendo has undertaken to attract developers, results are coming; European and Australian developers are clearly on board, and Dan Adelman of Nintendo of America has been clear that the same is the case in North America. The Wii U is becoming a part of the popular "Indie scene", gradually, while the system's capabilities and GamePad can give its versions of games an edge.

Yet Nintendo is happy to do this work "without making a big fuss about it". We say make a fuss, show off, bombard us with sizzle reels and developer insights, show why multiple companies are joining the Wii U eShop. Humility can be important, but so can promotional activity and positive press. Don't let Sony and even Microsoft — after more u-turns — seize the crowns of download software champions unopposed; show why the Wii U matters for fans of what could be some of the most innovative, exciting games of the coming generation.

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User Comments (26)



Yorumi said:

I agree nintendo could do more to promote these games and they certainly should. However, I think the current state of gamers can't escape blame either. You should need a multi-million dollar marketing budget to get someone to buy something. Not saying marketing isn't necessary but would it kill the people complaining about games to lift one single finger to go out and find some?

It's just sad when in the broader media you can predict review scores by the size of the marketing budget. Whenever someone complains about games they always list the same tiny few games, which coincidentally also have had huge marketing campaigns. I sure don't have trouble finding games but it's probably because I'm not waiting for some marketing firm to tell me what to buy.



ThomasBW84 said:

@Nintenjoe64 By all means share why you feel that's the case with us via the contact form or everyone in the forums, we just try to tackle relevant topics that have points to consider.

In this case, there have been some various interviews and comments recently talking about Nintendo's good work with small developers, but it's advertised so little. The absence of a Wii U eShop indie sizzle reel in the NA ND seemed surprising, too, considering how well the NL community responded to the EU equivalent.



unrandomsam said:

@Yorumi It is even more difficult if people consider stuff niche (That used to be decided after the game was released not during the review).

Lots of stuff that is reviewed 5 or 6 out of ten in genre's I like that is basically a modernised perfectly implemented "Game-like" game whereas the ones that don't even play right with flash graphics get rated highly.



Sceptic said:

Maybe first they need to upgrade their shop to an account based system before they make any noise at all.



cornishlee said:

Edge published an article similar in tone to this a few weeks ago. The PS4 indie publicity, and the way that it has been unquestioningly lapped up, has irked somewhat when Nintendo and the Wii U get so little credit.



Yorumi said:

@Sceptic it basically is, purchases are stored on their databases with your nnid, they're linked to a club nintendo account if you choose to do that as well. They'll transfer anything you need in case of a lost, stolen, or broken system(and if it's breaking so often this matters how someone manages to keep discs around is beyond me). Really about the only thing you can't do is take your hard drive to someone else's wiiU and log in. Considering there's so much misinformation being spread around about digital sales I bet with an account system people would just find some reason to hate that.



Metaknight_3Raw said:

How would you prove your 3DS is lost? I understand you have to prove it was stolen with a police report but loss would be hard to prove.



TwilightV said:

Maybe it's possible that NOA will get a Direct that focuses solely (or mainly) on indie games at some point in the future?



Nintenjoe64 said:

I like Nintendo Direct but I am the only person I know who watches them. If Nintendo does too many it will make them have less impact on the major news sites so things like the (largely ignored) Indie Spotlight will have even less people finding out. Nintendo could afford to spend Sony levels of hype money and I sometimes think that's what they need to do with new IP and certain games they don't want to fail but then I think back to the Vita having 2 months of blanket advertising around xmas and still nobody wanted it..

They definitely need to self-promote the good they are doing but it's better to let it speak for itself through quality of indy games on Wii U than for them to spend loads of money advertising stuff that people might just end up not buying.



Yorumi said:

@Metaknight_3Raw I would imagine they just change the unique system id in their database. I suppose you could manage to copy one or two systems through outright deceit but it wouldn't take nintendo long to figure out what's going on.

The funny though about all of this is your digital games are actually safer than physical games. If you lose the disc you don't get it back, if it's stolen, broken,whatever there's absolutely no way to get it back. It's not that I'm against an account system, they should have one, and a linked one(buying a game on the 3ds that's also available on wiiU should give you both or a discount or something). It's just that there's so many scare tactics out there that just annoy me.



Sir420 said:

@ThomasBW84 It really is surprising because showing the sizzle real makes so much sense, but at the same time I don't have any expectation of advertising from NA based on past experience. I stay very informed of Wii U news, but my Wii U owning friends know hardly anything about new titles, let alone those yet to come. I'm hoping that will change, but I'm not holding my breath.



b23cdq said:

@Yorumi "they're linked to a club nintendo account if you choose to do that as well"
If you even have that possibility in the first place...



ICHIkatakuri said:

It seems like for the first time ever NOE is trying to do right by European consumers, whether that's being more aggressive in its Nintendo directs to make the system look more appealing or with a few recent titles beating American releases to the shops by a week or two. For the first time since I bought a Nintendo system (1987) I feel like they are returning my devotion with what I want most, more games!



ICHIkatakuri said:

Oh and I disagree, indie games can be system sellers, I was trying to decide on if I wanted a Wii U just before launch and the reported change in stance on how indie developers were being treated by Nintendo made me buy on day one. I understand the value of indie devs trying something new and have a 250gb Xxbox HAD with only 3gb of space left to prove it, no retail downloads to be found bar red dead redemption. I am an indie game freak, I love steam for their aggressive pricing and indie focus, so mixing that in with Nintendo first party games and the VC sounded like heaven! I have backed this with my wallet too and have bought every download only game on the eshop. Honestly I never thought I'd be able to say "I've been playing spin the bottle with the kids"..... without getting my house burned down.



banacheck said:

Don't let Sony and even Microsoft — after more u-turns

PS4 what u-turns?

Its good to see Nintendo finally join the indie race.



element187 said:

"for all of the talk about these development tools bringing smaller studios to the fore, we finally have evidence to support the claim."

Wait, did you need proof that this what was going on behind the scenes? I mean if Nintendo said they are courting indie devs hard with handing out free dev kits with Unity licenses, that tells me they are even more serious about indie games than even Sony... last I checked, Sony still charges an arm and leg for dev kits, even for indie developers.

You don't just hand out $5000 in free development goodies if you aren't serious about drawing in indie support.



element187 said:

@Sceptic It is an account based system. Perhaps you don't know what you are talking about?

If you call Nintendo help desk and give them your NNID they can tell you every piece of software you purchased. How is that not an account based system? Sounds like you are complaining about purchases being tied to a piece of hardware. Nintendo has contingency and procedures in place to move your purchased software to a replacement piece of hardware.

Perhaps Nintendo doesn't like the way someone can log into their friends xbox and download their purchased software. With Microsoft or Sony's system, you can download your purchased software on as many systems as you wish... you don't think that would be discerning for a company that gets their only revenue from software? Software piracy would be the death knell for NIntendo. Sony and Microsoft have other businesses to absorb it.

I know its hard for gamers to understand how businesses operate and thats its the cool thing today to be contrarian about everything, its cool to bash Nintendo for just about everything under the sun, but there is actual reasons why they do things that other companies don't do. They have a solid reason to prevent software piracy. They have a solid reason for region locking their devices.



Holly said:

When I heard the European direct had a sizzle reel of indie download games, I was more than a little jealous, so yeah, I think Nintendo of America made a slight mistake there. I love being able to download eShop games at prices that retail games just can't touch. So bring on the indie games already, NOA!



kondabasu said:

@element187 @Yorumi Perhaps I'm one of the misinformed, but it's StreetPass and Mii data and (for eShop titles) save games I see as the inconvenience here rather than software itself.

For example, I'm about to buy a 3DS XL. I already have a 3DS. When I'm at home, I prefer the larger screen and don't mind its larger size. On the go, that extra inch is the difference between being able to slip it into my pocket or not. Plus I don't want to damage my brand new XL!

Nintendo's stance on the software itself is understandable, but having no iCloud-like data sync between devices means my dream of using multiple 3DS's won't happen even if I were to suck it up and buy two copies of everything. I'd have to do a full system transfer every night I got home and every morning I left!



bahooney said:

I'm really sick of NOA. It sucks that I'm stuck with them for the time being. I don't even want to deal with how badly things are always run here. "Oh, hey, let's release those Streetpass Plaza DLC games a couple of weeks after the rest of the world gets it." "Tomodachi Collection? Sure, it's lighting the charts on fire in Japan, but ehhhh... let's not release it here." "Indie games? What're those?"



GreatPlayer said:

Tengami is pretty interesting. Wii U already has many good indie games, such as the Cave, Trine 2...



kondabasu said:

@bahooney To be fair, Tomodachi Collection is a Japan-only game, so it seems unfair to blame that on NoA specifically.

Would be nice to have an explanation for the month or so it took the StreetPass Mii Plaza DLC to make it to the States, but I did hear there were some stability issues with the European release, and from what I've seen the American localization is slightly more tailored. (The European titles are kinda bland, for example.)



odd69 said:

well if Nintendo wants quiet that's fine, ill do my own research on whats coming to wiiu ! just atleast announce it and I can do the rest. its called google.

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