While short term recovery is very much on the agenda for the Wii U, its medium and long-term prospects are also important for the big N. Naturally that revolves around games, as Nintendo will aim to supplement its first and second-party projects with third-party blockbusters and, perhaps more so, a dynamic range of software on the eShop.
Nintendo, like its rivals, has been making a major play for the hearts and minds of smaller developers and download-only specialists in recent times. After a year or so of keeping its more relaxed, supportive terms locked down to word of mouth from developers themselves, the company has recently been making more public noise to show that it, like Microsoft and Sony, it's opening doors. This includes Nintendo's deal with Unity — one of the most widely-used engines by download developers — to offer free tools to those working on the Wii U. Here's what Nintendo of America's head of business development, Dan Adelman, had to say in the topic during a recent interview with Destructoid.
Normally, you have to pay twice. You have to buy Unity Pro, and then once you ship a game, you have to pay for a license to ship for the different platforms, so we did a deal with Unity so they can get the development tools for free and they don't have to pay any license fees. Really trying to make sure that their break-even point, the financial risk should be so minimal that, you know, why wouldn't they just bring it out to as many platforms as possible?
For Adelman, part of his job is to also spread the word about the quality of many download games, emphasizing that less expensive doesn't have to mean less enjoyable.
That's kind of my personal mission in life these days. If you talk to someone outside of the gaming industry, someone who doesn't necessarily follow [or] read all the blogs and keep up with the latest news, a lot of them are really unaware of a lot of these games. They've never heard of them, don't know that they even exist. So right now, it's a little bit of a niche audience of people who follow all of these games.
But I'm personally convinced that if you get these games into people's hands and they try them, they'll be shocked. They'll be surprised at how good these games are and say, 'I had no idea you could get these amazing games for $15, $20, $10 sometimes.' So I spend all of my time playing indie games; frankly, it's been a while since I played a full retail game just because there's so much great stuff out there. That probably says more about me than it does about anything else.
So far, so forward thinking, though one area where Nintendo is still somewhat old-school is in its account system, where download purchases are tied to hardware. In the present day most platforms typically save your content and records to an account in the cloud, allowing quick and easy transferring of content in the event of a machine breaking down or, alternatively, being switched for another model. With the continuing absence of Wii U to Wii U transfers, the idea of switching models is unpalatable for those that have downloaded any content; that's a scenario that, to be blunt, is unacceptable in 2013.
Dan Adelman didn't have any update on this, but did state that the teams in Japan that work on eShop software were very aware of the demand for these unified accounts.
We don't have anything new to announce, unfortunately, other than we've definitely heard that feedback many times from both inside and outside the company. It's definitely something that we're very much aware of. All development for the infrastructure really happens out of Japan, so we've kind of communicated this need in the market, and they're very much aware of it and working towards really just always improving the eShop.
In terms of how developers or consumers are impacted by it, I've definitely read a lot of frustrations from consumers. I actually haven't heard it too much from developers — it just doesn't come up as much in conversation, or if it does come up, it's usually from a standpoint of them also being a consumer as well as a developer. But I have never heard a developer say, 'I'm interested in making games for the eShop, but because of this account system, I really don't feel comfortable doing that.' That hasn't seemed to be a barrier at this point.
We are due a major system update for the Wii U in the coming weeks or months, a final date is yet to be given. It should be getting rather close, and if Nintendo can implement an account system it will alleviate issues of switching Wii U hardware, which may be worthwhile with the 32GB model getting a discount, alongside a special edition system for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.
How important is a unified and more flexible account system to you, and do you agree with Dan Adelman in terms of the quality that download-only games can offer?