News Article

Talking Point: Nintendo's eShop Policies Deserve Both Praise and Attention

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

We break down the known details of eShop publishing

Just recently we reported on announcements made by Nintendo of Europe's Business Development Manager, Ed Valiente, who gave a presentation on eShop publishing at The Indie Games Collective event at the UKIE HQ in London. We picked up on a couple of notable revelations, relating to Miiverse coming to the 3DS "soon", along with potential smartphone Apps at a later date, and also confirmation that there are no paid feature slots on the Wii U eShop.

Aside from those details much had been previously announced in other presentations and interviews, often by Nintendo of America's Dan Adelman or colleagues from that region, yet with plenty of these policies this week was the first time that they'd been shared with the public in Europe. With the details spread across multiple articles in recent months, we thought it'd be worthwhile outlining the core parts of Nintendo's download publishing policies, and also some developer reactions from the European event.

Policies to encourage diverse, quality download content

It's absolutely no secret that Nintendo got some key policies wrong in the Wii and DSi era. While there was some logic to the decisions of the time, revelations of sales thresholds and hardware-driven file size limitations placed challenging restrictions on both of those platforms. Even with sound business reasoning, these policies did little to support or foster developer loyalty, especially with the rise of rival services that were more open and accommodating. The 3DS eShop went some way to alleviate those issues, in the process drawing praise and helping to encourage some diverse offerings from various developers, large and small. In the portable store's early days there was still a degree of rigidity, however, with sales promotions rare and a sense that the storefront was still somewhat static.

The 3DS eShop has improved a good deal from 2012 onwards, however. We've seen the arrival of retail downloads to drive more traffic to the store, an improved dual layered front page and a greater range of promotions to give new life to older releases. The Wii U eShop, since its arrival in November 2012, has arguably taken these improvements further, which are thankfully gradually being supported by more regular download-only releases; that looks set to continue for the remainder of 2013 and into 2014. The front page layout and some of the machinations for actually purchasing games will naturally have aspects that some feel could be improved, but generally we'd suggest it's doing a reasonable job. It gives spotlight support to a mix of small developer's releases and major retail titles, not isolating smaller games in a sub-menu. If you publish on the Wii U eShop, regular viewers will see your game.

We're certainly not suggesting that either eShop is perfect and the finished article, but that also applies to any competitor's marketplace that you'd care to mention, including the iOS App Store or Google Play. Beyond aesthetics, what's vital is that Nintendo has lowered barriers and loosened rules to move with the times, adjusting the eShop platforms from niche stores for dedicated developers familiar with Nintendo, to a legitimate and relatively low-effort option. The recent Wii U eShop sizzle reel showed how a number of developers are stepping onto a Nintendo platform for the first time, highlighting the benefits of inclusive policies.

So what are these policies we're banging on about? Below is a list of terms, benefits and policies of publishing on the eShop, as discussed in briefings by Nintendo of America and, now, Nintendo of Europe.

  • After passing the submission process, developers decide on a release date, price and sale promotions — This was explained to us by various developers in the Wii U eShop's early days, and is hopefully increasingly the case on the 3DS platform. Setting a release date and having flexibility on price is hugely important for developers. Prices can vary per region or even country, promotions can be arranged and free-to-play models are also an option.
  • Publishers receive royalties from the first unit sold, with no threshold — This was an absolute no brainer.
  • Developers can provide updates for their games with no charge — Another no-brainer.
  • Nintendo will provide free promotional download codes & 3DS QR codes — Perfect for distribution to the media or building buzz through contests, Nintendo will apparently even help to distribute codes if developers lack contacts.
  • No office space is required — In the modern world of developers working from home addresses in small — occasionally one person — teams, this is vital in helping studios keep costs low while being able to publish on Nintendo systems.
  • Unity tool-sets and the Nintendo Web Framework — Particularly relevant with the Wii U eShop, content is being attracted courtesy of tailored and free Unity tools available to developers, allowing relatively easy porting processes. The Nintendo Web Framework, for its part, opens to door to HTML5 games, among others, while there's talk of conversion software that will allow almost instantaneous porting from smartphone and tablet platforms.
  • No paid featured slots in Nintendo's eShop, with exposure for games of all levels — As can be proven by a glance at the Wii U eShop after an active update week, games from small publishers receive spotlight treatment alongside retail releases.
  • Devs can self publish without concept approval — Though Nintendo will continue to act as a gatekeeper in an attempt to ensure a degree of quality across the eShop library, the system is setup for developers to release games without third-party publishing support or having a concept approved up front.
  • No demands on exclusivity — The download game market is rapidly evolving to the point that many studios will release on multiple platforms simultaneously, making exclusives relatively rare. We hope Nintendo will invest in and support some exclusives, but it's a positive that no such demands are placed on developers.
  • Nintendo curation policy aims for quality over quantity — This isn't a guaranteed home run, as our occasionally distraught and tormented download review team can attest. Yet developers such as Phil Tossell of Nyamnyam have suggested they believe that's the approach, and Nintendo itself states that it's a goal to maintain solid levels of quality.
  • Using system functionality isn't mandatory — The Wii U and 3DS are both devices with functionality unique in the marketplace. While that can be great for gamers, it can be beyond the scope for developers to tweak games on tight budgets; apparently developers do not have to use these features any more than they want to.
  • Developers can get 'verified' Miis and interact with their game's community in Miiverse on the Wii U, web browser and in future the 3DS and smartphone apps — Direct feedback from gamers is a big deal, so having an integrated social network is a valuable asset. Customer feedback can lead to fixes, patches and tweaks that may not have happened as naturally as before.

It's time to spread the message

A lot of what was written above has been written about in recent times both here on Nintendo Life and in various other places around the web. And yet the message isn't necessarily reaching as many developers as Nintendo would hope, which explains why Nintendo of Europe is now following the example set by Nintendo of America, stepping beyond NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to share these policies. Yet we can't blame developers unaware that the download scene has changed with the 3DS and Wii U, especially if they're cautious of negatives from the Wii and DSi era. With so many platforms offering open doors and multiple publishing options, it's down to Nintendo to spread the word and engage the development community. The company is starting to do this, which is a major positive.

Communication works and changes opinions. Here's a selection of immediate feedback from that recent Indie Games Collective event in London, to illustrate how reaching out to the development community can turn the tide of opinion.

There were few negative posts on the social network around Nintendo's appearance, with just the occasional "about time" comment, which is difficult to counter beyond "yep, you're right". What's clear is that there's a battleground over small developers, with Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Google all major players offering viable platforms. Nintendo is in the game, however, and the more it can spread the message, the stronger the eShop stores can become.

From the web

User Comments (47)



shingi_70 said:

Nice read. Nintendo has been doing a real push to showcase indies on its platform since its two current systems came out. But while Actions speak louder than words I wish nintendo would market their indie support more, I know alot of guys who love the sony indie programs but didn't even realize how awesome Nintendo's support for the scene has been. (I guess its easy when sony has more high profile games).

Kind of wish Nintendo would set up a pub fund of some kind.



Einherjar said:

@WiiDSmoker I bought enough from both eShops but you have a point. Seeing how comfortable it is on sonys PS3 / Vita combo with the shared account system, i wish Nintendo would do the same to the WiiU / 3DS combo. Shared ballance, DL history bound by Account rather than system ID and maybe even a shared VC service.
That would be the next logical step in improving Nintendos online services. Other than that, the 3DS eShop serves its purpose although its a bit unorganized, the WiiU eShop is also a bit unintuitive with its boxed menus at first but it is an excellent and very clean and accessable shop none the less.



shingi_70 said:


I don't mind buying off the 3DS eshop for convenience but the Wii U eshop is more of a deal breaker. (at least for retail games). With 3DS miiverse and eshop web stores coming you have to think that proper accounts are also on the way as well.



Firebird360 said:

@WiiDSmoker I could not agree more. I've got more than one 3ds, I should be able to sign in on either 3ds and have access to all my purchases and my mii progress in streetpass.



Emblem said:

All they need is an account system and realistic prices for some of the older titles (glares at Starfox & Zelda) and it will be awesome.



C-Olimar said:

@Sony_70 I could imagine buying something while out in a Nintendo Zone, then coming home where it's already downloaded to my Wii U. That would be great! Especially with the sometimes excruciating loading times.



kereke12 said:

Nintendo is stepping up! Its about time, can't wait for Miiverse to come out on 3ds! VIVA NINTENDO



Captain_Toad said:

@WiiDSmoker I have been hearing rumors that they are trying to make that happen as soon as miiverse 3DS hits, terminating the friendcode service on the 3ds and putting in Nintendo Network ID's on the 3ds alongside PC's and smartphones..... Woah, suddenly that just became awesome. Though I'll keep my hype reserved for now.

Although there's no denying that the eShop improvements as of late is pretty beneficial.



SubZer023 said:

Nintendo is killin it Right now! ëshop and finally Miiverse for 3ds and Flipnote Studio 3D and Hulu plus aww yea baby lets get it XD



SubZer023 said:

Nintendo is killin it Right now! ëshop and finally Miiverse for 3ds and Flipnote Studio 3D and Hulu plus aww yea baby lets get it XD



Minny said:

I understand people's reservations since there is not an account system found on other consoles. However, as someone who keeps all their consoles and hand-helds, I personally do not have an issue. My Wii broke back in 2011 and I had purchased around 25 VC games. I got sent back a brand new Wii, and due to registering the games via Club Nintendo, I got them all back.

I guess as someone who spent a lot of time in arcades, I view many of the indy titles as simply like popping in quarters at the arcade. I will say the reviews on this site alone for all digital releases has been a superb. I have bought most of the titles with a rating of 8 or above and all have been great. I would have never bought them without this site.

We all know the magic of NIntendo. Yet, the small game developers have quality products as well and I can buy 5-8 of those games for the price of a retail game and get more enjoyment and longer play.

I have spoken to Nintendo of America employees in my area and the one thing they say is how hard it is to convince people about eShop. This is something Nintendo has begun to promote with free downloads, digital codes with new hardware, discounts, etc. Yes, the output of games from Nintendo is slow as molasses, but there is plenty to play if you are willing to buy the memory and the games (I got 50 eShop games on the 3DS).



DreamOn said:

Nintendo's lost huge value as a business over the last few years. They have lost relevance in a handful of ways when you look at how people are enjoying digital entertainment. They have to change. They have to evolve something. This is a good if not the perfect place for them to start. But it's only a start.



Slapshot said:

Nintendo is finally getting up to par with its digital services, I agree, but even with the Indies it still a long way from even par with PSN and XBLA. Many of the most popular indie titles aren't available on Nintendo's services: Limbo, Bastion, Braid, Spelunky, Thomas Was Alone, Dragon Fantasy, Hotline Miami, Papo and Yo, Terraria and Pid,

Nintendo is doing a good job, but unless it can absolutely ensure that the major indie releases are launching on the eShop(s) simultaneously with the other digital platforms, its service will continue to under perform behind its competition.

This is unless Nintendo reaches out to Indies with actual funding to bring exclusive indie titles to the Wii U that take advantage of its unique control/interface options. This is Nintendo's absolute best alternative, in my opinion, seeing how everything else that people are praising it for is practically been standard practice for half a decade from Sony.

Sony's PubFund:

  • matches developmental budget with royalty guarantees
  • self-publishing at no cost
  • developer retains IP
  • developer sets the price
  • developer is free to sell its games on multiple services after the initial exclusivity window has expired
  • free advertising and marketing
  • titles can take advantage of the PS3/Vita cross-play and cross-buy support for dual console releases

Sony has been doing this since 2009.



sinalefa said:

Very glad to hear that they are opening up and I hope they keep improving on these things.



JaxonH said:

Nintendo may be late to the party, but they're there now and that's what counts, regardless of how long Sony or anyone else has been doing it. The past is the past.

I do agree with you about paying for exclusives and games utilizing the consoles' unique features. Sometimes you just gotta pony up. Like Ninja Gaiden 3, Lego City Undercover, Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2, Nintendo made the right call. Publish the game if you have to. Fund it. Pay an exclusivity premium. Do whatever you have to in order to get unique games and exclusives on your console, and any other high profile indie game. Limbo should be on the Wii U, simple as that. Hopefully we'll start to see the pendulum swinging the other way pretty soon...



Peppy_Hare said:

I felt cheated when they asked me to pay for wii downloads again on wiiu (and then lose the download on the original wii to boot).



Trikeboy said:

And companies like EA and Bethesda complain that Nintendo is hard to work with.



MAB said:

@Trikeboy I don't blame Nintendo, I mean how is anyone supposed to work with a face that not even a mother could love ↓
I wouldn't go into work either if this guy was staring at me everyday



Senario said:

@Peppy_Hare Well if you transferred your Wii data to wii U this would be a non issue. Although I wish virtual console games appeared on both the Wii U menu and Wii menu so I don't have to switch to wii mode.



DarkKirby said:

If the eShop had an account system with download anywhere like Steam, I'd be all over digital purchases.

Right now I avoid the eShop unless absolutely necessary.



SnackBox said:

Still need ID user backup. If I happen to drop my 3DS or my Wii U suddenly malfunctions what happens to the hundreds of dollars I've spent which I'm sure has happened to some. This needs to be addressed.



SwerdMurd said:

All I'd need is a easier access to a contact person on the publishing side of Nintendo, or a better system of customer support in that regard, and more robust development / conversion tools. If I worked in Unity one of these would be solved... Still, Nintendo's taken a metric ton of great steps this gen, and I hope they continue!



Williaint said:

They said it would be easier to develop for, when they revealed it...
I'm just glad it's getting out there. Maybe EA will listen to people who have no track record. You know, the Indies.



StarDust4Ever said:

Now they just need to tie our Club Nintendo accounts to a unified global account that transfers seamlessly from one console to another. Wii-U already has this infrastructure. I just want access to my paid content in case my hardware breaks or gets lost/stolen. Oooh, and when this day comes, please award us some free eShop credits for all the VC games that we purchased twice on both Wii/Wii-U and 3DS.



Sceptic said:

As much as I appreciate their opening up the shop to devs like this (nothing to do with the current struggle for survival I'm sure) I'm not investing any more money than I could stand to lose until there's an account based system.

Heck, you can't even change your ID, not even your birth date, you're supposed to delete the account and make a new one. How reassuring is that?



KingEidilleg said:

There really should be an account based system; it's just much more customer friendly. It doesn't stop me from buying from the eShop though. I DO have a problem with the way you have to purchase DLC; not directly from the store, you have to put the game in your 3DS and then you can purchase....if, in the case of Fire Emblem : Awakening, you've reached a certain point in the game. It, admittedly, is not far into the game but still...



odd69 said:

I agree with the account based system, i wonder, i will share this news on my facebook page, probably the only way i know how to spread the message



Znerd said:

I Agree with everything said we need an account system for the wii u eshop and 3ds. If Nintendo wants to get the better of their competition they have to step up.




Let me just say that what Nintendo is doing here is much bigger than a lot of people think. No other console manufacture let's you use HTML5 and JavaScript technologies to code games. This is a huge breakthrough. In fact, not even Apple or Google let you make native games in that language. I think a lot of people are overlooking this. I tried to learn C and struggled, HTML5 on the other hand is so easy to learn. It's about time someone realized there is more to development than those C Languages. Also, HTML5 is still an up and coming technology with no much to look foreword too. This will surely bring down the cost and time it takes to make a game.



element187 said:

@WiiDSmoker they have an account system... if you're going to criticize something you should at least do a little bit of homework before embarrassing yourself....., btw for future reference, when you get your talking points from NeoGAF, they don't always know what they are talking about, when they throw around the term "account system" thats one of those times... In fact most of time they haven't gotten the slightest clue...

Nintendo's account system also known as the Nintendo network has been around for some time and each individual user account is individually identified by their ACCOUNT ID, aka their login ID..... Imagine that, that is the very definition of an account system. Someone call the Neo-Sony Circle Jerk, they need to be let in on the secret that Nintendo has had an account system for a some time now, because looking at their Sony filled propaganda they apparently don't know Nintendo has an account system or they are intentionally spreading false information (no, they would never do that, GASP)



unrandomsam said:

They don't have the best stuff that could be ported only the mediocre.

And 30 fps versions of games you can run at 60fps on a PC.

(The Vita/PS3 has Hotline Miami and Spelunky better than any of the second rate stuff on the Wii U).

Stuff by people like Shi'en is good but as far as I know they were succeeding with the old system.

Gunlord is good and high quality (On Dreamcast not played it on Neo Geo).

HTML5/Javascript should not be used for making games. (But coincidently the only company I have seen able to make something of what I consider acceptable quality with it is Microsoft).



unrandomsam said:

@Slapshot Most of those are XNA games. (Microsoft made XNA - Without XNA none of them would exist. Unity ones just aren't the same quality).

The indies I want are the ones that are released on older systems. (Dreamcast / Neo Geo / SNES etc). Gunlord is one of them (That Nintendo is getting). Pier Solar HD dunno what is happening with that but there is quite a few others and they are not the PC. (Thing with the ones I get on the PC is if I only really like one in 5 then that is fine as it usually costs about the same or less as one on a Nintendo platform).

The best Wiiware's are better than the ported indie stuff that the Wii U has at the moment.

(If Nintendo forced it to be on their platform exclusively or not I think the situation would be better. Both for the dev's and the users. Less stuff so more exposure.)

The new Castle of Illusion is better than DuckTales (I prefer the original NES DuckTales). Never played the Genesis Castle of Illusion though so that might be why. (Played the Master System version but it is a different game more like Epic Mickey 2)



Kicked2TheKirb said:

@Minny I have a 3 DS just got one a few months ago... i want to buy more eshop games but i worry my 3ds won't hold all of them... how do you have 50?...



Blue_Yoshi said:

I'm liking these new policies. Does this mean I no longer have to be a licensed developer and I can just purchase a 3DS Dev Kit already?



c1pher_c0mplet said:

@Stimpy Minny has a bigger SD card in their 3DS than the standard 2GB or 4GB the system comes with (think 2 for regular 3DS; 4 for the XL). They probably have a 32GB SDHC.



Joygame51 said:

I have a ton of dsiware and am working on building up a stock of good 3ds stuff... Love the Virtual stuff too. GET a reasonable amount of DS card storage...and you can have quite a few of every thing.

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