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Nintendo of Europe's Ed Valiente Highlights the Creative Value of Indie Developers

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

"If there are interesting, creative... and fun games, consumers will come"

In what's surely been one of the most notable shifts of power in recent years, download and 'Indie' developers have gone from being underdogs struggling to release games to being central in a home console battleground. The continuing and extravagant growth of the PC Steam platform, along with the rapid expansion of smartphone / tablet gaming, has seen a lot of games industry money flow towards this area of the market; the big players in the console market have noticed.

Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony supported download games in the last generation, of course, but under rather different terms. With the increased market relevance of this content, it's become increasingly easy for developers to bring their games to specialised gaming systems, rather than being driven to iOS and Android for the easiest access and most favourable terms. In a feature gauging how this revolution came about, Develop spoke to key figures from Sony and Nintendo, with Nintendo of Europe business development manager Ed Valiente stepping forward for the latter.

With the Wii U in particular opening doors with free Unity tools and HTML5 support, it has a good chance of attracting download content. The benefits, from Valiente's viewpoint, include the diversity of games that smaller developers can deliver.

In the current market, the traditional triple-A game concept may lean towards conservatism, for a multitude of business reasons.

Indies on the other hand can practice auteur game design, as in a sense they are free from many conventions and business constraints, so they can focus on the creative vision for their game. This is an incredibly powerful motivator and we’re seeing indie games becoming a driver of innovation in modern games design.

That spirit, paired with the broad access to development tools nowadays, results in fantastic new game experiences developed in a frequency never seen before. Such new experiences are what the industry needs to deliver consumers in order to grow further.

It's difficult to argue that download-only games can drive console sales on their own, but a case can certainly be made that a cumulative effect of a strong eShop library can help with public perception.

I think that the key element to a successful platform is content and quality; if there are interesting, creative, innovative and fun games, consumers will come.

Nintendo always strives for this type of content on its platforms, and through indies it is possible to have another way to have this type of content. I think that having a breadth of high-quality games ultimately makes a system and its marketplace successful.

...If we take indie games as a general offering and outlet of creativity, their growing relevance could be the difference between someone investing in a new platform or not. In the end, good, high-quality content is part of creating a successful system.

There were issues with the DSi Shop and the Wii Shop in terms of both layout and visibility, something Nintendo's improved on the 3DS and Wii U. Some can argue that improvements are still due in these stores — particularly the former — but it's clear that each gives new download games a chance to shine and grab attention. This, as Valiente explains, is where Nintendo takes its role of driving visibility seriously.

Once the product is out, we are the shopkeeper, and our main responsibility actually turns towards the consumer – offering them content they are interested in is the only way to run the shop successfully. As a consequence, indie games often take centre stage on Nintendo eShop.

One thing that differentiates us very clearly from being a publisher is that on the Nintendo eShop, the developer is in control of the pricing of their products at any one time; they decide at what price to sell, when, and how to change it.

There are still areas that can be better, of course. Nyamyam co-founder Jennifer Schneidereit, whose studio is bringing Tengami to the Wii U eShop, had praise for various Nintendo policies and levels of support — the process and level of contact, non-restrictive requirements and access to tools, hardware and documentation are all highlighted as positives. Yet regional separation in the process is an aspect that could be smoothed out.

Ideally there wouldn’t be a territory separation and you would just sign one set of contracts, do one certification process and so on and be able to release your game in the Nintendo eShop worldwide. The territory separation makes the process a bit more bureaucratic than it should be in my opinion.

Nintendo Japan’s stance on self-publishing for indies is not quite clear to me at the moment and I would like to hear more about this. In the best case scenario they follow in the footsteps of Nintendo US and EU and adopt a company-wide, unified approach across the territories.

Initially with the 3DS and increasingly so with the Wii U, Nintendo has drastically changed its policies and treatment of small developers. With more titles appearing and still due in 2014, these shifts in focus towards download content may yet reap more rewards.


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User Comments (9)



unrandomsam said:

Only applies to exclusives not ports (Especially not 6 months later and at four times or more cost.)

Nearly all the good indie stuff is XNA not Unity also.



AdanVC said:

Nice read. Indie devs are getting the attention they desserve on home consoles, some games are very, very good and some of them were created by just one guy! (No Man's Sky is an example, created by just 4 people, geez!). My dream is to be a full indie developer and create games for Nintendo platforms so they can be advertised among their biggest games on the eShop. That or being part of the EAD Tokyo developers team... First option seems more realistic tough



Peach64 said:

I still think Wii U is incredibly far behind in terms of Indie games. Braid, Minecraft, Bastion, Fez, Limbo, Spelunky, Brothers, Hotline Miami, Mark of the Ninja… the 'best of the best' from the indie world and none of them are on the Wii U. I don't know the specifics with the engines they all run on, but Nintendo really can't pat themselves on the back for doing a good job with indies when they are no critically acclaimed indie games on their store.



jakysnakydx said:

@unrandomsam mostly because the vast majority of indoe games released thusfar have not had he unity benefit. Also many standard platformers dont require unity and are best used in the Nintendo Web framework. In 2014 early and late well see better unity support



jakysnakydx said:

@Peach64 Nintendobdoeant make the decision onwhich comoanies release which games. Ninty is doing the best theu can to attract a wide variety and have bit if the company who made the games chooses not to what is Nintendo to say?



Artwark said:

@AdanVC That's something I want to do as well. Making games for Nintendo consoles. I'm glad Nintendo has now made it easier for devs to make games for their system.



unrandomsam said:

@jakysnakydx All the Unity games I have played out of a gigantic list of games using Unity on Steam are utter junk (I have played about thirty that looked ok). XNA gives you good building blocks to make a game. Unity is designed around making mobile games with awful AI that look nice. HTML5 is not good enough. (Should not be used for everything for no reason.)
Nintendo's own equivalent to XNA would be fine. (Make every console a devkit like MS does).
Sony seems happy with monogame all Nintendo need to do is optimize it for the hardware.



jakysnakydx said:

Coming from the standpoint of a developer not simply a user, Unity is a fan-f-ing-tastic platform to develop with Frankly, not liking to insult other developers nor their content, if a game sucks using unity it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Engine and is simply a user error. Stay tuned for more content to come using Unity Pro.

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