Retro City Rampage is available now on the Wii Shop or, if you've long since moved onto a Wii U, on the same platform in the new system's Wii Mode. A manic, parody-heavy flashback to the original GTA and with pop-culture references from further back in time, it's an experience unlike any other WiiWare release of recent times.
And yet the title arrives against a backdrop of a declining platform, with the Wii Shop reduced to infrequent Neo Geo releases and the occasional WiiWare title in recent times. With the Wii U and 3DS eShops now at the core of Nintendo's downloadable game focus, the delays and late arrival of this game seem to be an unfortunate combination.
In an exclusive interview with Nintendo Life to be published on Saturday, Brian Provinciano — who is essentially Vblank Entertainment — spoke to us in detail about the title's development, its road to WiiWare and his thoughts on Nintendo's past and current download platforms. It was explained to us that a switch to Wii U wasn't a viable option, with Provinciano making the surprising comment that he doesn't necessarily expect to earn any money from the WiiWare version, but wanted to stay true to his word that there would be a Nintendo release. This comes back to the limitations of the Wii Shop agreement that, thankfully, have been eradicated on the eShop services.
The only weaknesses on Nintendo's end during the Wii development have both been fixed for future platforms, so a big kudos must go out to them. They listen to feedback and take action to improve things if there's a better way. In both cases, the original policies had the best intentions, but turned out to be a bit problematic.
The first was the office space requirement. As a mostly one-man company, I could have worked from home but instead needed to get an office, just for myself and the development hardware. This ended up draining a significant chunk of the bank account which I'd saved to for so many years to fund the game's development full time. Secondly, it became public knowledge on Gamasutra in 2009 (one year before RCR's announcement) that a sales threshold is in place, whereas, if you don't sell enough copies, you don't get paid a cent. This had the best intentions, to avoid shovelware, but the problem was that WiiWare wasn't the hit that it was anticipated to be and while there are millions of consoles out there, a very small percentage of those consumers were downloading these games.
Many developers became unable to sell enough units, and this became a reason for so many cancellations of announced WiiWare titles. The publishers knew they wouldn't make a cent and needed to cut their losses. Between the office rent, hardware, insurance, game ratings and other costs, had I not done the WiiWare version, I could've saved around $20,000 – not even including my salary in porting it. And as it stands, virtually no games hit the threshold these days, so it's only being released as fan service. A $20,000 gift to the fans. However, I wanted to keep my word and didn't want to see it go to waste. I'm happy to see it finally out, and the many happy players. That said, I encourage everyone to buy it! I'm crossing my fingers that it will hit the threshold at least in one region.
These comments perhaps explain why, ultimately, Retro City Rampage may be the last high-profile WiiWare release. Provinciano did stress that he has an excellent relationship with both Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe, saying that "they've become friends".
Be sure to come back on Saturday to read the full interview. In the meantime, what do you think of these comments, and the points they make about the — now well known — limitations of the Wii Shop platform?