It's no secret that Indie games play a much larger role in the lineup and promotion of Nintendo's consoles than they have ever before, with a number of triple-A third party companies being largely inactive on Wii U. Indeed, Nintendo has come a long way from the days of the DSiware and Wiiware storefronts, with Indie games getting significantly more promotion and attention.
Damon Baker - senior manager of licensing - talked a bit about Indies with Engadget at GDC recently. Baker says that Indie games have always been a focus of Nintendo, it's just easier to see in this age of increased online activity and media coverage.
We've been supporting Indie content and self-publishing for a really long time. I mean, [going] back to the WiiWare, DSiWare days. But I think that it's just a more visible community because there's so much talent that's coming out of it; there's so much coverage for it that it just makes it naturally higher profile.
It could simply be the case of the Nintendo eShop being vastly superior to the old storefronts that leads to this. The interface is much more user-friendly and all games, Nintendo titles included, are easier to access. Baker also went on to discuss why Indies seem to be more plentiful now as opposed to the initial launch of the eShop. He says that it's been a gradual process, learning from successes and failures on the platform and what that says about the consumer base.
I think what has changed is the learning process over time on what features and functionality that consumers gravitate towards; what are the things that the developers need to be successful on Nintendo platforms? And I think that's been a learning process because we certainly didn't have all the answers from the very beginning.
It does seem like “Nindies" have really hit their prime, barely a week goes by without a new game being either released or announced for either eShop, with a good number of high quality examples. Additionally, when a particular game separates itself from the pack and rises above the usual quality, Nintendo is quick to lend support to ensure that the best content is given a fair chance at success.
One thing we do is we hold hands with the developers and a lot of this key content that is coming out to give them examples of best practices and simple things: how to create a fact sheet; how to create a trailer; how to create an optimum demo experience; how to write a press release.
It's good that Nintendo does this as it significantly lowers the barrier to success on the eShop stores, and nurtures budding developers with the encouragement and support needed to hone their abilities. Baker uses Nintendo's relationships with Indies to justify their relationships with larger companies, as well. He argues that Nintendo gets an undeserved bad wrap for third party support.
We actually have better relationships with our publishers and developers than we've ever had before. I mean, the people that work with us love working with us. ... I think it's more of an assumption that we don't have the strongest relationships with our third-party partners.
It appears that the problem with major third party releases is that developers are hesitant to hassle with porting their game to a console with a very particular install base that doesn't guarantee a profit. Nintendo's partnerships with indies and select major third party publishers is evidence that its doing all it can to make its platforms as appealing as possible, but there's only so much it can do. Moving on, Baker mentioned how Nintendo does not demand exclusivity from indies and makes suggestions as to how the game can be tailored to the Wii U or 3DS to best reach the widest audience.
Honestly, we don't hand out money. It's very rare that anything like that happens, I think the angle that we take is, if we're not able to get a game for an exclusive window, than at least we would love to see exclusive features and functionality that you can only see on Wii U or Nintendo 3DS.
Indie games such as Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones and Shovel Knight are good examples of this through creative use of the GamePad and StreetPass, respectively. Another all important aspect of download games is that they, along with Virtual Console releases, can help plug holes in the ongoing release schedule and take the edge off during droughts.
It is critical for Nintendo business to make sure that we are maintaining momentum in between all of those AAA releases. And the indie developers have found ways of leveraging that either through people coming in, in anticipation of a huge AAA release or coming in afterwards, after they've purchased it and they're seeing all of the other great content that's available.
It's interesting to see that an added bonus when there's a recent Nintendo release is that download games benefit from the higher traffic on the eShop. Expectations must be kept realistic, however, and not every Indie developer has the chops to make a best-seller, though anybody can develop for the eShop if they choose.
Honestly, we have an open-door policy in terms of content, but if it's a lower-quality title, people are going to have to search for that. It's not something we are going to promote front and center in our eShop or through our channels.
Rather sobering, but this is a business after all; only the best will come out on top. Competition does breed innovation, too, so this is really in everybody's best interests.
What do you think of all this? Are you satisfied with Nintendo's approach to digital content this generation? Sound off in the comments below.