Indie developers feel that Nintendo didn’t take downloadable games seriously on the Wii, and WiiWare suffered as a result.
When Nintendo’s WiiWare launched in 2008, allowing indie developers to make their games available for download on the insanely popular Wii, it had a lot of potential. Over the years, WiiWare did produce some memorable titles, including the critically praised Bit.Trip games. Though the series’ developer Gaijin Games found success with the service, that doesn’t mean it was fond of WiiWare. In a recent interview, Gaijin co-founders Alex Neuse and Mike Roush, along with several other indie developers, discussed Nintendo’s downloadable services on the Wii and how it compared to the and Wii U. The good news is that the Wii U appears to be far more indie-friendly than its predecessor. Of course, it’s probably not hard to improve on a service called “miserable” by those who used it.
Complaints about WiiWare are nothing new; the lack of promotion and 40MB game size limit have been points of contention for game developers for years. Neuse believes part of the problem with WiiWare may have been that Nintendo didn’t actually think people cared about downloading games. “We don’t know for sure, but it felt like it wasn’t taken seriously by Nintendo, the desire for gamers to buy stuff digitally,” he said. Noting the platform’s use of a single 144×90 image to promote its games, Roush added, “How are you supposed to display your wares with an image of that pixel dimension and really sell it… It was just miserable. I don’t blame indies for not jumping on WiiWare.”
Despite the issues, Gaijin Games once again worked with Nintendo to bring Runner 2, the latest Bit.Trip game, to the Wii U as an eShop launch title. Debuting alongside Runner 2 was Chasing Aurora from developer Broken Rules, an indie developer that published And Yet it Moves on WiiWare in 2010. When comparing the services, Broken Rules developer Martin Pichlmair said, “Literally everything was easier this time around… It got better in several ways, how the financial side of things works.” Roush echoed his sentiments, adding, “What’s more friendly right out of the starting gate is the Wii U is developed for people to have an eShop to spend their money in and buy games easily.”
Despite the fact that Wii U’s eShop is designed to be more developer-friendly, Neuse states the importance of Nintendo’s promotion in order for it to be a success. “If Nintendo decides to forget about the eShop and they stop talking about it in the press and stop promoting it, it’s going to die.”
The Wii U has only been on the market for about two months, so it’s far too early into the console’s life to label the eShop a success or failure. However, with large gaps between highly anticipated titles, a thriving downloadable platform full of exciting games would certainly make the Wii U a more appealing console. Offering more options to a wider range of developers is good for the industry, so hopefully Nintendo can continue to learn from its mistakes and support the eShop as it moves forward with the Wii U.