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Report: WiiWare's Minimum Sales Threshold Affects Developers

Report: WiiWare's Minimum Sales Threshold Affects Developers Exclusive

April 14, 2009 | By Staff, Simon Carless

April 14, 2009 | By Staff, Simon Carless
More: Console/PC, Indie, Exclusive

According to multiple Gamasutra development sources, Nintendo's WiiWare service has a minimum sales threshold in place -- under which indie game developers do not get paid at all.

Originally discussed by Gamasutra publisher and IGF chairman Simon Carless in his Independent Games Summit talk at this year's GDC, for which full slides are available online, we reached out to Nintendo for further comment on the report.

Multiple sources have indicated to Gamasutra that there is a minimum amount of sales, on a per-territory basis, that WiiWare developers must reach in order to recoup any money at all for their games.

It is believed that this sales number is set in the mid-four figure range for North America, and lower four figures for individual European territories.

Until a WiiWare title sells over that number, nothing will be paid out -- although when the threshold is made, the full royalty amount is given to the developer, taking into account the amount of copies sold at that figure.

Gamasutra has spoken off the record to multiple developers who have acknowledged the limit, and at least one small independent studio whose staff believes they will never reach the minimum sales threshold to be paid anything for their WiiWare title.

Although Nintendo's reasons for instituting such a lower limit are unclear, it may have been done in part to stop large amounts of so-called "shovelware" titles flooding the service.

However, with the twin issues of no demo version and lack of storage space, it seems that some lower-selling WiiWare games may have done worse than Nintendo expected. This has made the minimum sales limit more of a potential issue than Nintendo realized when originally pitching game creators on the service.

In the wake of the company's GDC announcement on Wii storage fixes and resulting sales boosts for some WiiWare games, the issue may be somewhat ameliorated.

But with some titles long since launched and off the WiiWare charts, and over 75 titles already available on the service, some independent developers may be resigned to receiving no money for their existing work, unless Nintendo considers changing this rule.

Following GDC, Gamasutra's outreach on the subject to Nintendo elicited the following response: "Due to the nature of the story, Nintendo is putting forth this response: 'We do not discuss our internal business dealings.'"

[UPDATE: Nature of threshold -- with full royalty given to developer as soon as the minimum number is passed -- clarified.]

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