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Wii U and Indies: Will it Work This Time?
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Wii U and Indies: Will it Work This Time?

July 9, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

As part of Nintendo's E3 presentation, the publisher was keen to show off all the huge names it has lined up for the upcoming Wii U.

With games like Batman: Arkham City, Scribblenauts Unlimited and Mass Effect 3, not to mention first-party offerings Pikmin 3 and New Super Mario Bros. U, the video game giant is hoping to ensnare both hardcore and more casual gamers.

Buried underneath all the explosive announcements and big-name brands, however, there are around a dozen indie developers who are working away at announced titles for the Wii U's online store.

From well-known indies like Frozenbyte to the lesser-known Pwnee Studios, there is a definite indie showing for the Wii U that is yet to be properly explored, raising the question -- is Nintendo once again putting its online game offerings down the bottom of the to-do list?

"If we didn't have faith that Nintendo is going to fix their digital games store, we wouldn't be releasing Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien on the Wii U," says Alex Neuse, of Gaijin Games.

The Bit.Trip studio already had a longstanding relationship with Nintendo thanks to its WiiWare rhythm series, making the transition to Wii U rather smooth. "We were able to approach our totally awesome inside man and trick him into getting us on the list for devkits relatively early," says Neuse. "Of course, we had to re-apply for Wii U development status, since the Wii developer status doesn't automatically carry over; so there was some paperwork involved.

"But basically, we told them very early on that we thought we could hit the launch window with Runner2 for whatever their downloadable service is going to be, and they seemed to like that idea. We'll see if we can actually pull it off."

Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien

It's tricky for Neuse to compare developing for the Wii U with his work on the original Wii, as Gaijin has made so many changes internally since its Wii development first started out.

He notes, "Since Runner2 is going to be multi-platform, we're not relying on any Nintendo-specific tech, which all of the previous games in the Bit.Trip series had done. Because we're using tech developed internally, the project has been much easier. Using tech that you didn't have a part in developing is always a challenge on a certain level, and we've tried to avoid doing that with Runner2 as much as possible."

"So, other than the Wii U being bigger, better, faster, stronger, it's hard for us to speak specifically to what Nintendo has done to make the job easier."

Fortunately, Felix Bohatsch of Broken Rules, who is currently working on Chasing Aurora for Wii U, and previously released platformer And Yet It Moves for the Wii, has a little more insight into the differences, saying that work on the Wii U is easier than on the Wii.

"It is challenging, but also very exciting, to work with new hardware," he says. "We've been in close contact with Nintendo since the release of And Yet It Moves on WiiWare. When we presented early prototypes of Chasing Aurora to publishers and first parties, we always included Nintendo as well.

"They liked what they saw and we liked the opportunity to release Chasing Aurora during the launch period of a new console. It was great working with them last time, so we are looking forward to another partnership."

Nintendo is learning from its past mistakes with online distribution, claims Bohatsch, and this can be seen with its handling of the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

"The 3DS eShop is already so much better in comparison," says Bohatsch. "I'm sure the shop on the Wii U will be a big improvement as well. Nintendo's overall strategy is way more focused on connectivity. This should help overcome the biggest problem of the Wii shop, which is that many Wii consoles are not even connected to the internet."

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Keith Nemitz
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I'm really rooting for Nintendo on this. The future of game platforms is so chaotic, I hope that many different kinds survive. I like my iPad and DS and Mac and Wii and PS3... games. Each platform seems to bring something special.

Leon T
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All sounds like good news. It will be good to see Nintendo work with smaller devs more. Since the eshop was miles better than WiiWare I have a little faith the WiU will have an even better digital store.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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Until Nintendo doesn't make available their SDKs to everyone, it'll never really open to indies.

Joel Nystrom
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Making and releasing a game on the 3DS eShop is well within the grasp of a small indie studio - you just need to the balls to ask and go through with it. If the WiiU is the same I don't know, but nothing points to that it isn't.

I welcome both open and closed platforms, closed often has a more curated library of titles.

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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@Joel. The problem with Nintendo is that they are not open enough with their SDK licensing. They should give the oportunity to get an SDK and try and test what any dev needs. If after that, the game isn't good, then just don't approve the release. I've been a Nintendo fan from my childhood. My dream and goal in life is to become have an studio developing games exclusively for Nintendo. I've been 9 years doing games, and on the companies I did worked we tried twice to get their SDKs. Now am developing for iOS/Android on both, my contract company and a studio with my wife where we got 2 games released. We have plenty of ideas to be a successfull developer for 3DS now, but there's no way to get an SDK!!!

Joel Nystrom
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I don't share that experience, someone at your company must have pissed off someone at Nintendo =)