While the indie publishing policies of Xbox and PlayStation capture a lot of attention in the press and social media, the state of Nintendo’s do-it-yourself scene is a relative blip on the game industry radar.
But the truth is that Nintendo, just like its console rivals, is becoming increasingly friendly to small, independent developers. Tools and initiatives like Nintendo Web Framework, Unity engine support, eShop distribution and self-publishing mean more opportunities for developers that have limited resources.
Over email, we contacted around 20 Wii U eShop indie developers, most of which were featured in the Nintendo Direct webcast for the UK (Nintendo of America’s webcast did not highlight such a wide array of eShop indies, for some reason).
The most interesting answers are provided, in their words, in the roundtable on the following pages. But first, here are the quick takeaways from our Q&As:
Wii U is selling poorly. eShop developers ranged from not concerned at all, to very concerned about the growth of the installed base. Many noted, however, that there is a blue ocean upside – there’s less noise on the eShop, so it’s theoretically easier to stand out right now. Others noted that their teams are small, and a Unity port requires little effort, so they might as well try to expand their audience, despite the relatively meager audience. Everyone said they're hoping Nintendo can turn the sales situation around.
Many eShop developers said the Wii U’s digital storefront needs to be streamlined, and offer better discovery of games. They also said Nintendo needs to do what it can to sell more Wii U systems in order to expand the potential customer base, and that might boil down to better communicating to the mass market what the system has to offer. A couple developers added that Nintendo needs to be more transparent about digital sales on eShop (one studio is bringing its game to eShop mainly to find out how much games typically sell on the storefront).
While some developers were hesitant to recommend to other developers bringing their game to eShop because of software sales uncertainty, all developers we spoke with were happy with their experience in working with Nintendo. The company has apparently been generous with loaner development kits and general developer support. According to developers we spoke with, Nintendo has been responsive to the needs of the free-to-play business model as well.
Read on for select replies from our pool of eShop developers.