A work in progress – Destructoid


NoA’s Dan Adelman and Damon Baker Showcase Nintendo’s Digital Plans

As we approach the first anniversary of the Wii U launch, gamers are gearing up for the second-gen game lineup that will hopefully make up for the rather lackluster spring and summer months. But with the next eShop titles like Knight Shovel and Armikrog turning more than a few heads, perhaps the Wii U’s digital software gets the most attention.

This type of exposure isn’t exclusive to the Wii U, of course. Sony and (after a lot of kicking and screaming) Microsoft are stacking their fun new boxes with digital delicacies. The growing importance of a strong independent presence is not lost on Nintendo, which has gone out of its way to rethink its online strategy starting with the Wii era.

On the last day of PAX, I returned to the Grand Hyatt Hotel to meet Dan Adelman, Nintendo of America Business Development Manager, and Damon Baker, NoA Licensing Manager. Mario Manor still has a lot of hurdles to overcome regarding the eShop, such as reversing the negative perception of the business and addressing the lack of a unified account system. But if anyone could provide clear direction on such matters, it would be these two gentlemen.

Or so I thought.

Armikrog – Pencil testing studios

Even the most casual gaming newsreader understands that the Wii U has run out of retail new game announcements. Publishers are realizing that software sales on the platform have been poor, so they have chosen to suspend software support until Nintendo can build a sizable install base. But the Wii U can’t create a massive install base unless it has solid software support – one hell of a pickle, right?

On the other hand, small independent studios are much more willing to take risks with Wii U. Adelman explained, “I think independent developers, by their very nature, are willing to take risks. They don’t have big shareholder communities to respond to, it’s really about trying something new and taking the road less traveled.

To this end, Nintendo has tried to lower barriers to entry in a number of ways, including through Nintendo Web Framework and a special Unity deal. Although he has talked about both in the past, Adelman has reaffirmed the company’s mission with these initiatives: “Nintendo Web Framework allows things like HTML5 and JavaScript development, which I think is really the big bonus. in terms of rapid prototyping and being able to take advantage of the functionality of the Wii U and see what kinds of new game mechanics you can do with that.

As for Unity, “Normally you have to pay twice. You have to buy Unity Pro, then once you ship a game you have to pay a shipping license for the different platforms, so we made a deal with Unity so that they can get the developer tools for free and they don’t. must pay license fees. Really trying to make sure that their breakeven point, the financial risk should be so minimal that, you know, why wouldn’t they release it to as many platforms as possible? “

QUBE – Toxic games

Nintendo is new to such an open environment, so many developers may not yet be aware of the benefits of posting to the eShop. That’s where Baker comes in: “Really, like Dan said, our goal is to educate the developer community, to let them know that it’s easier than ever to develop content for Nintendo platforms. .

So far, around 80% of Wii Us have connected to the Internet. That might not seem like much considering the fact that less than four million consoles are out in the wild, but the percentage is still large enough to make releasing digital-only titles an extremely viable strategy. Still, we’re not quite at a stage where digital games have as much appeal as boxed titles.

“It’s kind of my personal mission in life these days,” Adelman said. “If you’re talking to someone outside of the gaming industry, someone who isn’t necessarily following [or] read all the blogs and stay up to date with the latest news, a lot of them really don’t know much about these games. They’ve never heard of it, don’t even know they exist. So right now it’s kind of a niche audience of people who follow all of these games.

“But I am personally convinced that if you put these games in people’s hands and they try them out, they will be shocked. They will be surprised at the quality of these games and say, “I never knew you could get these amazing games for $ 15, $ 20, $ 10 sometimes.” So I spend all my time playing indie games; frankly, it’s been a while since I played a full game just because there is so much good stuff out there. It probably says more about me than anything else.

Teslagrad – Rain games

Before starting work for Nintendo, Adelman helped launch Xbox Live Arcade on the original Xbox. You might think Nintendo hired him for this experiment, but it wasn’t. “It’s more of a coincidence than anything else. I don’t think Nintendo hired me because of this experience working on XBLA, because when I was working on XBLA it was before it was a well-known brand anyway. That was back when he was on the launch disc that came with various games.

Still, that time spent with Microsoft has shed some light on where digital console software should go: distribution platform, especially back in the days when it was, well, what digital games are there. ? It was casual games, which are awesome – match-three games and puzzle games – but it seemed like a lot of them were very similar to each other. There were a lot of clones of, you know, if there was a popular game, immediately five clones of it. I always thought there had to be a lot more to do with digital distribution and a lot more variety of content.

As he shared earlier in the interview, Adelman really only plays indie games these days. Not because big games have no place, but because he admires the passion and exuberance that one finds in small communities. “I remember my first Indie Games Summit at GDC about seven years ago, and it was a small room with folding chairs, and some people were talking about a new little fragment of a game mechanic that they were on. worked and played with. And I thought, this is my people! These are the guys I was looking for!

The big elephant in the room is, of course, the lack of a unified account system at Nintendo. You have undoubtedly all read mountains of reviews on this site and other users who refuse to make digital purchases on Nintendo platforms until this glaring issue is resolved. Although this matter is not under the direct control of Adelman or Baker, I had to ask if there had been any new developments in recent months.

Two brothers – Ackk Studios

The response was disappointing, as you might have guessed, but Adelman at least tried to offer a silver lining. “Unfortunately, we have nothing new to report, other than the fact that we have certainly heard these comments repeatedly, both inside and outside the company. It is certainly something that we are very aware of. All of the infrastructure development is really done outside of Japan, so we’ve kind of communicated this need to the market, and they are very aware of that and are working to always improve the eShop.

Oddly enough, the developers themselves don’t have as much of a problem with the current account structure. He continued, “In terms of how developers or consumers are affected, I have certainly read a lot of consumer frustrations. I actually haven’t heard too much about it from the developers – it just doesn’t come up as much in the conversation, or if it does, it’s usually from the perspective of them being a consumer as well. than a developer. But I’ve never heard a developer say, “I’m interested in making games for the eShop, but because of this account system, I really don’t feel comfortable doing it. It didn’t seem like an obstacle at this point.

In short, Nintendo is mindful of things and does things their own way. But we already knew that.

What I took away from this interview is how much Nintendo likes to hold its cards close to its chest. It’s pretty amazing to see this unfold in person after reading countless other interviews and watching important people like CEO Satoru Iwata and NoA Chairman Reggie Fils-Aime asking for our patience and forgiveness during the Nintendo video streams. Direct. This is exactly the kind of business Nintendo is, for better or for worse.

Hey! There’s a big Wii U update coming up, so hopefully we’ll see some serious changes soon.

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