This Week In Indie: Self-publishing With Nintendo
Nintendo has revealed that at the Game Developers Conference Europe (GDC Europe) 2013 the company will be showcasing development tools for Nintendo platforms and self-publishing on Nintendo’s eShop. At the relevant GDC sessions, developers can attend sessions where they can learn the ins and outs of development tools, such as Nintendo Web Framework and Unity tools that facilitate developing software for Wii U. The inclusion of Unity as an engine of choice for indie development is a great move by Nintendo as it reduces the cost of development time and dealing with bugs in a traditional proprietary engine, where developers are free to focus on game design instead.
Nintendo promises greater freedom for indie developers self-publishing on the Wii U through Nintendo’s eShop. In terms of “freedom” in self-publishing, Nintendo understands it as follows:
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Registered Nintendo developers will benefit from the freedom to sell their games in a way that suits their business, with no concept approval process, the freedom to set the price and release date, and without a sales threshold.
In essence, indie developers can follow a similar process of the self-publishing model as found on other platforms such as Steam, with the exception of there being no form of concept approval which brings into question issues of quality control and how exactly Nintendo will deal with such problems. This is something that Valve is having to deal with Steam Greenlight, as their method of quality control and have games greenlit through a voting process is proving to be less than satisfactory, with many sub-par indie games making their way on to the platform. Many indie devs have spoken about the ease of getting into contact with Nintendo about launching a game through their eShop.
The general gist of Nintendo’s approach to indie, is that the company is seeking “genuine human relationships” with indie devs, and is trying to form long lasting ties with indie developers in order to ensure a steady flow of quality indie games on Nintendo platforms. The general message from developers is that Nintendo are looking to provide quality over quantity when it comes to their indie game selection. The first steps for publishing via Nintendo include becoming a licensed developer with Nintendo, as stated by Dan Adelman, a Nintendo liaison for indie development.
Other requirements are: “to have some experience making games, you have to be able to keep any confidential materials like dev kits secure and you have to form a company”. Nintendo is aiming to give visibility to new indie developers as their games release through their eShop, whilst incorporating user ratings, review scores, and with the Wii U, Miiverse activity to see how people respond to a game upon release. From there Nintendo plans to adapt accordingly. Nintendo wants to give indie games time to find an audience, as even niche games have the potential to sell well. This has been proven time and time again.
However, all this freedom is only given to developers outside of Nintendo’s country of origin. Nintendo has barred self-publishing from Japanese indie devs. Whilst Nintendo has been pushing indie in both Europe and the United States by offering free Unity licenses to developers and permission to self-publish to the Wii U through Nintendo’s eShop. Japanese indie developers are effectively left in the dust when it comes to self-publishing. Why this is happening is beyond my own comprehension as indie devs and the indie scene are integral to the next generation of gaming and is a prime market changer. However, this lack of transparency is worrying, as Nintendo has not always been the biggest proponent of supporting indie development in the past.
The games industry has changed, and all three big console manufacturers have adjusted their self-publishing policies tremendously. There are many uncertainties about the real world operations of this self-publishing models and their effectiveness. The future holds much promise for indie developers and self-publishing is one of the biggest talking points of contention among indie developers. How self-publishing models are implemented is of the utmost importance, and the fact that the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft are slowly changing is a good indication. But how they go about this process is essential.