â??We love WiiWareâ??

â??We love WiiWareâ??
Michael French

By Michael French

March 12th 2008 at 11:23AM

WiiWare Week: Independent studios the world over are out in force backing Nintendoâ??s upcoming distribution platform

Half-way through our special WiiWare Week of features looking at Nintendo's distribution platform, and it seems that the ascent of Nintendo knows no bounds.
 
Following sell out success of its Wii and DS platforms over the past 18 months, sparking a massive tide-change amongst the publishing community towards releasing games for the Kyoto firm’s platforms, it is increasingly clear that the company’s imminent WiiWare platform has made good on its promise and won the hearts of independent developers the world over.

The sentiment is clearest in our latest feature, exploring why the platform has so quickly found support - available to read here.

For a platform that actually puts more responsibility on the shoulders of indie developers – effectively giving them publisher-like duties by leaving them to sort out localisation, QA, marketing and ESRB/PEGI ratings – the speed with which studios have embraced the service may come as a surprise to some, but not those in the development community itself.

WiiWare, according to David Braben of Frontier – which is providing launch game LostWinds for the channel’s May 19th US launch – has seriously changed the production process of game development.

“With LostWinds we have been able to significantly streamline the development process. One huge advantage was the fact that we could test gameplay of the game, without having to make it beautiful – as we generally would in a publishing relationship,” he told us earlier this week.

“This has enabled us to get the project off the ground much quicker than we would otherwise. Costs also come down to what is needed to be made within the game.”

The result, he adds, is that “LostWinds is a very focused game, so not only is it ideal for the WiiWare service, but is also therefore cheaper to develop.”

Cheaper, accessible development was of course what the Wii was all about from its inception and subsequent arrival – but the bar has been lowered further with WiiWare to entice a number of new studios, or at least those that were previously without the financial capability to develop a console title, towards being Nintendo allies.

Canadian outfit XGen is one of those studios. Skye Boyes, president and CEO of the company which has made Flash games seen on MySpace, EA’s Pogo and Kongregate, commented: “WiiWare presents an opportunity for studios to enter the console market with a relatively small development budget, and the ability to justify greater risk with innovative or unproven game designs. As an independent casual developer in our fifth year, the jump into console development would have previously required a massive infusion of capital and at least some loss of control over our vision.”

Plus, Nintendo isn’t just attracting talent with an aspirational message – it’s undercutting the competition, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, as well.

“We found trying to get a downloadable title approved on other platforms prohibitively expensive as we needed to supply artwork and demos just to be looked at. If that demo is not signed we could have spent three to six months worth of development money and be nowhere,” said Nic Watt of Australian outfit Nnooo, working on upcoming WiiWare game Pop (pictured).

Read the full feature examining why developers love WiiWare here.

He adds: “We can purchase two to four Wii development kits for the price of one Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 dev kit.”