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This Week in Awful Downloads

by Neal Ronaghan - September 13, 2010, 10:42 am PDT
Total comments: 39

Why have the Nintendo Downloads sucked so hard lately?

A long time ago, about four months ago to be exact, I used to look forward reading Nintendo's weekly download releases each Monday morning. While Virtual Console was on life support even then, WiiWare and DSiWare churned out a steady stream of quality titles. Hell, I even organized two features on the good games on both services.

Now I'd be remiss to not point out that there is also a lot of crap on Nintendo's download platforms, but there would usually be at least one interesting or knock-out title each week between the two platforms a week. To me, that was enough.

Now, nearly two-and-a-half years since Nintendo started releasing new, original games on WiiWare, there are rarely any apparently redeeming games on the platform. It seems to have only gotten worse over the summer. By looking over the release list, it looks like there are about one or two intriguing games a month on WiiWare that didn't turn out to be utter crap. DSiWare is faring even worse. Hell, the DSiWare Wikipedia page is in total disrepair, which is a sign to me that not many people care about it.

Whenever I look over the press release each week, I usually just think of how funny the Nintendo release segment on Giant Bomb will be. Luckily, those guys have swooped in and made the Enjoy Your Massages, Deer Captors, and endless onslaught of myNotebook titles funny to hear about. I'd also like to think that the Newscast crew does an admirable job at informing you about these games and how apparently awful they are or might be. You can probably even tell the faint hint of depression at how pitiful the output has been.

Now there could be a number of factors for this, ranging anywhere from an accidental lull in releases to economic troubles of developers. In my opinion, one prevailing theory is becoming clearer. Nintendo does no favors for developers on either platform. There's a high barrier of entry and it's difficult to make money off of the titles due to the structure of the service.

There's also the public relations standpoint. As you might know from reading our site and following the games industry in general, public relations professionals are a big part of how games get covered, and for any PR reps working for these fledgling developers, it's a chore to get reviewable copies to the media, which is usually a surefire way to get some form of coverage.

"Unfortunately Nintendo doesn't help independent developers like us to give a privileged access of our game to the international press. I wish Nintendo would make more effort for DSi developers," said one anonymous European developer. "We are happy with our game and we enjoyed creating it, but we are not very enthusiastic about developing more DSiWare games in the future."

From what I understand, this is not an isolated incident. Plenty of developers, even ones who still make games for the platform (Bit.Trip developer Gaijin Games' Alex Neuse recently commented about how he's disheartened that the WiiWare demo service hasn't returned since it helped out sales of Bit.Trip Beat so much), have major issues with it. If WiiWare or DSiWare games are even successful at all, which I guess a few have to be, it seems to be an uphill battle.

You even have games such as Super Meat Boy jumping from WiiWare to other platforms. In this case, Xbox Live Arcade. While a WiiWare version is still coming, it will lack features and come out long after the XBLA version. Part of the reason why things like that are happening is because Microsoft seems to actually advertise its downloadable offerings. Outside of the occasional larger company releasing a known commodity (Capcom and the two Mega Man games), or Nintendo championing a little indie title (Cave Story, And Yet It Moves) or a Nintendo-published one (Fluidity), there isn't any large-scale advertising or knowledge for these games, even if you ignore the fact that most people only know about the games the day they come out.

There's also the structured price points that make iPhone ports sometimes five times the original price. You have the rigid space limit that will force some developers to skip WiiWare. There's the glut of Sudoku and solitaire games. Of course, you can always point to the lack of consistent Virtual Console releases as part of the reason the download platform has suffered as well.

The bottom line is that I miss looking forward to the weekly downloads each week. I really wish that interesting games would be released for these platforms on a consistent basis so that way when cool games come out, I don't immediately doubt their potential because of how terrible everything else looks.

Talkback

Well that was depressing.

I just want to mention however that Edmund McMillen said on Bit. Transmission (Destructoid podcast) that the XBLA version of SMB was in development at the same time as the Wiiware version, it was just announced later, because Microsoft controls when you can announce your XBLA games (while Nintendo doesn't care when you announce it).

Quote from: Pandareus

Well that was depressing.

I just want to mention however that Edmund McMillen said on Bit. Transmission (Destructoid podcast) that the XBLA version of SMB was in development at the same time as the Wiiware version, it was just announced later, because Microsoft controls when you can announce your XBLA games (while Nintendo doesn't care when you announce it).

I stand a little bit corrected then. The fact is that the WiiWare version is coming out later and won't feature all of the content of the XBLA one, though, which still sucks.

I've enjoyed a lot of games on WiiWare, and as is widely known, I freaking love DSiWare, but the output lately has been terrible.

I own maybe six DSiWare games, two of which were free.

Part of the problem with DSiWare and WiiWare is that the interface is TERRIBLE, and there are no demos. That's an enormous error. I'll bet WiiWare sales went UP during that short-lived demo experiment. I bought NyxQuest based on the demo alone. That should tell Nintendo that demos work! But they seemed pissed off that demos were being tried in the first place, and eager to end that service.

One could theorize that Nintendo is killing the Virtual Console to make way for a 3DS Virtual Console, I have my doubts. I just don't think that Nintendo's focus is or ever will be downloadable platforms.

I don't get the lack of demos.  Reggie himself told me that their demo trial run was unexpectedly very successful -- it led to a great many purchases.  Why aren't they doing it more?

And why do they have a minimum profit threshold?  They're still stuck half-way in their old business model while crowing about the successes of WiiWare.  They may be running QA, but it's not like the rest of the service is very conducive for developers to have to pay a premium.  And with all the crap that's getting through lately, it's certainly not actual game quality they're concerned with.  It's appalling that the store is filling up with multiple color versions of a notebook application.  Colors should be a built-in option, and space should never be an issue -- the system has an SD card slot!

Also, their interface sucks.  I'd be more inclined to try more games if I didn't have to stumble over their garbage interface and wait for each title to download.  There really isn't any excuse for that -- Nintendo prides themselves on being accessible to everyone.

BeautifulShySeptember 13, 2010

*Reads blog*

*Walks away from topic*

Ian SaneSeptember 13, 2010

Nintendo hates demos for one simple reason: they didn't come up with the concept first.  Name ANYTHING that someone else did first that Nintendo does well.  Nintendo nails things when they are the innovator but can find ways to fuck up the most obvious straightforward stuff if they're the follower.  They insist on doing things their own unique way which is great when they're blazing the trail but is counter-intuitive and just outright stupid when an obvious and working solution already exists.  Nintendo can't do demos, or at least can't do them in a normal way, because they have to do it a unique Nintendo way.  Unfortunately distributing demos is not a very complicated concept so all the GOOD ways of doing so have been done before, thus leaving Nintendo to continually fuck everything up as they try to reinvent a concept that is just too damn straightforward to reinvent.  We've been on their ass regarding demos since the Cube launched in 2001.  Nine years and you can't figure it out?  Okay, you're just REFUSING to figure it out.

A poor WiiWare service though makes sense as it all relates to third party support, which we all know Nintendo is terrible at attracting.  Whether it's retail releases or download titles it's all third party relations and in some way Nintendo is uninviting to other developers.

vuduSeptember 13, 2010

Quote from: Ian

Name ANYTHING that someone else did first that Nintendo does well.

Video games

Jamaican Mario ScholarSeptember 13, 2010

Making a profit

I've come to the conclusion that Nintendo sees their current online infrastructure as a lost cause, and is focusing its effort on totally revamping it for the next generation instead of fixing anything on the Wii or DSi.

SarailSeptember 13, 2010

Quote from: insanolord

I've come to the conclusion that Nintendo sees their current online infrastructure as a lost cause, and is focusing its effort on totally revamping it for the next generation instead of fixing anything on the Wii or DSi.

Agreed. I'd like to think that any remaining Nintendo releases that would have come out on Virtual Console are being held back because of a new infrastructure for the next console. I mean, seriously.. where's Star Tropics!? :P

Online anything is simply not Nintendo's strength as a company.  They will always be awful at it unless the company goes through a massive philosophical overhaul of some sort, which isn't really necessary because they're do what's important (make great games) extremely well.  They've never seen online functionality as 1) overly profitable or 2) really necessary to achieve their goals.

Sony's big strength is its hardware (you can't say Sony's hardware isn't slick as hell from a purely technical standpoint), Microsoft's big strength is networking (Xbox Live, again, slick as hell), and Nintendo's big strength is its original software.  All three companies face major challenges in other areas of their businesses, but are strong enough in these areas to stick around or be successful.

Multiple people at Nintendo (including Iwata and Miyamoto) have recently expressed a desire to improve their online implementation. That, and the fact that they've apparently started to care what third parties want in their hadware, gives me hope that there will be significant improvement in this area next time around. It's not going to be Xbox Live, but I don't think it's unrealistic to think they can do something on the level of PSN.

StarTropics came out on Virtual Console. I own it on Virtual Console.

Both StarTropics games are in fact available. But Neal is totally right in his criticisms, and I have recently been having similar thoughts about the lessened enthusiasm for Monday's announcement of the new download games.

ATimsonSeptember 13, 2010

Quote from: Ian

Nintendo hates demos for one simple reason: they didn't come up with the concept first.  Name ANYTHING that someone else did first that Nintendo does well.

Backwards compatibility. Microsoft's sucked from the start on the 360, but they were there first, while Sony first gimped the PS3's then removed it entirely, but the Wii plays GameCube games perfectly (excepting those with special hardware - the modem, the LAN adaptor, and the GameBoy Player).

Retro DeckadesSeptember 13, 2010

Quote from: ATimson

Quote from: Ian

Nintendo hates demos for one simple reason: they didn't come up with the concept first.  Name ANYTHING that someone else did first that Nintendo does well.

Backwards compatibility. Microsoft's sucked from the start on the 360, but they were there first, while Sony first gimped the PS3's then removed it entirely, but the Wii plays GameCube games perfectly (excepting those with special hardware - the modem, the LAN adaptor, and the GameBoy Player).

Backwards compatibility isn't so simple. Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance in 2001, which played pretty much all games in the Game Boy library. Prior to that, Sony's PS2, which was released in 2000, played all old PS1 games, right? And before that, Nintendo's Game Boy Color played all previous Game Boy games as well.

The PS3 still plays PS1 games.

I don't want Nintendo doing an XBL or PSN. I want them to rip Steam off wholesale, though - since everything's gratis and focused on just games.

I'd also like the epic sales, but that'll never happen while Nintendo's a publicly traded company.

And add me to the list of people who bought NyxQuest off the demo.

vuduSeptember 14, 2010

Quote from: OneTwenty

Backwards compatibility isn't so simple. Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance in 2001, which played pretty much all games in the Game Boy library. Prior to that, Sony's PS2, which was released in 2000, played all old PS1 games, right? And before that, Nintendo's Game Boy Color played all previous Game Boy games as well.

The Genesis was fully compatible with all Master System games.  If I remember correctly, I think the Atari 5200 was compatible with 2600 games via an adapter.  I'm not sure if that was the first instance of backwards compatibility.

Ian SaneSeptember 14, 2010

Backwards compatibility is something Nintendo has done nearly perfect.  But they did it with the GBC before the PS2 did it.  Yes the Atari 5200 and Genesis both allowed it with an adapter but "with an adapter" is key since the GBC did not need an adapter, thus Ninendo could feel they were innovating.  Now the Atari 7800 actually was outright backwards compatible with 2600 games so it is first.  But that's an American company with a console that no one bought or gave a shit about.  Nintendo may very well have been unaware that it did it first.  Plus Atari was not a competitor when the GBC came out.

Nintendo doesn't have to actually innovate they just have to look like they're doing it first or at the very least be the first to be successful with an idea.  They were the first to have backwards compatibility be a successful idea and that's what matters to them.  Nintendo technically wasn't the first to do an analog stick either or four controller ports but, again, those ideas were introduced on unsuccessful consoles from companies that were not competing with Nintendo when the N64 was released.  Thus Nintendo could lay claim to coming up with the idea and get away with it and also not make any of their current competitors look good.

Nintendo doesn't want to admit that Sony or Microsoft have any good ideas.  They have to always be different from those two.

TJ SpykeSeptember 14, 2010

Quote from: vudu

The Genesis was fully compatible with all Master System games.  If I remember correctly, I think the Atari 5200 was compatible with 2600 games via an adapter.  I'm not sure if that was the first instance of backwards compatibility.

In order to play Master System games on the Genesis, you had to buy a very expensive add-on called the Power Base Converter. The Atari 5200 did indeed have a adapter that let it play Atari 2600 games.

Counting these adapters, the earliest system I can find with "backwards" compatibility I can find is the ColecoVision. When the system launched in 1982, Coleco also sold the Expansion Module #1. This device let people play Atari 2600 games on their ColecoVision (which seemed a little odd since 2600 games looked so much worse than ColecoVision). This of coarse prompt a lawsuit from Atari, they eventually reached a settlement where Coleco would pay Atari royalties for every unit sold.

Imagine if Sony released a adapter that you play Xbox 360 discs on your PlayStation 3?

Microsoft threatened to release a Playstation emulator for Xbox, but it never happened.

bubicusSeptember 14, 2010

I just wanted to point out that Rytmik is an exception: it's a pretty good download.  However, it's not a game.

Quote from: Ian

Nintendo doesn't want to admit that Sony or Microsoft have any good ideas.  They have to always be different from those two.

I personally don't apply such a negative evaluation to their motives. I do agree that Nintendo always tries to be different, for better or for worse, but I think this is because they're making conscious and concerted efforts to stay competitive by always offering something new, different, or surprising. Up against companies as powerful, resourceful, and knowledgeable as Sony and Microsoft, I think they may see "following" as the first step towards "imitating," and "imitating" as the first step to getting trapped in a slugging match with their bigger opponents.

Nintendo obviously needs to make major strides in many areas. For instance, I harbor a hope that they've realized the inadequacy of their online connectivity process, offerings, and capabilities, especially with regards to new and lapsed users interfacing with their technology. This is a hope I feel is supported given the fact that Nintendo has made several concerted attempts to get more Wii users in the Japanese market to connect to the internet on a more frequent basis.

Still, Nintendo never became the videogame company they are today by incrementally outperforming their competitors. Innovation, surprise, and thirst for new gaming frontiers seem to have always been the key essential ingredients for that inexplicable, yet irresistible, quality that fans have known for years as, fittingly, the Nintendo "Difference."

Holy shit, it's Kairon! Where the heck have you been?

Aaaaaannnddd.... back into lurk mode! &P

I'm still here even though I post like, once every 2 months or something. I don't think I'll ever leave this site, NWR is like, my home on the internet. *sniff* I love you guys! It's just I've been pretty much failing at juggling life, work, and sleep, that's why I'm like, super-lurky.

Ian SaneSeptember 15, 2010

Quote:

I personally don't apply such a negative evaluation to their motives. I do agree that Nintendo always tries to be different, for better or for worse, but I think this is because they're making conscious and concerted efforts to stay competitive by always offering something new, different, or surprising.


The thing is there are times where being different and surprising is something that people want to see and there are some times where it makes no sense at all.  Distributing demos, connecting to online games, managing storage - no one wants these things to be "creative".  These are practical applications with no real entertainment purpose therefore creativity is unnecessary and often counter-intuitive.  People just want it to work.

Creativity should be saved for the games where it is welcome and appropriate.

Quote from: Ian

Creativity should be saved for the games where it is welcome and appropriate.

I disagree vehemently. I feel that creativity is an essential problem-solving tool that applies to a huge number of topics, including things like business models, delivery methods, ergonomics, warfare, gardening, birthday parties...

Ian SaneSeptember 15, 2010

Quote:

I disagree vehemently. I feel that creativity is an essential problem-solving tool that applies to a huge number of topics, including things like business models, delivery methods, ergonomics, warfare, gardening, birthday parties...


I agree that it is an essential PROBLEM-solving tool.  "Problem" is the key word.  When something already works like a dream then there is no problem to be solved.  By applying creativity to everything Nintendo breaks stuff that isn't broken.

Quote from: Ian

Quote:

I disagree vehemently. I feel that creativity is an essential problem-solving tool that applies to a huge number of topics, including things like business models, delivery methods, ergonomics, warfare, gardening, birthday parties...


I agree that it is an essential PROBLEM-solving tool.  "Problem" is the key word.  When something already works like a dream then there is no problem to be solved.  By applying creativity to everything Nintendo breaks stuff that isn't broken.

But you're framing the wrong problem here. Nintendo has repeatedly stated that they are competing against all forms of entertainment, like movies, or books. This implies that their problem is about how to connect to people who already aren't chosing present videogame experiences, no matter how polished the tech is. Functionality is important and this is definitely a weak spot for Nintendo, but I think that Nintendo feels that unless they can differentiate themselves, they are fighting a losing battle over the long-term.

Besides, conventional wisdom said that the traditional controller already worked like a dream back in 2005. Nintendo saw, and solved, a problem that everyone else thought was working fine. That's why today we have the luxury of arguing about what we're arguing right now instead of grimly contemplating the Big N pulling a Sega.

Ian SaneSeptember 15, 2010

I think assuming everything is broken and can be fixed in some way is as foolish as thinking everything is fine the way it is.  A smart person acknowledges that some things don't need to be tinkered with and some stuff does.  Nintendo's approach of assuming everything is busted unless they do it the "Nintendo way" is stupid.  You can point to the Wii's success as proof that the methodology works but I can also point to the N64 and Gamecube and Virtual Boy as proof that it doesn't.  Most of Nintendo's problems, including the Wii's problems, stem from their insistence on doing everything a unique and creative way.

It tends to work when Nintendo is actually being the trend setter but tends to fail miserably when someone else comes up with an obvious solution first.  It is only to Nintendo's benefit if their unique Nintendo solution actually improves on the competitor's way of doing it.  If after analysis it does not then it is better that they don't go forward with it and just do something conventional.

The fact that so often there is no benefit or improvement put forward by the unique Nintendo solution suggests to me that Nintendo's priority is in making themselves feel that they're always right instead of actually doing what's best.  It's an inferiority complex and I've seen it in individuals, companies, governments or any organization.  For a long time Nintendo was under the thumb of one man who like any individual can let pride and stubborness get in the way of good decisions and that culture has probably been maintained in the present.

I wonder how much they look at outside methodologies.  Miyamoto has indicated that he doesn't really look at competitors games much, but Iwata has publicly acknowledged the iPhone.  i.e. how many of their problems are due to reinventing the wheel due of ignorance vs. the desire to innovate (not that those are necessarily mutually exclusive).

Art_de_CatSeptember 16, 2010

I have been greatly dissapointed over the lack of advertising for the download services and for the lack of demos to try out.  You MUST ADVERTISE for people to know what to buy or to get an idea to buy.  Then the few advertisements we do get are only on the Nintendo Channel that not everyone can access.  WTH?

Honestly Ian, I think you and me are arguing for two extremes and that a healthy balance lies in somewhere in the middle by mixing the two sides we're arguing from. Of course, it's rarely a satisfying discussion to not end up with some crystallized, hard-edged ideal ruleset. &P

Quote from: Art_de_Cat

I have been greatly dissapointed over the lack of advertising for the download services and for the lack of demos to try out.  You MUST ADVERTISE for people to know what to buy or to get an idea to buy.  Then the few advertisements we do get are only on the Nintendo Channel that not everyone can access.  WTH?

Yeah, I think that Nintendo has also been perplexed by this problem, and that they're starting to realize the distance they have to yet to go to realize their goals.

I recall Iwata talking about the similar issue that only self-educated users were taking full potential of their download services. He also talked about how they wanted to try for more of a "pushing" content to users instead of users having to proactively "pull" stuff down by going into the existing shop and advertising services of their own accord. (Did I get that backwards? I'm new to push-pull terminology).

I think it was a talk more geared to the handheld space, but I felt it demonstrated that Nintendo was realizing how new they were at addressing modern connectivity issues.

BociSeptember 17, 2010

Hi all,

that is really an interesting coincidence here. I am the designer of a small game development team and we finished our first game for WiiWare 2 weeks ago - waiting for approval by Nintendo. Hopefully our game will then be released the next weeks.

I agree that having demos for WiiWare titles were a great idea - and a totally usual one in the games industry after all. I can't understand why Nintendo decided to take down this opportunity as it is one of the biggest chances for WiiWare game developers out there, unless you are a bigger team like Hudson Soft etc...

I wrote Neal an email with informations about our game, i hope we will have at least a small news or article, so we can get some publicity before the game is out. I wrote to so many news and review site teams and it's weird, that i only get replies from about 10-15% of the sites. Seems that there is a real problem for WiiWare titles not only on the platform side but also in the press.

But still we won't give up, as we believe in our game :) I hope you will see this, too :)

Thank you for this article - and the amount and intensity of the comments is a glow in the dark for me after all :)

PS: Sorry for my English - we are based in Germany, i hope this counts as a little excuse ;)

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorSeptember 17, 2010

In regards to backwards compatibility - The Intellivision was also compatible with Atari 2600 games through use of an adapter.

But, I believe, the first case of true backwards compatibility was through the Atari 7800.  Although not the world's biggest selling system, I don't think anything before it was truly able to play games from a previous system without any kind of adapter.

anandSeptember 26, 2010

Boci's post was very interesting. I've always suspected that most of the general gaming press has no desire whatsoever to cover WiiWare and DSiWare (and, to get a bit more conspiracy-theory, the Wii and the DS). I'm not sure it's a conspiracy, though, to be honest. People just play what their peers are playing, and the gaming press is largely incestuous. It's a tiny gene pool, in terms of preferred platforms, tastes, and even opinions. And representative of only a tiny swath of the game-playing audience.

It staggers me how media personalities on podcasts go on and on about how many GREAT games there are on the XBLIndies service, but totally ignore the WiiWare and DSiWare gems, relegating the entire services to punchlines by focusing on the shovelware (which there IS quite a bit of, admittedly, but XBLIndies???). Similarly, even shitty HD games that nobody cares about will get discussed in place of flagship Wii/DS games. And it seems like the vast majority of the media would never pay to play a Wii game. They literally have to be paid in order to do it, which leads to widespread ignorance about the platform. Even wider spread, because their opinions are funneling directly into the ears of gamers. And the effect on the mainstream gaming hivemind is palpable. It even seems to affect publishing decisions, especially in the beginning of this gen.

Anyway, that's what I like about the NWR podcasts. You guys manage to carve out your own niche and be unique, just by discussing Nintendo platforms seriously and in-depth. Most other gaming podcasts are almost interchangeable.

BociSeptember 27, 2010

Unfortunately, i didn't get a reply from Neal yet...but we will have the first video up on the games website soon, maybe i will contact him again then with new stuff which might be more interesting to see/show...

StratosSeptember 27, 2010

Boci, just start a thread about the game in the Nintendo Console Discussion part of the boards. A guy named Legendo did a similar thing to promote his WiiWare game and that worked out very well. He got several articles onto the site through that thread.

BociSeptember 27, 2010

Cool, thanks! I will give it a try now :)

edit: started a thread with an introduction of our game. I hope this is ok...in case you're interested here is the link:
http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/forums/index.php?topic=32427.0

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