Wii

Trent Oster Talks WiiWare and Wii U 

by Jared Rosenberg - April 17, 2012, 5:47 pm PDT
Total comments: 26

Beamdog's Trent Oster explains the problems he encountered when bringing MDK2 to WiiWare and voices concern about Wii U.  

Beamdog's Trent Oster has not been shy about discussing the problems the company had with bringing MDK2 to WiiWare. NWR recently reached out to Mr. Oster to learn more about his experience with WiiWare and also to seek out his perspective on the Wii U. Below is his response:

"I'm not an oracle on the problems with WiiWare, but from my perspective the platform hasn't been a success for many developers outside of Nintendo.

The 40MB size limit on WiiWare makes it very difficult to bring larger games to the platform. We had to go to war on MDK2 to get it to fit within the 40MB constraints, taking a 400 plus megabyte game and cutting it a full order of magnitude in size. We put a lot of effort into managing the compromises to get the game down in size and still keep the quality level high.

When we shipped MDK2 there was a large confusion about demos on the platform and we never got a straight answer if demos were allowed. We were not allowed to set the price, Nintendo set the pricing, telling us after a week it would be 1000 points. As well, there was never any discussion of doing a sale or promoting the title. This all contributed to a title we worked very hard on not getting any differentiation from other titles in the WiiWare store. The result was large disappointment with the platform.

When the Wii first launched, I didn't understand it. I thought it was just a gimmick. After playing with it I could see the mass appeal, but I was afraid it would be treated like a toy by the family purchasers, where they would buy the Wii bundle with Wii Sports and never buy another game. I think for a lot of the family purchases this was true and a huge number of the Wii units only ever sold one or two games. The initial third party titles didn't do a great job with the controller implementation and I think that really hurt the perception of third party titles on the Wii as a whole. The end result was a platform where the perception was only Nintendo could make money.

For the Wii U, I once again don't get it. I'm having a hard time seeing how a tablet controller & console system is going to be revolutionary. I could be wrong, but I think the gaming world has changed irrevocably and there are now two fronts: Triple A console titles which resemble blockbuster movies and freemium/app store titles which are closer to television. The triple "A" titles cost a ton to develop and there is a market for the best of the breed, with the major brands doing huge numbers but many titles not even breaking even.

The freemium/app space has everything from "assware" (my pet name for poor quality freemium titles), up to what I would compare to HBO television titles, which are high production quality and well executed games which sell in the $10-$30 price point. The PC platform bridges both models, which makes it an interesting target to develop for. To me, the Wii U doesn't fit into either model and I see a lot of difficulty for it on either front. The app store/freemium model has redefined consumer pricing expectations, making consumers much less likely to invest $60 in a title without playing it first. The triple "A" model focuses on delivering the experience you expect at the agreed upon price, which is going to be hard to sell conceptually with a new platform like the Wii U. I wish Nintendo the best and I hope they can hit big with a major success."

Talkback

EnnerApril 18, 2012

Nice to see a detailed response.


His thoughts remind me of the weird, and often frustrating, spots Nintendo puts itself and others in.

PREACH, BROTHER! Nintendo has a chance to do something different and better, especially with their digital platform. 3DS gives me hope. I'm patiently waiting to see even more progress on Wii U.

NinSageApril 18, 2012

Oh no!! Trent Oster of Beamdog thinks the Wii tastes like sour grapes and doesn't "get" the Wii U.

This time, more than any of the hundreds of other times, Nintendo is really and truly ... doomed.

Thankfully Trent can keep his children fed on MDK2's successful XBL and PSN release ... oh... wait.

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterApril 18, 2012

I just knew NinSage was going to barge in and say that somehow the developer is "wrong" in his statements, never mind the fact that they worked directly with Nintendo and know what he is talking about.


Here's the thing: this guy isn't a no name indie developer that made a 2 dollar game and put it on WiiWare and is complaining about it. He is a developer with years of experience creating and selling games. MDK2 in particular is a cult classic, people WERE excited for its re-release on WiiWare. So I believe him when he says that they ad a lot of issues working with Nintendo and plan on not developing for the system any further. It's called being cautious.


Games take money to make. If a platform isn't generating profit, then it makes no sense for the company to keep supporting that platforming. They need to re-invent strategies and focus on other platforms. It's a very simple and basic business concept that has been around for ages. So why do people take a very deep offense when a developer comes out and says that the Wii and WiiWare has issues and because of that they are doubtful of the Wii U?


OK, I get it... When the Wii first came out, we all got tired of people undermining its success and ignoring its game, failing to give the system some credit. I get it, I was there, I was part of the fanboy brigade against the Wii bashing. But now, I have seen how Nintendo has worked with the Wii and realized that they have made mistakes, especially when it comes to digital distribution and online play. Not everyone is out there to badmouth the Wii and spits in people's face, these developers are just stating that the Wii is not as profitable as they hoped it would be.


THIS IS NINTENDO'S PROBLEM TO DEAL WITH.


Ever since WiiWare first arrived it has been nothing but mistakes left and right. They failed to bring a proper storage solution at launch, instead waiting a year after the fact to implement it. They failed to provide a solid demo system, and when they did, it was too little, too late AND was extremely limited. They failed to advertise the service's games outside their own games and a few carefully select games. THESE ARE REAL ISSUES.


Nintendo must realize that the gaming landscape is not the same as it was a few years ago. They need to evolve. I get their need to be different, but different isn't always better, and it won't kill them to implement basic ideas if it means more people will enjoy them and thus generate more profit in the long run.


So basically, I think Nintendo fanboys need to stop demonizing developers when they come out and state that the Wii isn't a valuable system for them to work on. The Wii is far from the perfect system, so people need to stop living in a bubble that claims it is.

But Pedro, NinSage is right; it's the victim's fault.

NinSageApril 18, 2012

@pap64

I read your whole post.  I appreciate what you said.

First of all, can we stop tossing about the term "fanboy" every time someone defends anything?  I don't think I've ever called anyone that ... it's ignorant to do so.  People LOVING something shouldn't have negative connotations.  If people use their love to blindly HATE on the competitors? Feel free to take issue with that and call them whatever you like.  That's not me.  I'm sitting in a room with one Nintendo platform and two Sony platforms.  Can we please keep this in mind in the future?

Yes, WiiWare is not perfect.  It's also not bad.  The size limit is a foolish restriction.  Nintendo should get rid of that and I believe they will with the Wii U.  Other than that? haha 6K is not much to ask a developer to sell!  Anyone confident AT ALL in their product should be OK letting 6K slide to get distribution on a big time platform.

This is partly why the vast majority of developers do not go burning bridges about it.  And that's what many besides myself take issue with here.  If Trent has a problem with Nintendo, guess who he can talk to it about? That's right... Nintendo.

It's just like in sports, you work out your problems privately for the good of the team.  When Trent goes about complaining publicly he is trying to stir something up against Nintendo because he feels he has been wronged and this is an effective means of either bringing about change or feeling vengeful.  ... and do you really think this is the most effective way to get that change?  No, it would be to sit down with his people and their people and, if they exist, the huge posse of other worthy developers who've been "wronged."  So, if that's not the case, misguided vengeance and attempts at cheap publicity are just not what I respect in my developers.

Also... people were excited about MDK2? A "cult classic" from 12 years ago? C'mon... I'm sure it was a nifty title but it's not like it was destined for success and WiiWare/Nintendo was the problem.  You can at least admit that, right?


@Halbred

Did you miss the part about XBL/PSN?  If you can tell me why he didn't take his awesome game to those blissful services it would really help me reconsider the situation.

ejamerApril 18, 2012

A few direct comments.

NWR_pap64:  Do you really think people were excited about an MDK2 re-release?  I mean, beyond a vocal minority online?  Judging by the lack of sales there obviously weren't that many people excited about the game - probably shouldn't be a surprise since (despite being viewed as a bit of a "cult classic" now) the game wasn't particularly successful the first time around either.
NinSage:  In some ways, asking for 6000 sales seems reasonable. But Nintendo has done nothing to build or establish an active consumer base for WiiWare. In fact, many people would argue that Nintendo actively made choices that restricted the potential user-base for WiiWare titles.
NinSage: My understanding of why WiiWare is selected over XBLA/PSN is that not having to pay for an upgrade to HD graphics mattered, the install base of WiiWare users was overestimated, and the actual license holder felt that Wii controls could add to the game. I don't think that Beamdog has the rights to just release MDK2 on any platform since they don't own the property.
Halbred: Victim is a strong word. These are experienced developers who took a business risk that clearly didn't pay off for them. I would hope that they were informed of the risks and limitations involved when making the choice to start development, and selected WiiWare because it was the platform they had the best chance of success on. (It doesn't really sound that way though, based on some of their comments. If not, they could also be called a victim of their own poor planning.)

And some general opinions.
WiiWare is a bad platform for many developers. No pricing control, and limited control over your release schedule. Technical and business limitations that are tighter than many competing platforms.  An unclear market that obviously doesn't tie-in directly to the overall install base.  *shudder*
I think most people who make negative comments about Beamdog and their stance are reacting to the "sour grapes"-type statements that get highlighted. Part of this is that twitter statements aren't fully qualified and can easily come across as extreme opinions, part of it is that the bitter taste of not getting paid does color some of his statements. (Understandable, but still not very professional sounding.) The full interviews come across much better than the sound bites in this regard.
Personally, I think there should be some acceptance by Beamdog that they made a bad choice. They agreed to make a game that wasn't in demand and put it on a platform they didn't really understand. Even if they did a great job with the game, that's a risky proposition at best. Instead it feels like they are suggesting the game failed solely because of the platform. That doesn't reflect the full truth MDK2 very well could and would have failed anywhere. Of course the big question then becomes: "to what degree would/could it have failed elsewhere?" Presumably they would have earned back at least some of their investment...
I'm curious to see what happens with eShop over time. Nintendo has made some concessions and improvements for the service, but I still feel that (like all digital platforms) your chances for success are strongly influenced by how much pre-release hype and support you can generate along with the timing of your release. Will games released early in the platform lifecycle still have a much better chance than games released later on? WiiWare also had some early hits that looked promising before the platform viability nose-dived.
Beamdog should ask for a refund on the marketing money they spent. There was incredibly little coverage for this game and what advertising was done seemed very ineffective. (Coming from someone who considers himself a pretty big fan of WiiWare games, who actively follows what is getting released, yet still knows relatively little about this particular tittle.)

NinSageApril 18, 2012

@ejamer

Excellent post.  I look forward to chatting with you about 999 later tonight!

Not wanting to spend the time/money for an HD upgrade seems logical at first glance, but Trent claims they spent all kinds of time re-working the game to fit the file size limit.  Seems they could just as easily have spent that time porting to HD, no? Especially since XBL/PSN has shown us that "HD re-releases" happen regardless of how "HD" the new content actually is.

TizonaApril 18, 2012

My issue with this is still the fact that Beamdog knew what it was getting into.
The filesize issues, restrictions, and lack of publicity for WiiWare games is very common knowledge to even the more casual Nintendo fans.
These guys CHOSE to release on this platform, under these conditions, and it did not work well for them. They are 100% in their right not to want to work with this platform  anymore, I just don't see why this needs to be "news" besides being publicity for Beamdog.

ejamerApril 18, 2012

Quote from: Tizona

..., I just don't see why this needs to be "news" besides being publicity for Beamdog.

As a side-note, it's a shame that this news and publicity (for an apparently well-made game) comes in such ugly fashion.


Putting out a humorous grass-roots campaign appealing to gamers to go buy MDK2 so that Beamdog can afford lunch might've been a fun way to take a jab at Nintendo's platform while potentially pushing additional sales and awareness enough that they might still get paid (maybe).


Unfortunately the perceived attitudes and publicity received are more likely to discourage Wii patrons from running out to buy this game (or any future release by Beamdog).  Maybe it wouldn't matter anyway... but it has done nothing to improve the situation.

NinSageApril 18, 2012

Quote from: ejamer

... it has done nothing to improve the situation.

+1

NWR_pap64Pedro Hernandez, Contributing WriterApril 18, 2012

So guys, when you say that Beamdog should have known what they were getting themselves into when they decided to develop for WiiWare, are you indirectly admitting that the WiiWare platform was a very flawed one to begin with and thus developers shouldn't even bother with it?


Seriously, the whole "It's the developer's fault" argument is stupid. It's like saying that a woman victim of rape shouldn't get emotional counseling and go to the police and report the crime because she decided to wear a blouse that showed some cleavage, because it is HER fault, not the criminal's.


Also, I find it AMAZING that you guys are so apologetic towards Nintendo that you are willing to ignore its clear faults just because they are perfect. Guess what, they are not. I said it before and I'll say it again: Nintendo's downloadable game service is flawed. Developers could have super detailed, greatly designed games for the service and it would still under perform due to the low number of users that have their Wiis connected to the internet, much less aware of downloadable games.


Then there's the fact that you guys are saying that developers shouldn't talk about their negative experiences with WiiWare. How in the HELL do you expect Nintendo to improve their services if they don't have the feedback to know where they need to improve? For the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo said that they strive to improve third party relationships, that means that they ARE aware of some of the mistakes made in the past generation of game. And I can't state this enough: Nintendo is a business. As a business, Nintendo needs to improve on their assets and making sure their innovations are relevant and, most importantly, are profitable. Once again, how do you expect them to improve on business models if you condemn anyone that dares to speak about its flaws.


But no... on YOUR logic, it is the developer's fault, Nintendo did nothing wrong, Nintendo is perfect and flawless and anyone that dares to speak about them in a negative manner is just a butthurt individual that wants to tarnish Nintendo. Everyone is hating on Nintendo for the sake of it.


Here, let me join you in fighting against the bad, evil developers that want to insult Nintendo...


http://img810.imageshack.us/img810/7343/closeears300x195.jpg

Quote from: NinSage

Quote from: ejamer

... it has done nothing to improve the situation.

+1

You could argue that bringing more attention to how awful the system Nintendo built is might have a positive impact on what happens in the future, although since Nintendo seems to have already addressed the most egregious aspects of it with the 3DS that might be less true.

TizonaApril 18, 2012

Quote from: NWR_pap64

So guys, when you say that Beamdog should have known what they were getting themselves into when they decided to develop for WiiWare, are you indirectly admitting that the WiiWare platform was a very flawed one to begin with and thus developers shouldn't even bother with it?

I'm not indirectly admitting WiiWare is flawed platform, I'm saying it seems to me like these flaws are very well known around the gaming community, and if a dev chooses to release on the platform anyway, they don't have a lot of room to complain afterwards about these things, as if they didn't know. 

CericApril 18, 2012

Quote from: Tizona

Quote from: NWR_pap64

So guys, when you say that Beamdog should have known what they were getting themselves into when they decided to develop for WiiWare, are you indirectly admitting that the WiiWare platform was a very flawed one to begin with and thus developers shouldn't even bother with it?

I'm not indirectly admitting WiiWare is flawed platform, I'm saying it seems to me like these flaws are very well known around the gaming community, and if a dev chooses to release on the platform anyway, they don't have a lot of room to complain afterwards about these things, as if they didn't know. 

Forget it.  I'm going to full bore.

WiiWare is a Flawed Platform.  Espectially compared to the Alternatives.

ejamerApril 18, 2012

Quote from: NWR_pap64

...
Seriously, the whole "It's the developer's fault" argument is stupid. It's like saying that a woman victim of rape shouldn't get emotional counseling and go to the police and report the crime because she decided to wear a blouse that showed some cleavage, because it is HER fault, not the criminal's.

This is a HORRIBLE analogy that doesn't fit the scenario at all.

Ian SaneApril 18, 2012

Nintendo has no idea how (or no desire) to accomodate third parties.  Nintendo's designs a system for Nintendo alone and if you want to participate as well you can if you adhere to their inflexible design where your needs were not taken into account whatsoever.  If you have the same needs as Nintendo, you're fine, but with anything else you're fucked.  This approach has completely destroyed the third party support on Nintendo consoles since the N64.

Nintendo has a big problem: they have never learned.  They suffered from it on the Gamecube but they did not address the issue and come back.  Instead they dodged it by focusing on a new market where third party support didn't matter.  Nintendo finished last in baseball so instead of getting better next year they invented their own new sport and became the champions of it.

Nintendo talks about attracting core gamers back with the Wii U.  They'll probably fail at that because they need good third party support and they might as well be coming from last place in that regard.  Compared to the Wii, the Gamecube was the fuckin' SNES.  The problem is that Nintendo did very well this gen financially.  They never addressed the issue from the Gamecube days, just bypassed it, and then did really well financially so there it is unlikely they would think they were doing anything wrong.

To correct their third party problem they need to be in a situation where they HAVE to correct their third party problem.  They were in that position at the end of the Gamecube era, sitting in last place.  But they went for the casuals and that bailed them out.  They avoided having their back to the wall.  Now if they can do well with the casuals, then it doesn't matter to them.  But if they really want the core gamer market back in any way, they have to change and they have to do it now.  But knowing Nintendo they won't change until they're forced to.  They will have to seriously want to attract third parties and core gamers and fail at it before they feel the need to change.  I suspect that because the Wii was successful they're not even aware that this is an issue they have to address.  They'll look at the Wii's success and think "well that kicked ass so I guess we're doing everything right!"

NinSageApril 18, 2012

@pap64

Where did the smart, reasonable guy who wrote your previous post go??  There are so many oversights and omissions in this latest post, but I'll address the big three...

1. As ejamer said, that analogy does not fit the situation.

2.

Quote from: NWR_pap64

But no... on YOUR logic, it is the developer's fault, Nintendo did nothing wrong, Nintendo is perfect and flawless and anyone that dares to speak about them in a negative manner is just a butthurt individual that wants to tarnish Nintendo.

erm...

Quote from: NinSage

Yes, WiiWare is not perfect.  It's also not bad.  The size limit is a foolish restriction.


Quote from: Tizona

The filesize issues, restrictions, and lack of publicity for WiiWare games is very common knowledge to even the more casual Nintendo fans.


Quote from: ejamer

WiiWare is a bad platform for many developers. No pricing control, and limited control over your release schedule.

O_o

3.

Quote from: NWR_pap64

Then there's the fact that you guys are saying that developers shouldn't talk about their negative experiences with WiiWare. How in the HELL do you expect Nintendo to improve their services if they don't have the feedback to know where they need to improve?

uhhmm...

Quote from: NinSage

It's just like in sports, you work out your problems privately for the good of the team.  When Trent goes about complaining publicly he is trying to stir something up against Nintendo because he feels he has been wronged and this is an effective means of either bringing about change or feeling vengeful.  ... and do you really think this is the most effective way to get that change?  No, it would be to sit down with his people and their people and, if they exist, the huge posse of other worthy developers who've been "wronged."

9_9

~~~

Discussions completely break down if people totally ignore what the other side has said.  If only there were a cute graphic for such a concept .... oh yea....

Quote from: NWR_pap64

http://img810.imageshack.us/img810/7343/closeears300x195.jpg

AdrockApril 18, 2012

In terms of helping developers turn a profit, would it be beneficial for Nintendo to adopt a system similar to Apple and the App store? I believe Apple takes 30% but at least the developer starts making some money from the get-go.

Quote from: Ian

Nintendo has no idea how (or no desire) to accomodate third parties.  Nintendo's designs a system for Nintendo alone and if you want to participate as well you can if you adhere to their inflexible design where your needs were not taken into account whatsoever.  If you have the same needs as Nintendo, you're fine, but with anything else you're fucked.  This approach has completely destroyed the third party support on Nintendo consoles since the N64.

Ian, you're upsetting 3DS. Stop it. She's trying her best.

house3136April 19, 2012

What I don’t understand is why Trent Oster is trying to publicly burn his bridge with Nintendo, and has already closed his mind to developing for any Nintendo console regardless of its capabilities. His argument and problems with WiiWare are legitimate, and maybe some coaxing like this will get Nintendo to open their ears. However, when someone says they will never develop for Nintendo again and then says, “For the Wii U, I once again don't get it. I'm having a hard time seeing how a tablet controller & console system is going to be revolutionary…” how does this have any merit? I’ll let you argue over context and semantics, but what does Trent Oster know about Wii U, Nintendo Network, or Wii U Ware? To blatantly assume some problems with WiiWare are going to plague the new console, and insinuate that only triple-A titles (as if Nintendo doesn’t know what that is) and the market of assware games on mobile devices are what sell, and Nintendo has neither. I’ll wait for someone who is actually developing titles for Wii U to voice their opinions about the console and the restrictions for its downloadable titles before I call them to “preach” about a console they are already against. Again, the WiiWare argument is completely valid, but his foray into Wii U is premature and just wrong.

AdrockApril 19, 2012

I think his point is that there was no bridge for him to burn.

TJ SpykeApril 19, 2012

Based on the one game (since the other was a HD version of the first game) his company has released so far and the 1 game he has announced, meh. No big loss

ejamerApril 19, 2012

Quote from: Adrock

In terms of helping developers turn a profit, would it be beneficial for Nintendo to adopt a system similar to Apple and the App store? I believe Apple takes 30% but at least the developer starts making some money from the get-go.
...

Not quite true - there are minimum sales numbers before getting paid for iOS too, but it nothing like the numbers being reported for WiiWare.  (I forget the details.  Something like you don't get paid until the first cheque reaches a certain dollar value?  It's pretty reasonable if you have an app that is going to sell at all though.)

TJ SpykeApril 19, 2012

Not sure how much it is now, but in 2009 Apple had a requirement of $150 in sales in a country before you got paid.

Victor von Zeppelin April 19, 2012

I just had to register here when I saw this comment thread. I totally agree with the writers, and with what Oster has to say. The sheer belief that Nintendo isn't in a bad spot is almost religious.

Back when I was an ardent little Nintendo fan boy (like when the wii came out ) I would have stood up for the company's side, but now after years of being disenfranchised and my hopes destroyed I lost all real Interest in them. And the same can be said for nearly everyone on the net who once held out hope for Nintendo. Devs in particular need to speak out to get Nintendo to acknowledge that their platform is soo bad. As previous posters have been saying, the app store method is where a lot of smaller titles should be going. In Nintendo case, its really hard to buy games like that. In all other markets, Mario Bros wii would have been a downloadable game, sold for a Tenner, because that's what it's worth. With nintendo's model, no such luck.

ejamerApril 19, 2012

Quote from: TJ

Not sure how much it is now, but in 2009 Apple had a requirement of $150 in sales in a country before you got paid.

Which is incredibly reasonable. Even on the overcrowded and under-advertised app store, where devs quickly learned that naming conventions and pricing structure can matter more than game quality, getting 150 sales shouldn't be that hard.

Quote from: Victor

... In all other markets, Mario Bros wii would have been a downloadable game, sold for a Tenner, because that's what it's worth. With nintendo's model, no such luck.

Wow. Totally disagree with this statement. The same argument was thrown at Rayman Origins and I disagreed strongly there too.  Just because it's 2D or part of the platformer genre doesn't mean the experience is worth less than other blockbuster games.


A game's "worth" isn't the same for everyone, but I hate the mentality that race-to-the-bottom pricing has created because it means that developers will have lower budgets to create high-quality games in genres that I enjoy most. Sure there are cheaper alternatives - but there is a reason why some brands/developers command a premium: because they are consistently better game experiences that took more effort to design/test/create.

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