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Episode 397: RFNware Shop Channel

by James Jones, Jon Lindemann, Jonathan Metts, and Guillaume Veillette - September 7, 2014, 5:19 pm PDT
Total comments: 25

Dan Adelman is our special guest for an intense look at establishing WiiWare, DSiWare, and the eShop. Plus: we discuss the effects of Phazon within the games media in Listener Mail.

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We don't often have full-on interviews or new guests on Radio Free Nintendo, because it's asking a lot of these people to deal with our strict recording schedule and the relatively complex procedures needed to make the show sound good every week. This time, it was absolutely worthwhile. Our special guest is Dan Adelman, the independent development consultant who recently left Nintendo of America after nine years of work on digital distribution platforms. It so happens that we on RFN have spent the last eight years obsessing over the mysterious workings of those same platforms and shop portals. Dan couldn't talk much about Virtual Console (we'll keep trying) but he answered freely and at length our very specific questions on everything from the WiiWare file size limit (40 megabytes!) to the evolution of Nintendo's digital storefronts and how backwards policies eventually got changed through the maze of Nintendo's bureaucracy. We think you'll find his answers enlightening and fascinating, as we did throughout the interview. Dan is now a freelance consultant for independent developers who need business help -- check out his website for more information, or ping him on Twitter (@Dan_Adelman). The guy knows what he's doing, as you'll hear.

It's back to just the four of us in part two, but we stay on the industry talk train with an in-depth edition of Listener Mail. Just one topic this week, but it's a big one that consumed the remainder of this episode. A listener is concerned about corruption within the gaming media and asks us to tell all. No problem! Note: Our discussion is removed from sex stories, crowd-sourced harassment, hashtag wars, etc. It's just about standards of ethics, disclosure, and professional relationships across the industry. We aren't calling out anyone, except maybe ourselves.

We'll swing hard back into game discussion next week, so keep that in mind when you write an email for the show! And of course, huge thanks again to Dan Adelman for spending so much time answering our obsessive questions.

This podcast was edited by Guillaume Veillette.

Music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is used with permission from Jason Ricci & New Blood. You can purchase their newest album, Done with the Devil, directly from the record label, Amazon (CD) (MP3), or iTunes, or call your local record store and ask for it!

Additional music for this episode of Radio Free Nintendo is copyrighted to Nintendo and is included under fair use protection.

Talkback

ClexYoshiSeptember 07, 2014
ClexYoshiSeptember 07, 2014

also, sorry for the double post, but I'd like to state that I haven't listened to the discussion yet. I also want to say that I can't remember exactly what my E-mail said, and I got a bit better educated  on all this mess a little bit later.

Turns out that 4chan pulled a lot of the strings behind #gamergate and by extension, #NotYourShield. There's still good sentiment behind it and the people who were used by /v/ really do want gaming media to be used, regardless of gender. I also feel that this could have been handled better by the folks out there who have their Masters in Journalism.

On with listening to the show, though!

EnnerSeptember 07, 2014

Damn great show. One to be remembered and referenced.


The Dan Adelman interview went as well as one can reasonably hope with lots of interesting details in to Nintendo's digital store efforts during his tenure.


The journalism ethics discussion has given me a lot to think about and reconsider. In regards to Pateron (and somewhat to Kickstarter), I was fairly open to friendly writers and indie developers supporting each other as I was sympathetic to their precarious financial situations. I have always known how weird it looks, but didn't consider deeply how bad it looks.

In 2010 MSNBC suspended Keith Olberman for contributions to political candidates. This, despite the fact both the network and the host himself were,by design, intensly partisan. It was the principle of "the wall."

Basically, you shouldn't make finincial donations to people you cover; it makes you part of the story. More pressingly, you should NEVER take money from them! It is insane that people considered that okay. The dichotomy of the primary advertisers being the subject matter can be handled by having a clear division between advertising management and editorial management (Gerstmanngate is an example of that wall breaking down). But if the money is flowing DIRECTLY to someone on the editorial side it is impossible to manage the influence of money.

I've come around a bit on Jon's concerns about Kickstarter. He's right, this is an investiment - not a pre-order. Even a successful Kickstarter campaign does not a successful game make, just ask all the people who contributed to the Yoggscast game. Once you put money in the pot you have a vested interest. Imagine a journo who got taken by the Yogscast kickstarter, once the announcement came that it was canceled, are they going to be willing to document all the red flags with that Kickstarter?

Disco StuSeptember 08, 2014

Apparently I don't listen to enough gaming podcasts.  What other ones has Dan Adelman already been on?

Uncle_OptimusSeptember 08, 2014

Wow, Dan Adelman...great guest get. I did not even know he had left Nintendo. Unfortunate for them, I am thinking.

BTW fellas, can ya add your delectable 'cast to TuneInRadio? I used to use the Apple podcast app but it has gotten terribaddily crash-happy. (And i am on a droid now anyway). TuneIn has been super useful a replacement...but they don't got my fave Nintendo show :(
http://help.tunein.com/customer/portal/topics/406030-broadcaster-help/articles

PLEASE! Thank you.

KisakiProjectSeptember 08, 2014

James Jones thanks for all your points.  I appreciated your voice of reason.  Super glad you are calling out patreon.  Kickstarter can be seen as a pre-order system but patreon is a serious conflict of interest.

I think you guys are proving why fan sites/enthusiasts are currently more reliable and trust worthy than the major publications.  But Jonny is right about "just read what you like."  If you don't like it don't read it.  I pretty much cut out all all the "gamers are dead" sites.  Counter trolling trolls is idiotic.

Also Silicon Knights story... one of their big people being tried for child porn charges?  It would be unfortunate if that was one of the people that came out for karaoke.  http://www.wellandtribune.ca/2014/07/29/niagara-man-sentenced-for-child-pornography 

The Dan Adelman interview was really enjoyable.  Some of, if not, the best work this show has done.

I don't know a ton about Patreon, but it seems like a service where you are really supporting someone's work on the basis of who they are, rather than what they might produce in the future. That may lead to smaller numbers of supporters vs. a service like Kickstarter, and in the case of independent developers and gaming writers, a lot of their friends who might support something like that (even as a symbolic trading of back-rubs) are likely to be other independent developers and/or gaming writers. So when I hear that a PR rep backs a writer's Patreon, that sounds like friends supporting each other. I don't think anyone honestly thinks a $5 donation can influence coverage... but yes, it can have the appearance of impropriety, especially when (by definition) you are not even paying for a product.

Kickstarter is much more of a gray area, and we had a good discussion about this between recording RFN segments last week. I firmly believe that Kickstarter is not an investment platform, because you legally cannot see a financial return on money pledged to those projects. So that's what it's not. What it is, depends on the kind of project you're backing and how much you put into it. For video games, I never back anything over the "get the game" level. So yes, it is a de facto pre-order. Normally, I don't support the concept of pre-ordering games because scarcity is no longer a real issue, and because it's more advantageous to the consumer to hold your money until the game is actually available (and subject to critical analysis, among other things). Pre-ordering a retail game doesn't even really support the game's development, which is often very advanced or even complete by the time pre-orders are available, not to mention that your down payment is just being held by a retailer (in escrow!) and will never been seen by the developer or publisher. However, pre-ordering a game on Kickstarter has a tangible effect on that game's likelihood of being completed. If I see an interesting game listed there, it makes sense to throw a nominal bit of money over to some small developer to help bring that game to fruition.

Ethically, I don't see this usage of Kickstarter as being any different than a game reviewer pre-ordering something at retail. You might pre-order a game that you're assigned to review, if you're concerned about getting it immediately upon release to help make your coverage timely, or if you need to review exclusive pre-order bonus content, or for other legitimate reasons. All it means is that you intend to buy that game. It doesn't necessarily bias you towards or against the game in any way. If the game ultimately sucks, hey guess what, you paid for it the same as all your readers who may feel exactly the same way. So I don't see how any of this invalidates or even throws shade on a member of the media.

One of the very few (OK, only) things I will give Polygon credit for is that they laid out a Kickstarter policy of "you can only back to the amount that gets you the game". Of course, when half the industry seems to be plugging the same project - looking at you, Amplitude HD - you do have to wonder.

(This also shot my idea of a "Start Tank" segment on Connectivity, where a couple of staffers and friends of the site debate the merits of a Kickstarter, halfway to hell.)

pokepal148September 08, 2014

Well we know that the world of gaming journalism has had a a few big bumps in the road. so it isn't surprising that people find it hard to trust sites like IGN.

But this distrust has made some nice YouTube Disney parody songs so yeah
http://youtu.be/FUyNEIsJ7Tk

azekeSeptember 08, 2014

Great interview.

It's a shame Dan eventually lost to the Man but here's hoping he left enough legacy that will keep dragging Nintendo kicking and screaming into the proper digital space.

I do think much of the mistrust has been simmering for a while, and many of the outlets feeling it have earned it. I look back to Kotaku calling people who had invested untold hours and dollars into Mass Effect, and found the (undeniably underwhelming) ending shitty, being branded as "entitled." No, they're consumers. They are the most important link in the developer, publisher, media, consumer chain. You work for them, not for EA. You may not have agreed with their thoughts on the ending (although I struggle to see how), but you at least should treat their concerns with respect. DmC brought similar outcomes.

DmC fans: "This game's combat system is not as deep as the previous games'. The new take on Dante is a tool - and clearly a self insert for the game's producer, and lacks the humor of the original games."

Kotaku: "The old games were cheesy. You just want to be catered to, this game is more inclusive."

DmC fans: "Yes, we liked the cheese. That's what we just said..."

And of course DmC sold less than any game in the franchise.

Treating your readers like this is shitty. Maybe you disagree, but don't turn around and later blame them for EA winning "worst company" or DmC selling poorly.

ClexYoshiSeptember 09, 2014

I listened to the Dan Adelman section of the podcast this morning again because I honestly tuned it out since PokePal had me a little worried that I might have upset some people  with sparking the ethics discussion and as a result, kinda tuned out the first half of things with my anticipation for that.


I really do wish he could have talked on VC stuff and I'm glad you grilled him on that. There's some really fascinating facts there, such as the office requirement being a product of not wanting Dev Kits leaked to the public and not some strange and out of touch rambling that Iwata did on how home developers devalue the market by crapping $1 shite onto the iTunes store.


I dunno why, but I have never liked Super Meat Boy. I didn't like the original version of it on Newgrounds, and I didn't like the XBLA version of the game either. Although I still think it's much better than it, I'm reminded of I Wanna be the Guy with how tiny your character is and how they sink and sprint about. I just feel Super Meat Boy especially moves about a bit too quick for precise platforming. I'm honestly curious if the Wiiware version would have addressed my issues with such things?

azekeSeptember 09, 2014

Quote from: ClexYoshi

out of touch rambling that Iwata did on how home developers devalue the market by crapping $1 shite onto the iTunes store.

Except that's exactly what happened.

Not even with mobile platforms but even with Steam eventually.

Nowadays it's nearly impossible to create 2d game without people saying "it should be XBLA/Steam/eShop for 15$ tops".

KisakiProjectSeptember 09, 2014

Quote from: azeke

Quote from: ClexYoshi

out of touch rambling that Iwata did on how home developers devalue the market by crapping $1 shite onto the iTunes store.

Except that's exactly what happened.

Not even with mobile platforms but even with Steam eventually.

Nowadays it's nearly impossible to create 2d game without people saying "it should be XBLA/Steam/eShop for 15$ tops".

Yeah.  It's sad Iwata was so right.  Gaming is in a terrible place and I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel without some kind of crash.

Also thanks Johnny for your super detailed response to my post.  Gave me some stuff to think about.  Ultimately I think creating guidelines that avoid even the appearance of impropriety is the best option for publications.  I also think us as Nintendo fans have always had it against the media at least since the Gamecube days.  We are a misunderstood niche.  I think everyone else slowly turning against the game media is jumping on our bandwagon, though they do it for different reasons.  There just seems to be a total disconnect between publications on the audience they cater too.  You saw that with the outrage amongst average consumers of XBOX ONE DRM last year and the luke warm media concerns.  If not outright defense.  I think the tech elite just have lost touch with the average person at this point.

ClexYoshiSeptember 09, 2014

Quote from: azeke

Quote from: ClexYoshi

out of touch rambling that Iwata did on how home developers devalue the market by crapping $1 shite onto the iTunes store.

Except that's exactly what happened.

Not even with mobile platforms but even with Steam eventually.

Nowadays it's nearly impossible to create 2d game without people saying "it should be XBLA/Steam/eShop for 15$ tops".

That it did.

What I was trying to get at is that people felt there was a connection between what Iwata said on the matter and Nintendo's Wiiware policies on who should and shouldn't get dev kits for a Nintendo platform.

Whether or not "gamergate" was fabricated by 4chan, reddit, whatever, I think the main takeaway from the readers who are concerned about gaming journalism integrity is to approach their publications with a much more critical eye, and not just consume it mindlessly.  It doesn't matter what kind of news is being covered, there are always context & biases from the author or publication that flavors the article, and you need to both make yourself aware of these biases, and consider them, ESPECIALLY if you're considering making a purchasing decision based on that feedback.

Even NWR isn't sacred in regards to this.  This is a Nintendo enthusiast website, and that flavors the output, obviously.  Sometimes it might mean certain reviewers giving a score that seems generous to the average, and others it means a seasoned MarioKart player being less enthusiastic about the game than the average reviewer because it seems like too well-tread road.  Unless you're not thinking, you visit this site understanding full and well that you're reading reviews, opinions, and insight from someone who is decidedly slanting towards enjoyment of the games Nintendo produces, generally.

While there's certainly a lot of "Growing-up" to do in the games journalism industry, readers need to also take a much more mature approach to gaming coverage, and use their brains a bit when reading something online to think about whether or not something sounds too enthusiastic.

ClexYoshiSeptember 10, 2014

Quote from: lolmonade

I think the main takeaway from the readers who are concerned about gaming journalism integrity is to approach their publications with a much more critical eye, and not just consume it mindlessly.  It doesn't matter what kind of news is being covered, there are always context & biases from the author or publication that flavors the article, and you need to both make yourself aware of these biases, and consider them, ESPECIALLY if you're considering making a purchasing decision based on that feedback.

That being said, those biases need to be disclosed in the name of journalistic integrity. people are upset that these biases are there and up front.

If you want to get to the example you used, I would say that they don't need to explain their bias because it's in the website's name! they port on Nintendo and review, preview, podcast, and editorialize within that small ecosystem and bubble with few exceptions.

#gamergate, as I view and interpret it, Is about getting the press to disclose this sort of thing and not work to an agenda behind the public's back, as the public are the ones they serve, not their friends.

Reasonable people can agree that media outlets should disclose substantial conflicts of interest, e.g. intertwined business interests. Trivial public endorsements ("Check this out!") and mere acquaintances do not meet that threshold.


So then, if most of us agree on the end goal, the question remains of how to achieve that goal. Little or nothing of what I've seen associated with that hashtag represents a productive means to do so, and much of it entirely undermines the common goal by warping the agenda to nefarious motives (sexism, etc.) or outright breaking the laws of nations and of common decency and respect.


The substantive argument here is exactly what Karl poses in his editorial, which should not be controversial at all: What are we supposed to do about it? I've yet to see anyone construct a realistic, respectful plan nor provide the organizational skills to make it actually happen. And so nothing will happen, except that everyone gets pissed off at each other, and a few people of varying emotional stability quit the business. The movement is doomed already -- your best bet is a reboot some other time, with far better quality control and an actual public relations strategy. You know, like a real social movement.

By the way, what I wrote above will surely annoy some people, because ideologues abhor pragmatism. But I'm still right.

ShyGuySeptember 10, 2014

Dang, Crimm is spitting hot fire in the comments! STUNNAH SHADES

Fake edit: Jonny "the Lamb" Metts too.

ClexYoshiSeptember 11, 2014

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Reasonable people can agree that media outlets should disclose substantial conflicts of interest, e.g. intertwined business interests. Trivial public endorsements ("Check this out!") and mere acquaintances do not meet that threshold.


So then, if most of us agree on the end goal, the question remains of how to achieve that goal. Little or nothing of what I've seen associated with that hashtag represents a productive means to do so, and much of it entirely undermines the common goal by warping the agenda to nefarious motives (sexism, etc.) or outright breaking the laws of nations and of common decency and respect.


The substantive argument here is exactly what Karl poses in his editorial, which should not be controversial at all: What are we supposed to do about it? I've yet to see anyone construct a realistic, respectful plan nor provide the organizational skills to make it actually happen. And so nothing will happen, except that everyone gets pissed off at each other, and a few people of varying emotional stability quit the business. The movement is doomed already -- your best bet is a reboot some other time, with far better quality control and an actual public relations strategy. You know, like a real social movement.

The problem is then you're trying to wrangle the internet as a whole and I can count the number of times that's worked on one hand. SOPA comes to mind, and there was some extreme negativity flung about there as well. That, and it's probably a lot harder to Doxx and threaten the whole of AT&T or such megacorps.

even if it's done nothing but made people sore at each other, I feel the fact that #Gamergate hasn't evaporated in the lightning quick environment that is the internet means it's had some level of effectiveness. if I had it my way, we'd probably get public apologies from both ends. The anons take off their masks in a move of sincerity and apologise even if that means they get to serve time for the laws they have broken, and the journalists admit the problems that brought theis headache to their doorstep and they try and reconnect to the very public they vowed to serve when they started putting their thoughts and opinions on the internet.

You're already back to unrealistic outcomes. Think more along the lines of market pressures. And I don't mean boycotts, as most people don't seem to even comprehend that term, much less have the resolve to implement one.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Associate Editor (Japan)September 12, 2014

Finally I can join in on an RFN discussion, been a long while!


So there was one huge thing going through my mind through the "media ethics" discussion.


As Jonny said, NWR is a volunteer website, which in essence makes us a "fansite" in the eyes of the rest of the media. It may be the best goddamn fansite dedicated to Nintendo, but to the folks at IGN/Gamespot et al, we are nothing more than a blog.


The total lack of money in the equation is what separates us, no one gets a salary, advertising revenue is only used to (barely) pay for server costs. If games aren't supplied by the publisher, then the NWR guys/gals go out and buy the games with their own money that they earned from a separate unrelated 9-to-5 job.


This complete lack of money, has removed any tiny possibility of NWR ever having to make any tough decisions about ethics. You get a meal from Dennis Dyack, no big deal, you aint changing your mind on any game for that. Let's say Neal gets some spam email offering $20 to publish a shitty article on NWR, no - **** you guy, dump your **** on another website.


Now compare that to Gerstmann-gate. Gamespot were getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a publisher, Jeff shat on their game, they fired him.
What if NWR got offered a multi-thousand dollar advertising contract for a shitty 3rd party shovelware game with the stipulation they had to advertise it, then review it with over a 9.0? What if the RFN crew got offered thousands of $$ to talk positively about the same shitty game for an hour?


So what I'm trying to say is innocence is bliss, the NWR guys never have to worry about their ethics being tested, and I much prefer it that way!  :) 

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