Why The Wii U Could Be The Indie Developer Console of Choice

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Why The Wii U Could Be The Indie Developer Console of Choice

We've heard about indie development quite a bit when it comes to gaming. The PC has probably been the ultimate destination for same for some time going back as far as the days of shareware and game modding. Mobile devices are stuffed full of same, with indie gaming flooding iOS and Android development shops. Consoles, however, have only recently gotten in on the action, but are taking to it pretty rapidly. The new generation of consoles is set to offer up some major advantages for the indie developer, but the biggest winner here may be Nintendo and the Wii U.

Nintendo's Wii U has been out longer than any other system in the next generation, yet it's been comparatively stagnant in terms of overall games around. The lack of games available for the system has been less than positively received, but there has been plenty of stirring around the indie sector. While both Sony and Microsoft have been seen offering advantages to the indie developer, there are two major developments for Nintendo's indie crowd that may really help it get into the swim: Unity and the Nintendo Web Framework.

With Unity, developers get access to a complete software development kit to help power development and allow developers to get product out faster and onto the console more rapidly. The Nintendo Web Framework, meanwhile, allows for the use of HTML5 to develop for Web browsers, meaning that not only could gamers play the games in question via the Wii U's Web browser, but also via other HTML5-capable Web browsers, which means multiple platforms can come into play from one round of development. That's likely to prove appealing to developers, who can make a move to get games to the widest possible audience for the least amount of development overall, saving resources and allowing more development to take place in the same time, whether it's more titles overall, or more complex titles to be released.

Nintendo, meanwhile, has been working hard to blow the indie horn, so to speak, getting more developers interested in bringing games to the console and at the same time getting more users interested in playing said titles. There are some roadblocks involved, with Nintendo serving as a bit of a gatekeeper in the whole affair—in-game advertising isn't allowed, but add-on content and microtransactions are just fine at last report—but for the most part, the field is open, even if Nintendo suggests sticking to family-oriented games as that's one of Nintendo's biggest audiences, and thus the place in which gamers are most likely to do well. Most of the problems that have emerged so far have been largely mechanical in nature; Nintendo wants to be sure there are no “game-breaking bugs” or “things busting our system,” both perfectly reasonable concerns, and Nintendo advises “reaching out to us” in the event of gray areas.

There's something to be said for this approach, after all, and Nintendo really wants the system to be working. But this is just as much a help to Nintendo as it is the indie developer; Nintendo needs games. Badly. Its development process so far has been extremely slack, and not too many developers even seem interested in developing for the Wii U, a situation that might well spell the end of Nintendo's console ambitions. But Nintendo is actively courting the indie developer, and this is good news.

However, there's something that Nintendo really could do in terms of producing games: the company has a massive library of intellectual property, and a host of indie developers who'd love to do something with it. Why not start licensing some of it out? Okay, granted, not even Nintendo wants fifty zillion Mario games running around, but there are possibilities. Admittedly, Nintendo's engaged in a little of this cash-grab-esque behavior itself. “Dr. Mario,” anyone? “Mario is Missing”? But opening up the field a bit to lesser-used, lesser-known titles like “Ice Climbers” or the ROB platform might be what Nintendo could use. A limited number, specific authorized partners...these things could mean fresh life in the Nintendo infrastructure.

Only time will tell if Nintendo's move to better bring the indie developer into the fold is a good one or not, but one thing is clear: Nintendo needs some help, badly. Getting more developers in play...that's just good business in the long term. And it may well prove Nintendo's saving grace.
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