The Nindie’s Dilemma: What to do with the Wii U?
Independent game developers are facing a lot of problems when they want to bring their dream game to life. Between funding, publishers, marketing and dealing with platform holders, there’s just countless things that can go wrong.
So what about when you put the effort into bringing your game to a console, and that console gets the rug pulled out from under it? We are of course talking about the Wii U. Now we’ve known for a while the NX is coming, it’s this big unknown thing now and its only 8 months away. So what do you do if you’re a developer? Maybe you’ve just started and promised (or sold a promise of) a game on Kickstarter, maybe you’re halfway through a port to the console or maybe your game is just finished – are people still interested in the Wii U, in the eShop?
That’s a real problem facing Nindies right now and it’s something we thought of when we started to see certain Kickstarter games slowly back off the Wii U, with some developers outright saying they’re waiting for NX and some just being sly.
So, what’s the right thing to do? If you’ve got a game in the can, finished – you would still release it right? The Wii U user base, although small, is still passionate and isn’t going to disappear overnight when the NX launches. We asked a number of indie developers just that. All of the developers we contacted have had experience with the Wii U but may not have released a game themselves on it. We asked all the developers the same three questions;
- Does the NX change your plans for the Wii U?
- If you have anything scheduled for the Wii U, does this change your plans?
- Could Nintendo’s abandonment of the system in 2016 be positive for Nindies?
Our first developer, who requested to remain anonymous, are big Nintendo supporters but their outlook on the Wii U is somewhat tepid;
The news of the NX on the horizon has changed our outlook for Wii U development. Given that the number of [Wii U] units was quite low to begin with and games take a while to develop we decided it would be risky for us to bring more games to Wii U and possibly hit the wrong time in its life cycle.
We have a few projects that are tentative for Wii U but it is more likely that we will have to forgo the platform as we feel it is unlikely we’ll be able to release them inside the correct time frame. – Developer 1
Our third question brought up a good point – at this point in the console’s life, is there anyone left to spend the money?
I think there is a possibility that indies could make a mark. At the same time a lot of the information we are seeing, released publicly about sales of software on Nintendo platforms by third parties, is pointing to it being a lot more challenging to get high sales. This is a natural part of the lifespan of any console where the big spenders arrive at the start and move onward to new things as the console ages, while the late adopters are usually attracted by cheaper content and are not necessarily spending in large amounts or volumes. I think this is also a very strong reason for the mid cycle upgrades to PS4 and Xbox One to entice the big spenders back or keep them there. – Developer 1
So what about a developer who is on the cusp of releasing a game on the Wii U but unlike their previous releases, it’s one of the last systems to get it. Do you pull the plug?
We’ve never questioned releasing [redacted] to Wii U. It’s coming as planned. But I think the main thing is that even the staunchest Wii U owners are starting to look around the corner. Wii U is not the NES, for which people are still making games due to the love of the platform. 🙂 – Developer 2
Nintendo slowing down on their releases on the Wii U might be giving more space to the Nindies but with Nintendo slowing down on the system, so too does the marketing.
I think it’s going to be an interesting Wii U fall, and that Nintendo will open up for even smaller titles than before, and the bigger devs/pubs are going to steer clear of it. This means we can hopefully see some nuggets from smaller devs that otherwise wouldn’t have found a viable platform. But in terms of sales the Wii U will slow down even further. With the NX on the horizon players will – consciously or subconsciously – decide that it’s a legacy platform. Also, the fact that no big titles except for Zelda are coming gives the platform even less space in the overall gaming press. – Developer 2
So that’s two of the biggest Nindie developers on the Wii U and they’re ‘middle of the road’ on the Wii U. Surely there’s some developers still making games for the system who are excited about it? Just because the NX will be out in March doesn’t mean the Wii U stops working right after.
Well we did have one, but in the time it’s taken to write this article their opinion has actually changed. While this developer had planned to support the Wii U well into 2017, they’ve now pulled back on that.
There’s got to be some light at the end of this tunnel, right?
Next up we chatted to Sanatana Mishra from Witch Beam who are working on Assault Android Cactus. Their game has already released on the PC and PlayStation 4 – a Wii U version is still on the way.
From my point of view it’s still worth releasing Wii U games because that’s the only way to reach console Nintendo players and with the lower software releases these days I think you stand a good chance of shining on the Wii U.
So in the case of Cactus we still think it’s valid to target the Wii U and that’s what we’re working on, though in our specific case the game is quite complex and we have very high quality standards so it’s hard to be definitive right now.
A shining light? Where else did we hear that? Oh, that’s Squarehead Studios, who released the amazing Star Ghost on the Wii U and said something very similar to us;
We don’t have anything to announce for the Wii U but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some gems appearing as the light fades away.
That about sums it up; the Wii U might be fading away but it’s in the position where you could still have a hit. The Nintendo fan base can take a game under its wing, and while it’s not the biggest fan base anymore (especially on the Wii U), it can help a title spread its wings. There’s also the flip side to this – release something that’s off taste and be stung with all that effort and money put into something.
Are you still buying Nindie games on the Wii U, even if you might not be able to take them with you to the NX?
Artwork Credit: Super Mario Pattern by Glauber Tanaka