GDC '08 Q&A: 100-plus WiiWare titles in development

Nintendo promising a wide range of titles for North American WiiWare launch; says it doesn't want to place limits on developer ideas.

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SAN FRANCISCO--Nintendo stole some of Microsoft's much-vaunted Community Games thunder earlier today when it unveiled that the WiiWare channel would launch in North America on May 12, promising a wave of new titles developed by both indie and major developers available for download by Wii owners.

For consumers, the WiiWare channel will simply mean more games, but for developers, the launch of WiiWare dev tools will make it easier for them to create new games for Nintendo's popular console. It seems developers of all shapes and sizes have already taken up the challenge, with Nintendo of America project development senior officer Tom Prata telling GameSpot that more than 100 projects were already in the pipeline. While Prata would not be drawn on how many of those would be available on WiiWare's launch day, he did promise "a good breadth of titles that will cover a number of different genres."

Prata says Nintendo is also open to any and all ideas, and has placed few restrictions on the type of content they're looking to upload onto the WiiWare channel. GameSpot caught up with Prata at the Game Developers Conference to glean some details on exactly what developers wanting to use WiiWare can expect from the toolset.

GameSpot: You've announced WiiWare will launch in North America on May 12. What are your plans for a global rollout?

Tom Prata: We're really here today to talk about the North American launch, Japan will be discussing what they plan to do and Europe will be discussing their plans. We just felt that this is the largest game development conference, it's a great place for all the entities to come, so we thought it was the best place to discuss what North American plans are like. And of course, content creators will be working in Japan and in Europe and Australia, so even though we're only announcing the date for North America, content creators from around the world will be able to participate in our launch and the subsequent rollout of the content.

GameSpot: What will the WiiWare channel be like from a consumer point of view?

TP: Effectively it will be a very user-friendly experience, like all the channels with Wii. You'll use your Wii Remote to connect to the channel applications, you'll find the product that you're interested in downloading, use Wii points to buy it, and that will download just like a Virtual Console game to the consumer's system.

As for game developers, we're giving the opportunity for the game developer to decide what content they want to make. We're really excited by the possibility of what the Wii controller can mean to the game designer, and then what it means to the consumer.

GS: What are your plans for the actual launch day? How many games will be available?

TP: We haven't gone specifically into the launch plans. We need a little bit more time to work with the content creators. There are about 100 projects that are under development which are coming to the North American market, and we're going to spend time with them [the developers] to find out what their schedule is because, once again, we're not requiring a particular type of product. It's their decision to make that, and it's also their decision to make based on the development schedule. So we're going to work collaboratively to work out what the development time is.

Likely what we'll do is launch with a good breadth of titles that will cover a number of different genres, and perhaps some unprecedented game experiences using the Wii Remote. And what we'll do is consistently release new content, like we do with Virtual Console.

GS: How about cost? How much will a WiiWare game cost?

TP: We are still working as it relates to different pricing. We do anticipate that consumers will be able to download content for a variety of different prices, similar to what you can experience with Virtual Console.

GS: From a developer point of view, are you open to all types of game ideas?

TP: Effectively we are. I think if we go to content creators and say please make a game in this particular genre, it kind of defeats the purpose. One of the goals with WiiWare is to give content creators the chance to make the content they like. And we really don't want to pigeonhole them--what we'd like to really see is content that is for everybody, and also things that people haven't experienced before.

If we go back a number of years, a game like Brain Age--we couldn't possibly imagine what type of genre that game fits into, yet it can be so meaningful to people. It's really open for content creators to decide what to make.

GS: So you're only looking for games? How about nongame applications for the Wii?

TP: The content should be entertaining and add value to consumers. Whether it's defined as a game or an application, I'm not so sure.

GS: Will content be region-specific on WiiWare?

TP: Yes. The content creators themselves will be responsible for making the game. And then let's say it's a European developer and they want to localise for the North American market. They basically will need to work with Nintendo of America as it relates to that, and then go through the quality-checking process to make it available on the market. And vice versa with American developers wanting to go into Europe.

GS: Do you think WiiWare will appeal more to large publishers or indie developers?

TP: Eighty percent of the games we're seeing are coming from entities which haven't published on Nintendo platforms before. That said, there are still major publishers that are participating. As you can see from the press announcement, Square Enix is bringing Final Fantasy, so it's really open to any development community. The bulk of the content in the early stages will probably come from more independent-type companies.

GS: OK, so what's the process for a developer to start using WiiWare?

TP: So if you have an idea, you can build it. The key component is you'll want to notify our development support group and fill out a simple project sheet to make us aware of the game. It's a very special thing, with just basic information about the content itself, and then you're free to go off and make the game. We do a quick check of the content to make sure there are no red flags, but once again we're not judging the content--that's really for the consumer to decide.

So you go off and make it as you would any other type of Wii application. We use that project sheet for scheduling purposes. Then the developer delivers a candidate to Nintendo for the QC process. Once it passes our lot check or QC process, then we will work with the developer to determine when it will be made available on the Wii channel.

GS: So basically Nintendo will have final say on what gets on the WiiWare channel?

TP: To some extent yes. But we're not in a position that we're judging the idea. We want the developer to come up with the idea. So we have only made a few restrictions--not content restrictions, but we're not supporting an in-game advertising model, and we're not supporting the developer retrieval of consumer data.

GS: What about content that's violent or overtly sexual?

TP: Again, we're not putting those types of restrictions on. The developer will be required to secure the appropriate rating from the ESRB, and we will abide by the ESRB's rating policy.

GS: Who owns the IP?

TP: The content creator.

GS: How is the pricing decided?

TP: We haven't gone into details as it relates to pricing. The only thing we've discussed is there won't be one price--there will be a variety of pricing. And it's not based on the number of gameplay hours or the volume of gameplay--we don't like to think about content and value as relating to price.

GS: Will you set any limitations on size of the final game download?

TP: We really want people to be focusing on the game content itself and not concerned with filling up some massive storage device. The issue is that the more requirements we put on developers, the more difficult it is for them. We really want this space to be about the game, and not about other types of products. With that said, Virtual Console has more than 200 games available, and some of the most-loved games are fairly compact in data size. So there's a tremendous number of things people can do in terms of gameplay and entertainment and not be so concerned about making large experiences.

GS: Tom Prata, thanks for your time.

Discussion

123 comments
Ungdi
Ungdi

I'm going to boycott this service until I get to boot from my sd card or external hard drive. Please Nintendo, make it snappy!

MiiforWii
MiiforWii

Okay, sweet. Now all we need is more then 512MB of space. I hope they will allow for SD cards or something.

werc96
werc96

Can you imagine the possibilities? If nintendo starts doing their own first party wiiware launch using characters like Mario, Link, Samus...Etc... Maybe giving bonus content to previously released games....Im excited thinking about all this... I guess with no "wii drive" Its time to start looking for SD memory card sales. Oh....i 2nd everyone here that wants Mario rpg for VC. N will get it...they are just perfectionists.

greater_bird
greater_bird

I'm really surprised Nintendo isn't putting content restrictions on. Their requirements of not having in-game advertising or consumer data retrieval sounds very sensible and hands-off. Good on them!

D3j1k0
D3j1k0

@dawg9000: and why would someone buy a game without knowing anything about it? anyone who does that is probably either rich, or too stupid to be any good at games in general. Anyway, I didn't mean graphics have no importance, I was just saying graphics should be the least of their worries. they should still try to make it not look ugly, but they don't need to make the model super detailed

jasongm
jasongm

Ok Nintendo, now help those that have SD memory cards so we can add these new apps or games to (well my 2 gig sd card).

GonzoGuy
GonzoGuy

This couldn't come at a better time. I got wiipoints as a gift but the VC is a total bore since I've already played the good games when they came out years ago and at this point in gaming history, $5 is too much to ask for any of them. These points don't expire, do they?

Jshaw71
Jshaw71

sounds like an interesting idea, but it dosen't seem it will be as easy as with xbla program, but i guess we'll have to wait and see how it all turns out...

rockstar_88
rockstar_88

I've only downloaded about 10 games, and I've already used up the internal 512MB. They're going to have to figure something out soon. I'll pay big bucks for a Wii hard drive add-on if I have to.

lanmanna
lanmanna

@jdt532 You know the unannounced games already?

selbie
selbie

Where the hell are we going to store all of these downloads. Nintendo needs to release a decent size storage device. Or at least provide support for portable hard drives.

02sfraser
02sfraser

really exciting stuff. it allows small developers to create some new and fresh ideas. they dont really no much about launch yet do they hahah :)

ChinoJamesKeene
ChinoJamesKeene

Come on, indie devs need abit more credit, of course 90% of the work will be unpolished but if the idea works it won't matter.

jdt532
jdt532

meh, most of those games will be crap...

lokokrema94
lokokrema94

do u have to b online to use the wiiware?

teknicz
teknicz

I'd be more interested in apps...even something like a Pictochat or Messenger system for Wii users that gets online would be awesome.

Dawg9000
Dawg9000

Y'know graphics do sort of matter. If you had no previous knowledge of Counter Strike which would u buy? 1.6 or Source? Think about that for a minute.

Merl57
Merl57

neat hope some free stuff is in there

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

There could be some good games, but I'm guessing most will suck. But then again, we might be surprised. And there is a limit on the game size... it better not be more than 512M... And that is only if no updates have ever been put on the Wii...

twilight-X
twilight-X

I still don't get it what the heck is the wiieare channel for

bigmick07
bigmick07

can't you just create a wii hard drive?

D3j1k0
D3j1k0

@TheKungFool I'm starting to get sick of all the people who think graphics really make a difference. guess why people play games? TO PLAY THEM! eye candy does almost nothing to contribute to how good the game is. Game graphics could be stuck at hl2 quality for the next 10 years for all i care, as long as they focus on improving the gameplay. And wow, I'm only 19 and I'm ranting about the new technology already XD

nate1222
nate1222

@ItsRichie The Wii has two SD mem card slots that can expand its memory up to 4 GB. The SD slots can take a 2GB card. So the Wii can expand its memory up to 4.512GB.

hackR2
hackR2

Well i bet that right off the start we will have some awesome games on this channels and probably a lot of duds, but this is a great chance for developers to develop a lot of games or other applications and see how they work out, i just hope that developers will actually put some effort into this games

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

Cool I was waiting for something like this.

slickvic1990
slickvic1990

if they were to make a channel where WE could make our own games and then upload them to the wiiware channel, i think that would be even better

TheKungFool
TheKungFool

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Smoky_Hill
Smoky_Hill

could be cool or a dud but i say cool

Disneyknight467
Disneyknight467

I really hope someone develops some music Apps for the Wii

Haimoimoi
Haimoimoi

"TP: Again, we're not putting those types of restrictions on. The developer will be required to secure the appropriate rating from the ESRB, and we will abide by the ESRB's rating policy. " That's a load of money right there. This isn't even in the same ballpark as Community Games.

Elbowsmash
Elbowsmash

"i just a want a virtual console release of super mario rpg" So does everybody else. Unfortunately, that seems to be asking too much out of the big N.

cckcmain
cckcmain

10 of them worth buying probably... I hate companies crapping out games for $.

Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

This sounds pretty cool. It would be like miniature Wii-enabled games which is totally awesome! If they can crank out some nice ones that's great.

nate1222
nate1222

XNA seems to have some major competition headed their way. By the time it's available, I'll have a Wii myself. I'm really feeling the WiiWare approach.

towelie892
towelie892

Vote 'Thumbs Up' if you think Wii deserves a decent add-oon hard drive.

ItsRichie
ItsRichie

Wo0Tz!!!!?!??! I dont think they have time to even make 20 before the release, I think there will be like 18 on release and as many ppl say WII WANT MORE SPACE FOR GOD´S SAKE!!! I GOT LIKE 10 VC AND I HAVE LIKE ONLY 400 SPACE NOW

icarus212001
icarus212001

so....what does this mean in terms of DLC?

Genexi2
Genexi2

Going to need Nintendo to allow channels to load via SD-card at this rate, as I doubt they're in the ready yet to unleash a hard drive when they still can't even keep up with the Wii's consumer demand.

Guitar-Dunnie
Guitar-Dunnie

i just a want a virtual console release of super mario rpg

joebetcher
joebetcher

I'm excited for this, but hope that developers don't spew out a bunch of junk. I'd much rather spend a little more $ on a short game such as Link's crossbow training, rather than buying games similar to what you find on WiiPlay, something that I never want to play again.

darkspineslayer
darkspineslayer

i don't like the sound of unlimited developing...thats exactly what hs the wii in its shovelware problem

murlow12
murlow12

I feel like a broken record, but how can we take advantage of this stuff without an external harddrive?

Elbowsmash
Elbowsmash

Nintendo has really pissed me off. I remember reading a long time ago that the reason N didn't want to match the larger HD space of the 360 and the PS3 had to do with them wanting to keep the Wii "light" in a more portable sense while also creating more seperating in the market from the other "heavy" consoles. It's absolute nonsense. Even at this point, a HD isn't ideal. It would have been much more friendly to the player had Nintendo manufactured the Wii with decent memory in the first place. All a harddrive does is save you the trouble of having a pile of memory cards. You still will need to sit there for the three to five minutes (maybe more) while you go through menus and swap games into a channel. What we really need is a Wii with more memory/channels. The paradox is, if Nintendo does release a superior Wii with more memory capacity (which they should have done in the first place), we will finally have what we all want. The problem is, we will all have to buy another frickin' Wii.

Lunar52
Lunar52

ZOMG! Im so excited this meens the wii is getting more games yaayy....just please nintendo make a 20 gb HD

Lightbarier
Lightbarier

What with you guys and hd im sure half of you don't even own hd tv's as for memory I can agree with but is it that big of deal to you guys go out and buy some memory cards.