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New Directions - the future of Nintendo eShop

With the help of five of eShop's most exciting developers, ONM finds out how Nintendo is finally embracing the digital market

It could simply be that the hardware's a perfect fit. "Coaster Crazy includes this really intuitive, tactile way of drawing the rollercoaster's route and then tweaking it afterward," says Woods. "Obviously, the Wii U is absolutely perfect for that, it's just a natural progression onto console."

Shigeru Miyamoto has talked about nurturing certain developers in their careers, allowing them to flesh out their ideas while coming to him for guidance, and it seems Nintendo takes a similar approach to the eShop. "Self-publishing can be intimidating at first," admits Sigurgeirsson. "You wonder if you are going to be hidden away somewhere. It's not happening, Nintendo is being very friendly to us, but it's very much our own project. You get amazing feedback when you really need it, otherwise you are left to concentrate on what you're doing."

Nurture Nature

For Tossell, that nurturing isn't some disguised self-interest on Nintendo's part; it instead stems from a genuine desire to see developers make the games they want. "For years, the status quo between developers and publishers made it difficult for the former to take ownership of their work and get it out there in a way that benefited them," he recalls. "Having opportunities such as the eShop to get your work out there and Nintendo's efforts to work with developers to make that as easy as possible are fantastic."

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Nintendo's uneasy relationship with digital developers seems to be at an end, and Broadbent sees that as a boon for the platform holder and his studio. "Growing up on the eShop platform gives us the experience and inclination to work with Nintendo in future, and the company has given us the opportunities that we've needed as well as all the help and exposure. Hopefully, it's going to be mutually beneficial in terms of how we're able to grow and become established Nintendo developers."

Small-scale indie development is often seen as a one-shot culture, with creators releasing an idea into the world before quickly flitting onto the next, but Nintendo's close work with its newest collaborators might temper that impulse.

Image & Form has already started putting together a follow-up to Dig, but Sigurgeirsson is weighing up how to proceed from there: "The Wii U would work very well for the SteamWorld series, so it's definitely one of the things that we're looking into - we're fortunate that we left mobile at the right time and got embraced by Nintendo when it happened."

Taking into account how vibrant eShop's looking these days, Broadbent explains that seeing how other developers use the console is already giving him ideas for the future, while his game might do the same for them.

"I don't like the term, but as 'indie developers' grow a little and get some confidence, and as the recent boom of small teams gets more established and we all just become 'developers' again, we'll see those projects we used to, where they're dedicated to a single system."

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Welcome Home

That simple idea of a name change, the move from the 'indie' brand - at once a genre and hazy price tag - to a more inclusive notion that a small developer is just as valid as a multinational is what seemingly sums up Nintendo's current philosophy behind eShop.

To Tossell, previously of Rare, it's a comforting feeling: "I think what we bring is just years of experience of making really high-quality games. We were clear from the beginning that we wanted to make something that looks polished, sounds good - and that definitely comes from the "it'll be done when it's done" mentality that we had at Rare. The interesting thing to me is that when I started there - I started on Diddy Kong Racing - there were only about 12 people, so it really had that 'indie' feeling. Over the years, as the team got bigger, that got rather lost in translation, so for me it's like a return to that." It's like a return for Nintendo, too: the eShop is almost a nostalgia trip.

After 30 years of growth, hardware focus, diversification and a steady shift into the thick, grey world of business, this digital realm of risk-taking, collaboration, guesswork and creativity seems far from a step into unknown territory, it's more like turning a corner and finding yourself back home.

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8 comments so far...
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  1. IRNBRU64 Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 09:19

    It would be nice to actually have an e-shop for Nintendo to grasp.

  2. liveswired Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 09:27

    Ah, who can forget Wii Shop and Wii Ware? The most stagnant and god awful piece of design and sales work in the last 10 years combined with the worst service in existence - every bad word in existence cannot describe or even come close to describing the Wii Shop. An absolute disgrace and embarrassment to Nintendo and Japan, a big FU to their fans worldwide, a symbol of Nintendo's global arrogance, disrespect and fear of the internet and digital distribution which took the 3DS and Wii U to humble following their desperate grovelling apologies to fans and Indie Devs alike.

    Thank goodness for the Wii U eShop - a touch of design brilliance which will hopefully make it's design over to the ugly 3DS eShop.

  3. Pokemon Luke Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 12:06

    Speaking of the eshop, i hope they make it stable, after pokemon bank being delayed due to the overload of internet traffic, although i hear all the consoles had this in one way or another...

  4. robbiebob2 Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 12:22

    First of all they need to sort out all these downtimes or they won't attract any indies to develop games on there consoles.

  5. Komodo_Wolfgang Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 13:22

    Speaking of the eshop, i hope they make it stable, after pokemon bank being delayed due to the overload of internet traffic, although i hear all the consoles had this in one way or another...

    Yeah the Wii U Eshop was down too for a few days. Id love to know why because as much as Id love it to be true, I highly doubt enough people to shut down the eshop, have bought the Wii U this Christmas.

  6. TheSlenderman Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 14:31

    Speaking of the eshop, i hope they make it stable, after pokemon bank being delayed due to the overload of internet traffic, although i hear all the consoles had this in one way or another...

    Only just managed to get onto eshop today, been a long two days as I had no physical disc games to play, only a download code for WIND waker hd.

  7. blu fire Friday 27th Dec 2013 at 19:16

    The eshop really has been playing up lately. The 3DS one has god awful loading times and the Wii U eshop dosnt even work!
    Then to make matters worse Pokemon Bank gets delayed and then ONM doesnt tell us! What happened?

  8. diodimer Saturday 28th Dec 2013 at 00:52

    Excellent article! Very interesting. The eShop has been very exciting as a Wii U/3DS gamer. So many great experiences are available on that platform (I absolutely loved Steamworld Dig) and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next!

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