Developers in the dark for Wii Ware, VC launches

wii2.jpgI have to admit, I do enjoy the element of surprise that greets me every Monday morning. What will David post for the VC update? What WiiWare games are going to drain my bank account this week? These are the fun questions that betray my lack of a social life and my obvious love of Nintendo-related surprises.

But what if I were a developer, whose livelihood depended on the games being digitally distributed via Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel? I’d be a nervous wreck and slightly pissed off, as a matter of fact. Trouble is, this is exactly what’s happening.

The folks over at WiiWare World covered this issue this week, and their secret source had nothing but bad press about Nintendo’s seemingly new generation, developer-friendly download service.

Those airy, warm and anti-Xbox Love Arcade impressions we received from Nintendo when they marketed the service last year? Not so much, apparently.

We’ve spoken to one WiiWare developer (who understandably wishes to remain anonymous) and they have a slightly less positive tale to tell about the way Nintendo handles WiiWare titles. It seems that getting solid release dates is near impossible, and in some cases Nintendo is not even informing the developer until the game is actually available for download. Our contact currently has a highly anticipated game awaiting release, but he commented that he was “completely in the dark” about when it would actually make an appearance on the digital shop shelf that is the Wii Shop channel.

And, heavens to Murgatroyd, should a developer actually know when their title is scheduled for release? Nien. You are forbidden from telling anyone, says the source. Trying to market your product? This system makes that traditional approach impossible. And, whereas similar un-traditional marketing, a la Wii and Wii Fit, are working like gangbusters, this approach simply seems like it’s spiting developers for coming on board Nintendo’s new strategy.

As a counter point, it is understandable that Nintendo would keep anything related to its game-changing Wii, download service and other innovations, close to the vest this time around. But there needs to be some concessions. Does Nintendo think its service (and its pay structure) is that much better than XBLA? Sure, developers are making more money per game with WiiWare, but there’s always that point where being in the dark and feeling out of control takes over for profits.

As a final aside, we must remember this is an anonymous source, and all the sides are not known–notably Nintendo’s. This could be some selfish developer who feels put down because Nintendo delayed their game. It would be only natural to lash out a little if that happened.

As with any argument, I’m going to assume for now that the real issue is a combination of what this disgruntled developer says, what Nintendo might eventually say, and the truth.