Nintendo's approach to downloadable games for Wii and DS is something the company "do[es] n't do so well," Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told Kotaku last week. He promises an unpredictable solution.
"We look at what we do well. We look at what we don't do so well," he said during an interview at E3 last week when I broached the topic of little-hyped WiiWare and DSiWare programs which are designed to give Wii and DSi owners new downloadable games to buy each week.
"The things we don't do so well we commit ourselves to fixing and making improvements. I would put our digital business in that second category. We are looking hard at our digital business and saying, 'You know what? We can do better.' And we will do better."
Nintendo launched its WiiWare service two years ago and its DSiWare service last year. While both programs have delivered some original and acclaimed games, including 2D Boy's World of Goo, Gaijin Studios' Bit.Trip games and Nintendo's own Art Style series, the lack of chest-beating by the otherwise 21st-century-triumphant Nintendo has led to the appearance that something is awry with those online shops and the success of those games.
Nintendo didn't show any WiiWare or DSiWare games during its company press conference at E3. There were no WiiWare or DSiWare games anywhere in Nintendo's massive E3 booth. Fils-Aime said the games are still coming for those virtual platforms but felt the content would have been overshadowed at this year's big gaming showcase.
A change to how Nintendo's WiiWare/DSiWare-style approach to selling games will be made, the Nintendo of America president said. But he cut off the possibility that Nintendo would provide the same online shop offered on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. "It will not look like what our competitors are doing. But we will have more content, have it be more easily discoverable. We will make it engaging and a much bigger piece of our overall business."
Nintendo's current online store in different in some key ways from Xbox Live Arcade on the 360 and the PlayStation Network store on the PS3. The Microsoft and Sony shops, like the WiiWare and DSiWare ones, are virtual storefonts that a user can access once they connect their gaming device to the Internet. But Nintendo offers demos for almost none of its downloadable titles, whereas Sony offers them for many and Microsoft offers them for all.
One other key difference is that Nintendo locks digital purchases to a single piece of hardware, preventing, say, a DSiWare consumer from transferring their purchased games from one DS to the next. The lack of a digital-purchase transfer option has kept some gamers from buying Nintendo's downloadable games. "It is certainly something we're looking at," Fils-Aime said. "Our current approach is a device-based approach. The content is tied to a particular device. Until we move to a different type of an approach like an account based approach you're not going to be able to transfer the content. We are looking at how best to bring that to life."
As for a revamp of how Nintendo offers downloadable games, don't expect that to occur on the Wii or current DS. "The step function change we want to see is going to need to be on a new device, like the 3DS."
Despite the seemingly poor reception of downloadable games on the Wii and DSi, there are actually several titles in each service worth a Kotaku reader's attention. To help you out, here is a link to our WiiWare reviews and DSiWare reviews.