The independent publisher Icon Games Entertainment, a week ago, looked back on 2011 and counted up how many copies it had sold of games such as Bashi Blocks (pictured above) and Arcade Air Hockey. Icon’s Richard Hill-Whittall found that he’d sold 255,763 copies of games in all, a pleasant surprise given he figured they’d only moved around 100,000 copies. He published his sales figures, broken down by platform.
That apparently was a no-no for Nintendo, which noticed Icon Games’ blog post (also published on Gamasutra) and asked them to remove the figures for their WiiWare sales. Icon Games Entertainment complied, but is plainly unhappy at being required to do so.
“As to why, I can’t really be sure — are they scared to reveal how their online services perform or do they just dislike developers being able to run effective businesses?” Hill-Whittall mused. “It is a tricky one — and incredibly unfair and damaging to indie developers publishing on Nintendo stores.”
Of course, simple maths shows what Icon Games Entertainment sold on WiiWare, just not broken out by games: Hill-Whittall removed the WiiWare figures but didn’t change the declared total sales figure, which is 255,763. Subtract the copies sold on iTunes (68,262) and PlayStation Network (146,691) and you get 40,810 for WiiWare. That is not only a distant third, it’s less than half the number of copies of Bashi Blocks sold on PSN alone.
Hill-Whittall sets out his reasoning for why this is such a bad policy; it’s certainly one that appears paranoid and micromanaging. Most importantly, “Nintendo’s policy actively makes life as difficult as possible for the smaller studios, putting jobs and livelihoods at risk,” Hill-Whittall argues. “Without transparency of digital sales data developers are perpetually in the dark. How long are indie studios supposed to put up with this sort of thing — is it too much to ask to be treated with respect and allowed to run a business in a professional manner?”