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Wii U App Store: How Nintendo will take Apple on at their own game

It needs to be "intuitive, functional and simple" developers tell Nintendo Gamer

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Those who wasted 500 points on My Fireplace might not agree with that last assertion, but the bulk of the criticism levelled at Nintendo for their online stores has been at the awkwardness of the shopping experience. In the past it's been like walking into a shop where half the products are on shelves you have to stand on tiptoes to reach, while payment is organised through a complex bartering system by a man who communicates only via semaphore.

Multiplayer games like Hero Academy would help Nintendo's commitment to online.

The 3DS's eShop is undoubtedly a marked improvement, but many still believe it to be fiddlier than an Andre Rieu marathon on Sky Arts. That isn't, however, an opinion that finds favour with Flesser. "I think people discredit the eShop out of habit - 'Nintendo don't know online!' - but the 3DS eShop is a positive step. No points instead of real money, no need to put funding in a wallet. They've got categories, game suggestions, they push content and recommendations to you via their message service... so I think they are almost there."

Independent developer Rhodri Broadbent, a former developer on PS3's PixelJunk series, brainchild of Nintendo alumnus Dylan Cuthbert, believes that the big N should be taking notes from its most obvious competitor. "The iOS App Store's speed of start-up, simple search and accessibility would be very welcome on a Wii U online store," he suggests. "I think Nintendo have made steps towards improving these features with their recent updates to the eShop, but there is still some way to go before the store feels like it's seamlessly integrated with the machine. I'm hopeful that with Wii U they can make further strides towards simplifying and improving the digital download experience on Nintendo hardware."

Don't be surprised if mobile hit Angry Birds lands on Wii U this year.


Vella agrees, also citing PC digital distribution service Steam as worthy of consideration. "The short answer to this question is quite simple actually - just copy Steam and the iTunes App Store. The wheel doesn't need reinventing, and consumers don't need a revolutionary shopping experience - they just need a good one."

And what does a good shopping experience require? "[Nintendo need] an intuitive, functional, simple interface that puts the consumer within a couple of clicks of every purchase," Vella explains. "They need credit cards stored so that shoppers aren't at square one every time they want to give Nintendo their money. They need a landing page that promotes the best, the new, the bundled and the on-sale content. They need easy searching. They need to provide the ability to re-download purchased games at any time, anywhere. Both Steam and the iTunes App Store do this, so Nintendo should learn from them. The basic how-tos of digital distribution are right in front of everyone, and not applying the lessons learned is suicide."

Refenes offers a more succinct take: "As long as Nintendo make it so that buying a game takes as few clicks and as little time as possible, they'll be fine."

3DS's Letter Box is the kind of non-gaming app devs would like to see more of on Wii U.

So what in particular would our interviewees like to see from a Wii U download store? Broadbent has a few interesting ideas designed to point shoppers in the right direction, to highlight successful and interesting games.

"I would like to see them present the harvested user data in a more prominent manner to create useful and tailored recommendations," he explains. "Certain milestones could become headlines on the store, like 'game X has now been played over 10 million times' or 'together, players have spent over X hours playing game Y', further expanding the categories and themes idea they have for the eShop to encourage general browsing." And the upshot of all this? "[It would] make the store into something entertaining and informative, and give players confidence, partly by using user data, to take a chance on an unheard of title."

If a Wii U store is to provide more information to its users, then it should still present it in a Nintendo-y kind of way. "I definitely want Nintendo to keep their neat little touches that make you smile," says Flesser. "Just a silly thing like the present you have to unwrap before starting a downloaded game is something I find charming. I think those kinds of little things, all in the name of fun and smiles, are something unique to Nintendo. I don't want those things replaced by dry download bars and superfluous info, like filenames or weird techy installation messages that I have absolutely no interest in at all."

Iwata has denounced mobile games, but there are signs of progress - the Pokémon Say Tap? app is out now in Japan.

Refenes has a simpler request - "good games!" he laughs - while Vella's sole suggestion is a little more specific: "I'd love more games about birds, or starring birds. Just anything with birds - I f**king love birds."

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