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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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Broadbent, meanwhile, is less concerned about birds than he is a region-free future. "I want to see it become more common, even encouraged for worldwide global launches on digital stores," he says. "It's a challenge for all parties, but having stores feel so tied to a region when the gaming community is certainly not tied to those regions with regards to what they are reading and who they are talking to, creates stigma and a feeling that the stores aren't keeping up with the users - which can't be good for encouraging sales."
Flesser agrees. "I see the practical reasons for Nintendo to keep region-specific stores, but as a player I think region-locked digital content is stupid."

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Team Meat's The Binding of Isaac is being considered for a 3DS release.

Of course, a shop without products is just an empty room with a bunch of shelves. A big part of Apple's success, as alluded to by Flesser, is its lack of restrictions, giving smaller studios a place to showcase their efforts - the risk obviously being a flood of poor-quality software, which no one wants. Yet Nintendo clearly need to do more to attract developmental talent - brand new WiiWare releases are thin on the ground these days, and outside Nintendo and a handful of others, few have braved the uncharted waters of the eShop with 3DS-exclusive games.

CHANGE HAPPENS

How, then, do Nintendo change the status quo? Flesser again believes it's partly a regional issue. "Looking through the Japanese DSiWare and eShop selections, it seems that Nintendo have been quite good at approaching smaller Japanese developers," he explains. "They need to do the same with independent western teams. There was no info at all about the eShop just before the 3DS launch in Europe. I think Sony are better when it comes to approaching small western developers with cool ideas."

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Lostwinds is one of several games that have made the jump from Wii and DSi to the App store.

Vella suggests another way for Nintendo to open Wii U up to even the hobbyist developer. "One of, if not the best thing that Apple have done is to turn every single iOS device into a dev kit for a fairly nominal fee of $99, and then created the infrastructure necessary to support this. Nintendo would be wise to follow this, and allow anyone to turn their retail Wii U into a development tool." Flesser points out that getting their own content rated can be quite costly for developers, an off-putting expense for smaller studios. "Setting up [a bespoke] rating system specifically for their download services like Apple and monitoring that themselves would be the way to go."

Refenes, however, doesn't think there's much wrong with the current setup ("it's honestly pretty easy") though he's hoping that Wii U doesn't have size restrictions on download games - "or if they do, they are reasonable restrictions. 40MB is horrible, but 2GB is reasonable. Super Meat Boy would have been on WiiWare if we could have had just a few more megabytes of space - you can only compress stuff so much before you have to start cutting out huge parts of your game. Unfortunately, at that point it just isn't worth the time." Will Team Meat's fleshy hero finally make it to Wii U? The signs are promising. "If we can in the future, we'd like our next game to be on Wii U as well as everything else."

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We'd welcome a Wii U sequel to F-Zero GX.

And the crucial question: will all this actually happen? After all, as Vella points out, this flies in the face of everything Nintendo have been saying so far. "It would require a radical, fundamental shift in thinking from every level of Nintendo. It would also seem to directly contradict Mr Iwata's remarks regarding the company's perception of 'app stores' devaluing games."

"For it to happen I would guess that they'd need to get some major help from a company with experience in that field," adds Flesser. "If we're talking more about Nintendo making a bigger selection of non-gaming apps available, I think that's more likely. We've seen that happening on the DS already, although not so much outside Japan." Refenes does think a Wii U store is likely, but that it will use a "three-tier system" rather than a more open platform like the App Store. "So you can develop on Nintendo App Store, you can develop on Wii U eShop, and you can develop on Wii U physical media. That's what I anticipate."

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Pricing is an issue. Cut The Rope is 69p in the App Store, but the DSi version is 4.50.

While the 3DS's eShop shows that Nintendo are finally on the right track when it comes to digital distribution, it's clear there's still room for improvement. One thing's for sure: whatever decisions Nintendo take with their online setup, it could make or break Wii U.

Fingers crossed they get it right.

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The latest issue of Nintendo Gamer, featuring a 10-page feature on the Wii U, is on sale now. Subscribe to the print edition, get it for your iDevice via Apple Newsstand or grab it for your PC, Mac or Android phone

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