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Nintendo confirms Wii U indie block across Japan

Platform holder "currently not accepting subject applications from individuals"

Nintendo is not accepting Wii U game pitches from indie developers based in Japan, the company has confirmed to CVG.

Despite the platform holder's attempts to strike new partnerships with self-employed developers in the west, Nintendo's licensing team does not want to partner with indies residing within its homeland. The reason for this has not been clarified and has become subject of debate, specifically because the Kyoto based corporation has made inroads into the American and European independent development sectors.

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NOA president Reggie Fils-Aime famously said Nintendo is not looking for "garage developers"

A Wii U developer application form, published online by Nintendo earlier this year, was part of the platform holder's plan to forge strong partnerships with indies. But the company notes on the form that "we are not accepting applications from developers located in Japan at this time".

It was unclear whether Nintendo had separate plans for indies in Japan, or whether the form was out of date, but on Tuesday the corporation issued a statement to CVG that reads:

"The policy in question is the decision of Nintendo's department responsible for licensing activities in each region, and the licensing department of Nintendo is currently not accepting subject applications from individuals in Japan."

Nintendo traditionally works exclusively with established publishing entities, but it has recently observed a growing and thriving independent development sector across the west. Developers can now claim a free Unity Engine licence and self-publish their projects, according to recent comments from Retro City Rampage creator Brian Provinciano:


The decision to block indies in Japan has sparked a debate on Nintendo's intentions.

"I wouldn't read too much into it. It's not to say Nintendo won't eventually open things up," said James Mielke, the director of Japan indie game expo BitSummit, speaking to Eurogamer.

"When you've got franchises like Mario and Zelda, you have to maintain a certain quality control. But you'll note in that leaked document that it says 'developers located in Japan at this time.' Nintendo may simply still be tailoring their approach or legalese to Japanese indie developers," he added.

"But I do hope they have something in store, because indie development is the water that fills a game library's riverbank. You can be a giant rock sitting right in the centre of it all, but that water will flow right around you down other channels if you don't open yourself up to it."

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Nintendo has a world-leading development heritage. Its CEO Satoru Iwata began his career as a developer for HAL Laboratories

Earlier this week, Nintendo's share price hit its highest point since 2011, boosted by the strong global performance of 3DS hardware and software.

But the company's stance on the thriving independent sector has been controversial. In March 2011, Nintendo of America company president Reggie Fils-Aime said the corporation does not want to partner with "garage developers", though later he softened his comments.

Rival company Sony has received significant praise from the development community for its PS4 self-publishing policies.

Microsoft is still passionate about indie developers and will reveal its Xbox One publishing policies "very soon", Lionhead's creative director Gary Carr recently said.

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