This year Nintendo is going to launch their own downloadable game platform called 'WiiWare'. Here are a few reasons why it's going to be awesome.
1. Game sizes are not limited to 40MB
Initially it was thought that Nintendo had limited titles to a 40MB file size, but Nintendo put this rumor to bed by stating that 40MB is merely a recommendation, and not an official limit. The Wii has about 512MB of memory internally, so it is really this which will restrict game sizes. More space will allow developers to approach development with greater ambition and to create deeper experiences.
2. One game per month per publisher
We've already seen many publishers trying to cash in on the Wii's success with what has been termed 'shovelware'. Nintendo seem to be aware of this, and has made this rule to try and counteract publishers who would seek to inundate the platform with sub-par content. The 1 game a month rule will force publishers to be far more picky about what content they choose to sell, as the opportunities to do so will be restricted.
3. Fresh Content
Already the Wii is known as a platform which is cheaper to develop for; combine this with digital distribution and access to an audience that will soon be reaching 30 million and you have a platform that offers developers huge bang for their buck. With the barrier of entry so low, and potential rewards so high, WiiWare will see games from developers that would only have had access to the fragmented P.C. market until now. This will surely be a breath of fresh air to people tired of endless sequels.
4. The Wiimote and Nunchuck
The potential of the Wii's motion controls are only just beginning to be unlocked, but you have to feel that a lot of innovation and research is blocked through fear of poor sales and low returns. Perhaps with the punishment for failure now lowered, developers will truly allow their imaginations to run wild and use those controllers in some truly fantastic ways.
5. Niche Experiences
Many genres don't see many games as their sales typically are not high enough to warrant new ones, but that doesn't stop them from having a small but dedicated following. For those gamers tired of the endless train of FPS and Racing titles, perhaps Wiiware will see the resurrection of the point-and-click adventure and 2D shoot-em-up genres? Much like the internet in general, WiiWare makes the access of niche markets possible and worthwhile.
6. Square-Enix and Final Fantasy
Having the backing of Square-Enix at the launch of a platform is one thing, but to have them come through with a unique Final Fantasy is quite another. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Young King and the Promised Land, amazingly looks better than 99% of 3rd party games released on the Wii so far, and looks to innovate and take the series in a different direction. Even Nintendo has yet to announce anything that looks as ambitious as this title.
7. The Wii has no hard drive
There I said it, now hear me out. The lack of a real hard-drive for the Wii may deprive it of many things, but what it also seems to have done is discourage developers from adding downloadable content for their existing franchises. No extra tracks for racing games, and no extra arenas and weapons for death-matches. What this means is that WiiWare will not be dominated by the same traditional titles that make up the charts. It will instead encourage developers to make brand new content knowing they are not competing with titles that have already sold millions of copies on disc.
Nintendo are superb at making epic games; the recent Zelda and Mario games on the Wii are evidence of this. But what Nintendo are also great at is introducing new play mechanics upon which to base new games. Examples of this are the vacuum in Luigi's Mansion and Fludd in Mario Sunshine. The problem comes that sometimes these mechanics aren't quite deep enough to warrant an entire epic game, but would really shine in a smaller experience that WiiWare could deliver. If ever there was developer that can take advantage of a platform with low risk, it is Nintendo.
9. Flexible Pricing
The Wii's traditional games have already seen the appearance of games of exceptional value, Resident Evil 4: Wii edition and Mercury Meltdown Revolution being two examples. Consumers expect to only pay full price for brand new games, and less for what they perceive as budget or ported titles. This same attitude will also apply to WiiWare and will help to create a platform where gamers will get more than ever for their gaming dollar. If Square-Enix's new Final Fantasy game comes in at the $15-20 mark, other developers worldwide will think hard about how to price their own offerings, including Nintendo.
Recently I had the pleasure of attempting to hunt down No More Heroes, and ultimately found it at the 6th store I went to. Earlier Zack and Wiki had also led me on a merry chase. I've also had problems attempting to find some older Gamecube games I thought it would be fun to try, but it seems they've also transformed into hen's teeth. Whether it's down to the games being released in limited quatities, or simply having sold out, they proved frustratingly hard to find. The convenience of being able to buy games when and where you please is perhaps a minor advantage, but it's definitely a welcome one.