This week Nintendo sent the word out that they are indeed working on a Wii channel where users can download original games, titled WiiWare. This is basically Nintendo’s version of Xbox Live Arcade.
Nintendo is working on getting indie devs to take advantage of the WiiWare channel, but it’s still unknown how developers can actually make a game on the system without open source API’s for the Wii’s architecture. It seems that indie devs may need to pony up the cash for a real dev kit. Thankfully, Wii dev kits are pretty damn cheap right now, estimated at a paltry $2000.
Now I’m sure most of you are thinking, “Yeah, Nintendo said this when they first announced the Wii and it’s online services.” You’d be right, but you must remember Nintendo rarely comes through with some of their really inventive ideas. Did you know the GameCube was originally going to have an SD card reader?
The reader/writer was poised to act like an HDD, with ideas like trees actually growing (think Fable) a reality in video games. It was announced with the system at the Space World expo back in 2000, but never saw a global release.
And do you also remember the ill-fated 64DD add-on for the N64? This was Nintendo’s original vision for organic gaming, where the disc could be re-written any way the developer saw fit. Again, many pointed to the tree-growing idea, and as we all know, it never happened. Japan got it, but it quickly faded away, with none of the awesome ideas ever happening.
So even though Nintendo is just re-iterating what they’ve said all along, praise be to Yevon that they’re actually going ahead with a worldwide WiiWare channel. Early 2008 is the projected launch date, and it can’t come soon enough.
But something occurred to when my buddy and I were talking about the new channel. Many companies state that Xbox Live Arcade and the PS Network are great places for indie gaming experiences, but in reality, it’s nothing more than a dumping ground for casual games from big publishers and developers. Nothing is from unknown groups, toiling away in their underground sugar caves with the next big idea for gaming.
Geometry Wars, Lumines Live!, Street Fighter 2, Calling All Cars, Mortal Kombat, and Prince of Persia are probably the most popular titles on the download networks, but not one of them are from indie devs. The only examples of indie gaming I know of are Alien Hominid, UNO, and Aegis Wing. 3 titles, and one has been on so many consoles that it’s hard to say it’s indie anymore. And incidentally, UNO and Aegis Wing were made by the same group.
You have some small companies making games for it, but the stuff they release is far from the indie gaming experiences that you find on the Internet or Valve’s Steam service. It’s just casual gaming stuff, not indie gaming.
So even though we can get indie gaming on our home consoles, big publishers and developers have already staked their claim on the virtual frontier.
And I’m sure Nintendo is going to make it as hard as fucking possible for indie devs to get their content on the system. Why? Because they’re Nintendo. Microsoft is helping with XNA, but it’s been out for awhile now, and we haven’t really seen anything from it. Only Aegis Wing.
I’m psyched about the possibility, but it needs to actually happen. Homebrewers, stop fiddling with your PSP’s and start making some crazy shit! I’m tired of playing Bejeweled knockoffs on my shiny new consoles.
UPDATE: Before I get burned by someone (you smartypants, you), I will point out that flOw is the epitome of indie gaming. That’s what I want to see on PSN, XBLA, and WiiWare. It’s just something that only the indie scene can bring. And as one of the first downloadable games on PSN, maybe Sony is the one to lead the charge. Time will tell, I guess.