Interview with full disclosure.

Katherine Brice recently interviewed me for a piece she was doing about WiiWare and DSiWare and whether Nintendo are doing enough to promote the service. Her article can be found here. Below is a full transcript of the interview. Enjoy!

Hi Kath,

Thanks so much for emailing me in regards to this. Firstly let me introduce myself. My name is Nic Watt and I am the CEO and Creative Director of Nnooo. The following are my thoughts on the issue(s):

Is Nintendo doing enough to promote its Digital Services?

This is a hard question to answer as while I think that it is Nintendo’s responsibility to ensure that its customers are familiar with and using the DSiWare and WiiWare stores, I do not think it is Nintendo’s responsibility to promote and market every game on the service (that I think is the job of the developer or publisher). Overall I feel that Nintendo are doing a very good job making customers aware of these services for example:

Every Nintendo Wii now comes with a channel pre-installed which plays a video showing how to connect your Wii to the internet and what benefits you can get from this including WiiWare, the internet channel and Virtual Console.

  • The internet channel on Wii and DSi is free
  • This channel is a great way of getting all new customers to visit Nintendo’s online stores

The fact that the internet channel is one of the permanent top downloads on DSiWare suggests that many new DSi owners are connecting and downloading the channel. Which means they are familiar with and using the DSiWare store

There are several other free channels provided by Nintendo for both DSiWare and WiiWare for example Flipnote Studio and Everybody Votes. These are clearly downloaded by a lot of people and are therefore an indicator that a lot of consumers are at least familiar with the process of using the online stores

Every Nintendo DSi currently comes with 1000 free points to spend in the store. This means that every single user knows, on purchase, that their DSi can download new games and how to do so. To make use of these points the user must connect to the store.

Nintendo in my opinion could do more to keep the WiiWare and DSiWare stores in customers minds. It is great that every new customer knows about and uses these services when they first connect their Wiis or DSis. However how many continue to frequent these stores? I think it is and should be Nintendo’s responsibility to have a continued marketing presence to maintain peoples awareness about the service. This could be done by running WiiWare and DSiWare adverts on television and in the press. These adverts could show some of the best/current/new releases for the service as a general overview rather than solely focusing on specifics. I do believe Nintendo is doing a lot to help promote the service currently however. For example all the recent Marvel comics I have purchased (

and I buy quite a few) are running and advert for Pokémon Rumble (scan enclosed). How many XBLA or PSN games have you seen advertised in magazines or comics?

Pokémon Rumble

Pokémon Rumble is a WiiWare only title and is therefore a very good way to attract users to or inform them of the WiiWare service. There are many millions of Pokémon fans out there so by using a game like Pokémon Rumble Nintendo are firstly promoting the title and secondly forcing interested consumers to visit the store. This is a proven technique for attracting consumers to shops and shopping malls around the world. All good, big, shopping malls have cornerstone clients for example a big high profile department store which pulls customers to the shopping mall. Once there these customers don’t just visit the department store they also spill out into the rest of the shopping mall. The similar premise follows for WiiWare and DSiWare stores, get a cornerstone game (for example Pokémon Rumble) and attract customers to the store by advertising it. Once the customers are there they may well browse for other content.

Finally the other clever thing I think Nintendo does to keep customers coming back is the points system. Customers can buy points in denominations of 1000, 2000 and 5000 with games costing 500, 700, 1000 and upwards on WiiWare and 200, 500, 800 and 1000 on DSiWare. What happens is a customer will visit the store with their 1000 points and buy a game that has attracted them there (say Pokémon Rumble) for 800 points. This then leaves them with 200 points. The customer then thinks I don’t just want to waste that 200 points by leaving it lying around what else can I buy? She then looks through the rest of the store, perhaps finds a title that appeals and because there are no 200 point games on WiiWare has to add at least another 1000 points to be able to purchase a new game. This means that customers will frequently have spare change sitting in the store which acts and an attractor to pull them back.

Why do the press not get advanced notice of games and what should Nintendo do to address this?

I think that Nintendo could definitely be doing more to inform the press about the release dates of games ahead of time. However as a developer I must point out that often the dates are not solidified until very close to release. The reasons for this that Nintendo requires, quite rightly, that every game sold for its hardware go through a rigorous testing process. If you fail this test you have to fix the issues and resubmit. This means that it is often hard to predict your release date ahead of time.

Furthermore most WiiWare and DSiWare developers are small teams who don’t have the resources companies like EA or Ubisoft do. This means that testing and submitting can often take longer than big publishers would be able to manage. EA for example have a huge testing department trained in testing and submitting these games so they can turn a game around much quicker and be more likely to spot any issues than perhaps a small developer would.

Something I think might be a good idea is if once Nintendo and a developer agree on a release date (IE once a game has passed Nintendo’s tests) that Nintendo inform the press, perhaps on a weekly basis, and publish or update an online release list. They could also put a release list on the WiiWare and DSiWare stores so that customers can see what is coming up.

What do you think of the renaming of games between regions?

I am not entirely sure why many DSiWare games have had their names changed between the US and EU markets. As a consumer it is confusing and definitely splits the marketing message. It has to be noted that these name changes only appear to be for Nintendo published titles and so ultimately it is a matter for them to decide. We have successfully managed to launch and market our titles (Pop, Pop+ Solo and myNotebook) in both regions with release dates very close to each other. Many developers seem to struggle to release their game in both regions at the same time and this certainly does not help marketing or hype.

Should the burden of advertising games for WiiWare and DSiWare fall at Nintendo’s feet?

I think that Nintendo should be responsible for making sure as many people visit these stores as possible. To that end I think they are doing a great job. Could they improve? Of course they could, I don’t think you can ever do enough to promote your own services. As I have mentioned before running TV campaigns and keeping WiiWare and DSiWare in the public eye are vital to the continued growth of these services.

However I think in terms of promoting individual pieces of software that ultimately lies in the hands of the developers and publishers. If you cannot be bothered to announce or promote your game why should Nintendo? We have worked hard since forming Nnooo to learn the ins and outs of marketing our games and know first hand how hard and time consuming it can be. However if done right and with as much care and attention as you lavish on the actual development you can definitely see the rewards. myNotebook which launched November through December 2009 (there are three colours of myNotebook, Blue, Red and Green each which launched 2 weeks apart) was the top paid for download on DSiWare for 3 weeks running in Australia, USA, Canada and UK and there are currently at least two colours still in the top 20 in each of these territories over a month after release.

We worked hard with myNotebook to inform customers early of its development and then strived to keep them informed periodically during development and before release. We feel that this has really helped our sales. Furthermore EA were boasting last year about Burnout Paradise selling 20,000 units on PSN within its first month. One colour of myNotebook achieved that number inside its first month on sale. For us that is a significant milestone.

If you as a developer do not care enough about your game to promote it or tell people about it why is a customer going to care enough about it to download it? It is hard and frustrating and doesn’t feel like part of making a game but if you want to break away from the publisher developer model of funding you have to accept the areas a publisher is traditionally good at and do those areas yourself. Nintendo are not publishing your game for you they are putting it on the shop shelves. You don’t expect EB to promote your game so why expect Nintendo to?

How well were you supported by Nintendo with Pop or your other titles?

For Pop Nintendo invited us to be part of the launch event for WiiWare. This event allowed us to firstly promote Pop to a much wider audience and network of journalists than we could ever have arranged ourselves and secondly it allowed us to make press contacts which we still use today. In terms of subsequent help promoting our games Nintendo have been much more hands off. They provide us with many avenues and outlets to promote our games and apps:

The Nintendo Channel

  • The Nintendo Channel is a great way to inform your potential customers about your game
  • We make a video and take screenshots and Nintendo put them all on the channel along with a dedicated page for your game
  • Your games page also show associated products, price and release date

Nintendo dot com

  • Again Nintendo provide a page for your game and will include any videos, screenshots and descriptions of your game
  • They also display price and release date
  • Weekly email to Nintendo subscribers
  • Each week Nintendo emails their subscribers with an list of the newest WiiWare and DSiWare games
  • These emails include screenshots, short descriptions and pricing information

How do you think the service could/should evolve in the future?

I would like to see Nintendo:

  • Promoting and advertising the service better to the mass market via press and television adverts
  • Having a unified account and presence across all your Nintendo products would make it easier for consumers to utilise their points as oppose to having some Wii points and some DSi points.
  • Finding new ways to keep customers informed about newly announced products, release dates and prices for up coming games
  • Connect 24 could be used to provide a weekly list of new games to interested consumers
  • They could have a section of the Nintendo Channel which contains up to date release dates and future products
  • They should allow preview trailers onto the Nintendo Channel for DSiWare and WiiWare
  • Finding a better way to present and organise the shops. The hardest thing for users of all online stores is browsing them and easily finding content. Just look at the App Store for how not to do it.
  • Providing quarterly or six monthly events for the press and developers to attend to promote their up and coming games.

I think the recent demo service for WiiWare is a great system and should definitely be encouraged across both services.

Would you consider releasing more products on DSiWare or WiiWare based on your current experiences with Pop, Pop+ Solo and myNotebook?

A resounding yes. Every single product we have launched on DSiWare and WiiWare has recouped development costs within its first month to six weeks on sale. While many other developers and studios chase the great white hope that is the iPhone we have stuck to a format which has a core fanbase who purchased the device because it plays games. These users want to purchase more software and are eager to look for it day in, day out.

Nintendo has one of the largest fanbases of any of the console manufactures with a myriad of fansites dedicated to spreading all and any news about games for DSi and Wii. If you take advantage of all the avenues you have to promote your game for Nintendo devices I would argue you can reach a much bigger audience than either Xbox 360, Playstation or iPhone.

If you are looking for advice on what WiiWare or DSiWare game to buy you can find a site in seconds with a review of that game. Show me a website for XBLA or PSN which does the same. How many users of the iPhone actually care about or research the software they buy? How many have bought an iPhone because it is the best phone and iPod out there? And how many of those users are actually actively looking for software, reading reviews or becoming informed about what is out there?

Finally I think it is worth asking how many users of Wii and DSi use the hardware to stay informed as oppose to using the internet? There are many DSi and Wii users who run and use fansites as I mention above however I think there are also a lot of users who make use of the hardware and software they have to stay informed. These consumers will be using the Nintendo Channel and the store fronts as their way of entering and exploring what is coming up on the services. To this end developers cannot afford to forget about making use of all avenues Nintendo provide to promote their content.

I hope my replies have not been too long winded. Please do not hesitate to get in contact if you have any further questions.


Nic Watt

Tags: , , , , , ,