For the past nine years, Dan Adelman has been Nintendo’s head honcho when it comes to indie relations, but he recently left the company and went indie himself. Of course, the show must go on, and Nintendo’s indie program is still going strong.
Gamasutra recently caught up with Damon Baker and David Wharton, Nintendo’s senior manager of marketing in the licensing department and director of marketing and analytics for Nintendo’s network business department, respectively. In an informative interview on the state of Nintendo’s indie programs going forward, Baker and Wharton revealed how they reach out to developers and choose which games to promote.
Gamasutra: How do you get games onto your platforms? Do you go look for them? Do they come to you? I’m sure it’s both, but please talk a bit about how it works.
Baker: It’s absolutely both. They’re really passionate developers who grew up with Nintendo platforms and they’ve always had a vision of their games on a Nintendo platform, so they’re very proactive about reaching out to us, and we direct them to the developer website and get them signed up as quickly as possible, so they can then get a development kit and get on their way.
Additionally, we are proactive, ourselves, in going to different trade shows and going to different indie meetups and shows, and seeing what type of content is out there, and hearing the buzz that is going on, online, in terms of what we should be paying attention to and what we should be going after. So it’s a bit of both.
Baker mentioned the recent IndieCade event as one way Nintendo has reached out to independent developers. During this event, he and other Nintendo staff members participated in a series of three-minute meetings with indie developers to get a good feel for some of the games and teams with potential. Baker and Wharton also shed some light on how Nintendo decides which indie games should be promoted. Games that make use of Nintendo-exclusive features like touch screen controls and stereoscopic 3D are one way to catch Nintendo’s eye, and making games that have a clearly defined target audience (especially if that audience is in line with Nintendo games) is another.
Gamasutra: So, when you’re going to go promote someone’s game, how do you make that decision? I feel like, on the 3DS eShop in particular, there are a lot of little games I’ve never heard of. So how do you make the choice of who’s going to get a little bit more of a push?
Baker: There are a lot of factors that come into play. But we’re looking for quality. We’re looking for unique experiences. We look for people that are utilizing our console functionality in unique ways — so if they’re embracing using the [Wii U’s] GamePad or using 3D or touch-screen, or motion control, or any of those types of things, that helps create a point of differentiation that we can then, it gives us more bullet points we can point out and promote across the board.
I would say the number one thing is back to the relationship-building. If you’ve got a developer that is reaching out to us, that is communicating with us, that is giving us advance notice on when their release is coming out and where it is in the pipeline, what they’re doing to help promote it, then we are much more prone to helping promote their content when it becomes available. But if we only find out about a game at the last second, then it really limits the amount of opportunity we have to maximize that launch period.
Wharton: We also look at “who’s that game for” and whether we have a broad base of content that targets that consumer. So if we know we’ll be launching some full game download — whether it’s first party or third party — we’ll want to merchandise smaller content that might also suit that audience at the same time.
We’ll find that people will come in for one title and wind up buying two. So we want to make sure we have some titles that have some kind of halo effect. We’ll match that same audience type. So having a clearly defined audience is important.
The other thing is we look at what our consumers are interested in. There are some titles that surprise us. Every once in a while I’ll look at the sales results and go, “What is that game?”
And all of the sudden we’ll see a spark in interest, and sometimes it’s what the developer has done, sometimes it’s something that our communities have done through their own social media, or what have you, and sometimes there’s a sudden spike in interest around a title and we’ll just bring it to the forefront to see if we can amplify it.
Are you happy with Nintendo’s selection of available indie games on 3DS and Wii U? What would you like to see more of in the future? Sound off in the comments!