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Icon Games forbidden from publishing own Wii Ware sales numbers

Fri 06 Jan 2012 9:35am GMT / 4:35am EST / 1:35am PST
Development

Update: Dev asks Nintendo to explain position

UPDATE

Icon Games' Richard Hill-Whittall has issued an exclusive statement to GamesIndustry.biz, asking for Nintendo to justify their position on the matter.

"I'd really like to hear from Nintendo to get some idea why they have this policy," said Hill-Whittall.

"What benefit is it to them to silence any discussion of sales numbers - do they feel this is a fair and reasonable policy? It baffles me to be honest, how they can think this is the way to deal with developers/publishers. What is the justification?"

Original Story

Icon Games, a London-based developer which creates titles for iOS, PC, PSN and Wii, has publicly revealed that Nintendo asked for Wii Ware sales figures to be removed from the company's blog.

Previously, Icon had listed a break down of units sold on each of its platforms, but has now had to remove the numbers for Wii digital retail.

In a post explaining the move, Icon has made clear that, whilst it's fairly common policy for platform holders to frown on the publishing of figures by developers, Nintendo has so far been the only company to ask for their removal.

"Yesterday Nintendo got in touch to ask us to remove the figures for the WiiWare titles from the blog," reads the explanatory post. "Apparently they don't allow developers to publish the sales numbers of their self-published titles.

"As to why, I can't really be sure - are they scared to reveal how their online services perform or do they just dislike developers being able to run effective businesses? It is a tricky one - and incredibly unfair and damaging to indie developers publishing on Nintendo stores.

"I don't believe Nintendo are necessary alone in this policy, but I believe they are by far the most draconian in enforcing it. I have seen many different reports from developers for games on XBLA, PSN, Steam and so on with details of sales figures, but never anything for a Nintendo store."

The developer then goes on to explain why this could be a damaging policy, reasoning that without published numbers, it's impossible for potential Wii Ware devs to effectively plan their business model.

"Essentially Nintendo's policy does its best to prevent often vulnerable indie studios from building and running stable businesses. It projects all of the risk back to the developer, stops them gaining access to funding to help grow their business and essentially makes self-publishing on Nintendo platforms a huge gamble.

"And let's not forget that Nintendo also don't allow you to ever alter the price of your title, run any sort of promotion, offer demos or indeed use any of the other tools that publishers traditionally use to maximise sales and extend the longevity of revenue earned per title.

"Sure - releasing any game is a risk, but the more sales & user data you can access the more carefully you can formulate a development strategy. If you don't have access to any data at all, it is impossible to run a business with any degree of forward planning or forecasting. Try running that past a business advisor or mentor - they would shake their head and strongly advise against it."

Nintendo has also been contacted for comment.

14 Comments

Its in your contract - end of story. Unlike other companies, Nintendo actually do their best to enforce these contracts - they are not for show.

There could be numerous reasons for it - but that has nothing to do with it. Contract signed, end of story.

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Peter Johnson
CEO

8 1 0.1
That doesnt make it right, though

Posted:2 years ago

#2
Just because it is in a contract doesn't make it acceptable - and it is not like you are in a position to negotiate with them.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,232 2,161 1.0
Why not ask this question BEFORE you sign the contract?

I tend to ask about the specifics in contracts I sign. I'm not suggesting you didn't, just that this seems like it should have been one of those question to ask about.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,010 1,403 1.4
As Jimmy and Michael said, read your contract. For the record most online services have the same policy (including XBLA and PSN). Steam I believe allows people to give their own sales numbers, but Valve themselves will never release anything official. I could be wrong on that. If any Steam developers are around I'd love to know.

Posted:2 years ago

#5
There were lots of things in our WiiWare contract we didn't "like" - the don't give out numbers was the least of it. We talked to Ninty about them, but there is no budging.

No one is forcing you develop for their platform ... but if you do, you *must* play by their rules. Its the way they work.

Posted:2 years ago

#6
Their rules are wrong - and they need to rethink them. I am frankly amazed that fellow developers are OK with the present system. If no-one ever speaks out, nothing will ever change.

Digital sales data transparency is vital, without it we are all shooting in the dark and self-publishing on digital formats will remain far too unpredictable.

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,034 912 0.9
What is to be gained from releasing the sales figures? They can do but two harmful things.

(a) The numbers show to developers that a console has a viable online platform which leads to more companies competing there, leading to over-saturation. Nobody wants people to stop buying $60 games because there is such a plethora of $5 PSN and XBL games that nobody has time for the expensive stuff. Everybody claims piracy as the big PC game killer, but look at the staggering amount of very cheap or free games on PC. Look at the competition in iOS. So even if you are doing well, you want the member's club to be limited to protect it. Especially Nintendo has always been that way since the days they told you how many cartridges you were assigned.

(b) The numbers show the exact opposite, at which point you will have bad press, e.g. current Sony Vita situation. If you do not know how many people play the game, PR can still maintain the fiction of everybody playing it.


Anyway you put it, full disclosure is a problem, if you want certain paradigms in place. Such as the need to buy full price games, or the number of hours one can realistically waste on cheap downloadable games. Valve is Valve, they do not care about such things. That's why they disclose almost every number. They do not even have a problem to list the statistic saying 17.000 people are playing the Dota 2 Beta right this moment. Makes you wonder how many codes they handed out and if this can even still be called a beta.

Posted:2 years ago

#8

Nathan Runge
Managing Director

11 0 0.0
Richard, I sympathise with your situation. Recently starting up a company, I know the significance of the availability of sales figures in planning and forecasting your development efforts. In many respects, this decision by Nintendo is damaging to a lot of potential developers.

That said, I have to agree with the prevailing opinion. Nintendo have the right to exercise this option if they feel it is in the best interests of their platform. It could be they are exercising the option now, solely so they aren't questioned if they exercise it later. I too would be very interested in reading a statement on the matter from Nintendo explaining their rationale, though.

Posted:2 years ago

#9
I wholeheartedly agree this is wrong, given there are only 3 major console manufacturer's and 3 major routes to sales on console's at this time, for developer's, such rules harm business, holding a monopoly where people and business's can only make sales by signing agreement's they have no say in and then using that as a justification to make things as anti-competitive as possible for and as unpleasant as possible for one side and as beneficial as possible to the other, leads you down a bad road, one that usually end's with Government's greedily eyeing the monopoly for a chance to extract vast sums of money for their "fines", which is never good for business, for starters though worse is to come.

It also opens up the potential for a new comer to usurp market share by offering preferential terms which whilst unlikely given the business at hand is not impossible (Microsoft for instance), many articles on this site have listed estimated sales figures vs. development costs for their console's, and whilst by no means perfect, it does demonstrate the right people with the right investment can change everything, and brow beating indie dev's some of which if not most of which will form members of staff of or become the studios of the future, and influence decisions, is not a great way to encourage a stream of good games to your consoles long-term, which threatens long-term investment, whilst many investor's and director's seem incapable of thinking long-term in this day and age, the results of short-medium term being the only business focus, regardless of the highs it bring's and it's perceived longevity or invincibility will inevitably result in long-term failure, case in point... see bank's.

Posted:2 years ago

#10

Klaus Preisinger
Freelance Writing

1,034 912 0.9
@Alexander

put yourself in Nintendo's position. You create the hardware, you create the best-selling software, you create the online service. Everybody releasing on your console is constantly complaining that people do not buy as much as on other consoles. Why would you care? You are making money on the hardware, your software franchises are selling like crazy, you notoriously have the biggest market share, so what is there to gain for Nintendo by allowing competition? The more good games from third parties, the less the hype for Pokemon, Mario and plastic boards.

Third parties are but pawns you exploit to position your hardware. Some pawns fight back more than others, some are even too big to ignore. But pawns nonetheless.

For now, a third party title either helps to sell consoles, e.g Fifa, or it does not matter to the big three. If a new franchise is looking good, they rather buy the entire studio, than risk the game being released on each console. All of the big three make a lot of games themselves, they are fine with having a monopoly which is only supported by third party titles. The 3DO and the Dreamcast still serve as examples what happens when you rely on third party support to make a console work. After that, you can't blame the big three of playing it close to their chest.

Posted:2 years ago

#11
Well basically, Nintendo's disastrous 3ds release coupled with increasingly dwindling wii sales, can't be doing wonder's for their bottom line, additionally whilst wii has a majority stake most wii owner's (as I can say from real life affliations) tend to be less enthusiastic and more casual gamer's who buy less titles throughout the lifetime of the console, more regular gamer's will likely own at least one other console and with the exception of wii specific titles making excellent use of their innovative control's, most gamer's will choose when buying a major cross-platform title, the more powerful console they own to run the title on, and as console owner's make the majority of their profit from games release's their overall revenue steam despite their larger numbers is unlikely to be any higher then their primary competitor's, they probably make more money per box then their primary competitor's however mostly due to the age of the hardware in the wii more than making up for it's relatively low sales costs, but this source of income can no longer be relied on as it's competing console's have both released their own competitive special control system's for their consoles and their prices are closing the gap with the wii year on year, as the lifespan of their already weakest console technologically increasingly show's it's age so it's sales have begun to slow, whilst a wii2 is no doubt in the works, their release price profit per box will likely be allot lower for year's after release, possibly quite a bit lower if it features blu-ray reader which seems likely as cross-platform developer's tend to develop to the power of the lowest console, and they all seem to want more space to work with so given the increasing life-span of console generation's seems only sensible, which mean's blu-ray all around, and a release prior to other console manufacture's can be risky.

All of this means opportunities to open up new revenue streams on existing hardware can only be an enticing prospect for shareholder's, which will require sales figures for indie dev's to allow for more quality titles and sales, they don't have to be strictly public however, they can be released to subscriber's to their development program with a NDA attached, perhaps one that allows 3rd party investor's or potential investor's in indie games projects to view the data but only if they to sign an NDA.

Posted:2 years ago

#12
Haha – 250,000 – 146,681 – 68,262 = 35,047 copies for WiiWare.

I guess that’s why Nintendo wanted those numbers pulled down – so they don’t appear as the least popular among the digital download platforms.

Posted:2 years ago

#13
UPDATE: hmm seem's the announcement for Wii U passed me by completely, I only found out about it today, surpising choice of hardware though an outdated PC gfx series based on the ATI 4xxx series, one would think with a console designed to last for many year's the least they can do would be to use the 5xxx, perhaps the 6xxx is to expensive but given it's release date, would certainly put allot more power and longevity into the system, they did include a propriety disc format of the same size as blu-ray as I suspected, but not blu-ray itself, which seems a bit daft on the basis, whilst yes blu-ray is sony and they would be supporting a competitor's product, they're likely to be the only console manufacturer that does not support blu-ray video, I think their underestimating the appeal of using a console as a blu-ray player, the ps3's rapid up-take (after the lousy hot running 1st gen was done for) was partly fueled I suspect by it's inclusion of a blu-ray player, which indeed caused HD-DVD to go down the drain, with internet connection speeds still shakey in many part's of the world including western countries, blu-ray will be the only way to view HD recorded video for quite a few people for many year's to come, they seem to have pushed their dual-screen concept from their handheld's onto the new Wii's design, whilst I remember vaguely being exited at the inclusion of the mini-screen game storage device in the Dreamcast on release, it didnt exactly do to well for it's owner to save it's console, and well I could see the point but a question would be is how much will it cost per unit, small screen's of any quality cost money, and a poor quality one will not be liked, and to go for all that expense for what thusfar as been mostly a gimmick most gamer's certainly more serious one's whilst they wouldnt say no to a screen of that nature, are unlikely to be prepared to pay extra for the privilege due to it's limited uses, and if the console seeks to invite back the hardcore gamer's, including a snazzy screen on their controller's but basing their gfx chip on an already year's old gfx series, seems not the way to go, still time will tell(If your wondering why this isnt included in the post above none of my browsers seem to be able to successfully edit post's on this site for some odd reason, anyone else getting this, I have to delete the message then repost(which only tends to work on chrome not firefox) to update them, additionally my knowledge of nintendo seems wanting, truthly never considered them professionally, nor do I own a Wii myself, so havent kept myself well informed, I wasn't aware of the bumper sales of the 3ds since the price drop when I posted the above message, still it seems investor's share my reservations on the WiiU's unusual features from all account's

Posted:2 years ago

#14

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