The Wonderful World of WiiWare

With a majestic blast of mighty horns we herald the arrival of WiiWare, a veritable gaming revolution. Not revolutionary in its downloadable content ways, mind - people have been fattening their game libraries with downloaded extras ever since Shakespeare released a half-arsed Defender clone based on Twelfth Night (available through Wi-Pigeon). No, it’s the freedom from the creative shackles of cold corporate games development that has our hearts beating to the chk-a-chk rhythm of the Shopping Channel loading ring. So come with us now as we enter the dark jungles of WiiWare speculation, armed only with the machete of truth and the burning desire to get to the bottom of Nintendo’s future online sensation…

So then, WiiWare?
Um, sort of. Technically in the UK it’s Wii Software. WiiWare is the US/Japanese name.

So what does it do then?
They’re downloadable games.

A bit like Virtual Console, then?
Not at all. That’s dusty old games; WiiWare’s all about the new. You’ll get no oldies here, gramps.

But we spy Bomberman and Star Soldier releases - they’re relics!
Yeah, okay. But they’re modern reworkings - old games with a new lick of paint.

So who’s developing for this service?
An exciting range of minds, from the greatest developers in the land right down to independent third parties treading the boards for the first time. Nintendo, Square Enix, Hudson and Namco Bandai need no introduction. As for the newcomers, you'll see on the next page.

(Returning from the next page) Quite a strong third-party presence then.
Absolutely. Nintendo-developed games only account for a third of WiiWare titles.

And roughly how many games does “all WiiWare titles” represent?
Iwata announced at the 2007 Nintendo Conference that they’d received over 100 WiiWare proposals.

Any quality control going on there?
Nintendo have to approve your game idea before you can get a dev kit. Plus, they’re limiting each developer to one WiiWare release a month, to prevent a total clogging flood.

Wedon’t see how a flood could happen - it’s not as if the Wii has the space to hold that many games...
Good point. The Wii is hardly Dr. McMemory, and while you can stuff WiiWare titles onto an SD card, they’ll still need to be on the internal memory to actually play, just like Virtual Console games. To help ease the situation, Nintendo is ‘encouraging’ compact games with a rumoured 40Mb size cap.

40MB! Isn’t that a bit tight?
Nope. For a year and a half Xbox Live Arcade had a 50Mb cap, and that still allowed for gems such as Pac-Man: Championship Edition and Geometry Wars. You’ll be amazed what 40Mb can achieve.

Hate to break it down to cold hard cash, but what’s the pricing situation?
Although developers set the prices, they’re using price brackets a la Virtual Console. Expect the cheapest games to come in at 500 points (around $7 or £3.50) and pricier titles to hit the 1,500 mark (about $20 or £10.50).

Is that reasonable?
Hard to tell until we play each individual game. 1,500 points for a Final Fantasy title is bargainous; the same amount for a game about, say, shepherding balloon sheep into a paddock is not.

Oooh, that balloon sheep game sounds good...
Sorry. It was dreamt up for the sake of that last question.

Boo. When does the service launch?
March in Japan. As for the rest of the world? A mystery. Although we’ve seen a good handful of games that are ready to go.

Speaking of which…