You’ve probably heard the news about about WiiWare. (Newsweek broke the story here.) In a nutshell, developers can buy a Wii SDK, create games for the Wii, and get them sold online through the Wii’s downloadable interface. Nintendo says that there will not be any screening of game ideas, and gave the impression that the Wii will soon have an exciting free-for-all of downloadable games for sale.
This is huge news for casual game developers, because the Wii audience should contain a very large percentage of people who are looking for short, engaging games, rather than long challenging games. In other words, they might buy our casual games!
The bad news:
- Although Nintendo calls their SDK “virtually free”, the actual cost of a development kit for one developer seems to be around $2500. And that’s not including any middleware you might need to buy.
- Your game must pass Nintendo’s QA process to be allowed to go live. You better believe that the developer will be footing the bill for this (much as developers foot the bill for Microsoft’s Arcade QA pass now).
- Developers are required to get the game rated by the ESRB before it can go live. I can’t find the cost for this online, but if I recall correctly from my days working on brick and mortar games, I’d say you should put aside $1000 for it.
The bottom line: you’ll likely need to be able to pony up $10k to $15k to get your game on the Wii. That’s in addition to the $5k to $6k needed to buy art and sound assets. This is chump change for a small studio, but it certainly keeps the riff-raff (like me) out of the running until we’re really confident that we have a money-maker on our hands, or we can convince a publisher that we’re a sure thing.
I’m still excited about the possibility, though. If I had a less-expensive way to take a shot at it, I’d love to port Starcrossed to the Wii.