Sales figures are the most important asset for any small company to prove their mettle, but what happens when those sales figures can’t be shown?
That’s exactly what happened to Icon Games, a London-based developer, when they published their sales numbers across the iOS, WiiWare and PSP Minis/PSN platforms. They received a take-down notice from Nintendo for their WiiWare sales figures.
The company outlines several reasons why this is such a damaging policy. Not only do game publishers rely on sales data to determine the release schedule of titles, they also use this data to determine whether or not a title is worth releasing. If an indie developer isn’t allowed to share this information with potential publishers, they lose out on lucrative publishing deals that provide a lot of capital to these developers.
The company also says that this policy effectively bars them from receiving private investments from banks or other financial firms. No bank or investor is going to want to put money into a product that can’t be proven as a success through prior sales data.
The most damaging of all is of course the actual jobs that are at stake. The company makes a point to say that they can’t accurately forecast the future for their company and their employees without this sales data.
This is on top of the long-standing policy of the WiiWare service that games can’t be put on sale or offer promotions to drum up sales for titles on the service.
This isn’t to say that the WiiWare service is evil and needs to go. WiiWare, like the PSN and Steam, offers a great digital delivery service free of the need for developers to go through publishers to get their product to consumers. PSN and Steam, however, let developers who self-publish show their sales data. Why doesn’t Nintendo afford those who develop for their platform that same luxury? What does Nintendo have to hide?
As more services, including gaming, move to digital delivery services, these kind of issues are going to become more important. Nintendo has traditionally been behind every other major publisher when it comes to digital content, but this is an area that they especially need to improve. It’s not just about sales data, Nintendo’s WiiWare and online service as a whole is too restrictive for developers and the gamers who play their games.
UPDATE: In an email to WebProNews, Richard Hill-Whittall, director at Icon Games, had a few things to say on the matter.
We asked if other developers had run into this problem before and Richard said:
"Yes, I have spoken to several other developers since this began and the story is the same for all – they don’t try to release sales figures because they are worried about Nintendo and the NDA. I don’t know of any specific examples of data being released before and Nintendo asking for it to be removed, but then I have never seen any actual sales numbers ever for any of the Nintendo-Ware services."
We also asked why they think Nintendo doesn't let indie developers publish sales data when it's an obvious win-win for both sides:
"Nintendo themselves killed developer interest in WiiWare – making it as hard as possible for developers every step of the way. If they had been reasonable with the way they operated the service, and treated developers as partners rather than a resource I think the WiiWare service would have been a massive success. I read on a forum today something that I thought summed it up well – ‘the thing that's hurting Nintendo the most is Nintendo’."
We finally asked if Icon Games had future plans to work with Nintendo or if they were going to start some kind of petition to change Nintendo's mind on the subject:
"I like the Nintendo brand, and they have produced some amazing systems over the years, but I wouldn’t want to self-publish on a Nintendo platform again unless they modernise the way they work with developers! I am sure they don’t want to work with us now either.
A petition is a great idea actually, I must admit I hadn’t thought beyond the here and now with this. Yeah, I’m up for that – to see what other developers think."