Wasted Potential: DSiWare
Why did Nintendo let such a promising download platform sink so low?
How Did This Get Screwed Up?
It’s no secret that Nintendo’s WiiWare downloadable service is full of haphazard releases with no real substance or redeeming qualities. Regardless of the shovelware, though, there are a myriad of excellent releases on tap for gamers who want to spend a few digital bucks on small-scale releases and indie games such as Cave Story, Bit.Trip Beat, And Yet It Moves, and many, many others. Unfortunately, the same simply cannot be said about DSiWare. Despite having all the potential in the world, DSiWare has really floundered in terms of producing quality content that gamers are actually willing to spend cash on.
DSiWare never really took off as a solid download platform and as a result went downhill almost immediately. With weekly releases that consist of games and apps such as Discolight, Spot It! Challenge, and Did It Myself ABC123, it’s hard to really be sold on the idea of DSiWare as a legitimate download platform. And although there have been the occasional gems such as Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again, the incredibly Cave Story, and the charming yet punishing DodoGo! Challenge, the majority of the games on DSiWare are laughable and just plain bad.
The question needs to be asked: How the heck did DSiWare manage to get so screwed up right from the get-go? It’s hard to say, really. Perhaps developers weren’t completely ready to make small-scale downloadable games. Maybe designers think they can get away with creating shovelware in the hopes that they’ll make a quick buck or two. Perhaps no one really thought the audience for DSiWare games was really there. Or maybe publishers and developers didn’t think that games would sell very well through DSiWare. It’s up in the air, and only the people who release these atrocious DSiWare games really know why they consistently launch ridiculous titles that wouldn’t even appeal to the most casual gamer.
Is There Any Hope for DSiWare?
Early on, DSiWare was a hub with all of the potential to house an impressive library of games. Sure, the mounds of shovelware were piling up, but many gamers believed that quality titles would someday land on the platform, so all hope wasn’t lost...at first. Time passed, and weekly doses of terrible releases littered the DSiWare catalog. It got to the point where gamers just gave up and decided not to bother checking out the latest downloads. And although the occasional gem made its way onto DSiWare, it was too late for any hope to be restored in Nintendo’s handheld-based digital download service.
What Could Have Been
DSiWare could have really been something special, but it never took off due bad release after bad release. What could have been home for awesome indie games turned into a trash bin full of uninspired titles from companies such as Electronic Arts, Hudson, and yes, Nintendo itself. Portable versions of successful WiiWare games such as Furry Legends and Jett Rocket could have been ported over to the handheld much like Cave Story was. Instead, brand new – and completely unoriginal – downloads were crammed into the failing library of DSiWare games. Without any solid releases popping up on the platform repeatedly, there was no one way it was going to take off. Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Wario, Pac-Man, and many other franchises could have successfully represented DSiWare as something special, but with no solid legacy behind it, developers and publishers didn’t feel the need to put the effort into creating great exclusives for the DSi’s download shop.
What Happens Now?
Despite the likelihood of the Nintendo DS fading away with the launch of the 3DS, DSiWare will live on. Developers both indie and mainstream can still salvage the downloadable market for the handheld. With some dedication, a steady stream of solid releases, and a focus on core gamers (because these are the most likely to check out download platforms), DSiWare and the upcoming Nintendo eShop for the 3DS can really be something special.