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Q&A: How Renegade Kid quietly found success on Nintendo's eShop

As Microsoft and Sony make a publish push to attract indie game devs to their consoles, Renegade Kid's Jools Watsham talks about how Nintendo's eShop is where his studio has seen its highest sales.

Kris Ligman

March 4, 2014

4 Min Read

Renegade Kid, the small studio behind the multiplatform Mutant Mudds and the recently announced Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts, has seen some respectable successes on Nintendo's eShop -- a market many devs might find too impenetrable to bother. Studio co-founder Jools Watsham recently tweeted that Mutant Mudds Deluxe had sold more through the Wii U than Steam and PlayStation Network combined. We caught up with Watsham recently to learn more about Renegade Kid's success on eShop. (See also Watsham's Gamasutra blog here.) Gamasutra: In general it sounds like you've had some pretty good success through Nintendo's eShop. Jools Watsham: Yes, the Nintendo eShop has been very good for us. Our games have been received well. I was very surprised when I saw myself talking about our latest 3DS games, Moon Chronicles and Treasurenauts, on the most recent Nintendo Direct. I was not expecting that. Working with Nintendo has been great. Everyone I talk with and meet with at Nintendo is passionate about games, and loves their job. What do you think contributes to your games' success on the eShop platform, versus, say, Steam or PSN? JW: We are a very small company, and not in a position to spend money on advertising at this time. We rely on word of mouth between players, and news announcements from the press on our games and our development progress. The Nintendo media is very active and passionate, and very supportive of indie developers. The support we receive from the shop owners themselves helps tremendously. Nintendo's support of Mutant Mudds on the 3DS release was amazing. It got great placement on the eShop front page, and was even included with their online advertising for a period of time along with Pushmo, Mighty Switch Force, and Dillion's Rolling Western. The amount of exposure that Mutant Mudds Deluxe received on the Wii U eShop has also been incredible with large, medium, and smaller banners promoting our game for a considerable amount of time on the eShop front page long after the game was released. Even though I would like it, I don't expect all of our games to receive this sort of treatment. I know not every game of ours can be promoted this way. There's not enough real estate on the front page to support every game equally, unfortunately. But, the fact of the matter is that exposure on the front page is instrumental in selling games. It can make all of the difference. Yes, this is a roundabout way of saying Nintendo promoted Mutant Mudds more than Steam and Sony did. I do not fault Sony or Steam for not promoting our game as well as Nintendo did. It is not their job or responsibility to promote our games. Steam and Sony are juggling a ton of content and promote what they can and what they want to. It is what it is. But, I do believe this played a large part in the current sales numbers on each platform. How would you gauge eShop's viability for indies, overall? JW: I think the Nintendo eShop can be a very good place for indies. As with any market, you have to develop the right type of game and price it competitively. Even though we are spreading our wings a bit, and releasing our games on more platforms now, we intend to continue supporting Nintendo platforms for a very long time. A lot of devs feel that Nintendo comes off as more "closed off" than Sony or Microsoft, especially when it comes to indies. Would you agree it's a bit tougher for indies to get their footing with Nintendo? JW: No, I strongly disagree with that statement. Nintendo is great to work with and easy to get a hold of. Nintendo's developer application process is easier now than it ever has been. The big difference is that Nintendo haven't announced it from the highest mountain, like Sony have, which they really should do. I don't see how anyone can say Nintendo is more "closed off" than Microsoft, when Microsoft doesn't even allow indies to self-publish on the Xbox 360. If a small studio like yours wants to get into Nintendo's eShop, what should they keep in mind? JW: It is very hard to know what may or may not do well on the eShop, so I recommend just making something uniquely you. Do what you're passionate about. But, also bear in mind what's already available on the eShop and how much it is priced for. You want to stand out as something cool, new, and different, and also priced fairly/competitively. Working with Nintendo is great. I recommend self-publishing if you want direct contact with Nintendo. Working through a publisher means you may not be in direct contact with them, as Nintendo typically funnels communication through publishers.

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