Independent-turned-super star development team Yacht Club Games were gracious enough to lend their time for an email interview. In the last several months, support for Nintendo’s underrated console the Wii U has taken a nose dive into oblivion – and although the 3DS is Nintendo’s “safe” platform, it hasn’t exactly been blooming with games this year either. Many games that Wii U owners were excited for are either no longer coming, delayed, or appear to be vaporware. Yacht Club Games created a sales blog featuring every single detail about Shovel Knight’s development process, which platform owners supported their initial campaign, and which ones purchased Shovel Knight after the dust had settled. Believe it or not, Nintendo gamers came out on top, which began my quest for answers. How did Yacht Club do it? What sorcery was brewed that caught the most fickle of gamer’s interest?
Read what developer David D’Angelo had to say.
SA: In the sales blog you mentioned that Nintendo gamers made up about 1/3 of the backers on Kickstarter, but when the game was released, a large portion of Shovel Knight sales came from the Wii U and 3DS eShops. Everyone believes that Nintendo gamers are a fickle bunch. Most seem reluctant to buy anything unless the name “Nintendo” is on it or in the description. Were you surprised at how well-received Shovel Knight was with Nintendo gamers? What methods did you use that broke that barrier making Shovel Knight so accepted by the community?
YGC: No we weren’t surprised. We spent a lot of effort going to conventions, talking to Nintendo media sites, and much much more to make sure Nintendo fans knew our game fit the kind of experiences they loved playing. Nintendo of America also did an amazing job stepping up to the plate and getting the word out there. They showed the game off any chance they could, and integrated us into their own events like Nintendo Live at SDCC and Treehouse Live at E3. They put us on the front page of the eShop and their own website! So hopefully, with Nintendo’s backing and our own marketing, we looked like a game that any Nintendo fan could appreciate.
SA: Nintendo has been losing indie and third party support in droves. With the success that Shovel Knight has seen on Nintendo consoles, why do you think others are avoiding working with Nintendo? What has been your experience working with the company?
YGC: Our experience working with Nintendo has been fantastic. They’ve been very supportive from marketing to helping us behind the scenes with any technical or other issues. There are a lot of reasons why other companies may not be going with Nintendo – so that’s a complicated question to tackle. A lot of factors go into what platform a game is released on: what’s the user base size and preferences, does the game match the audience, what’s the cost of porting or developing a game for the system, does the system support the technical needs, will the game stand out from the competition…the list goes on and on. I think most companies realize that doing a generic port to a Nintendo system won’t cut it for their fans, so putting in the effort to make their game fit on Nintendo’s platform can be a ton of work.
SA: Many developers have opted out of developing for the Wii U because of certain difficulties they have run into regarding hardware and infrastructure. How easy or hard was it for you to develop for the Wii U?
YGC: The Wii U development was in general a very easy and smooth experience. The only difficulties in our case were related more to design. How do we support the gamepad in a way that makes it useful and interesting? How do we take advantage of unique features like Miiverse? Making sure Shovel Knight felt at home on the console was our main concern! Adding new features to the game like Miiverse and designing/implementing how the gamepad screen works is both expensive and time consuming. But we think it was worth it!
SA: As someone on the outside looking in, I think it’s fantastic that the eShop displays smaller games right beside Nintendo’s heavy hitters. How did it feel witnessing a new game like Shovel Knight sitting beside highly acclaimed games like Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD, and Pikmin 3 on the Wii U eShop?
YCG: It’s amazing! Being on a Nintendo system in itself already is an incredible feeling – to be in the footsteps of all the amazing games born out of that history – and to be the main featured game on the eShop, with Mario Kart 8 hiding so small in the background, is truly unbelievable.
SA: Considering that the Wii U is slow to sell at the moment and Shovel Knight required a huge undertaking to begin with, why did you decide to take a chance on the console?
YCG: There are a few reasons. First off, most importantly, Shovel Knight is inspired by and was meant to play like a Nintendo game so it felt to us like it deserved and would be truly at home on a Nintendo console. Besides that though, we are all in love with the Wii U gamepad, and we thought the Miiverse was really cool. Our thought process also came at a time when PS4 and Xbox One were on the verge of being announced, so we had no idea what they’d even be like or if Shovel Knight would even be appropriate for them. The Wii U also needed games really badly! So we felt like Shovel Knight might stand out from the crowd and really catch people’s eyes. Also, we knew Nintendo was going to start promoting the console like crazy as they had such big games in the pipe (Smash Bros, Zelda, Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta, Super Mario 3D World, Xenoblade, and a ton more!), and we wanted to be a part of the excitement that came with those games.
SA: You guys put in some major work hours for this project and it’s very obvious that Shovel Knight is a labor of love, but how did you exercise your down time – if you had any at all – to maintain your sanity?
YCG: In short, we didn’t have downtime and therefore, we didn’t maintain our sanity. Hopefully we’re starting to piece it back together now.
SA: What advice would you give to other independent developers that are reluctant to putting their games on Wii U or 3DS?
YCG: Figure out what makes sense for your game. Maybe you think the Wii U install base is small, but in actuality, it has a very high game attach rate, so it might surpass the sales you’d see on another system. Getting the game running on the 3DS might be quite a challenge, but compared to the iOS market, it may be a lot easier to make your game stand out from the competition. It could be possible your game fits more with what a Nintendo fan would buy. Development for any system is expensive and difficult, so do the research to make sure the platform you choose really makes sense for your game!