http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/levelup/archive/2007/06/27/reggie-on-his-big-plans-for-a-little-nintendo-wiiware.aspx When we got on the phone Tuesday afternoon with Nintendo of America president Reginald Fils-Aime to talk about the company's upcoming WiiWare initiative--downloadable games, from giant publishers and indie developers alike, made specifically for the Wii and sold through the Wii Shop Channel, we kicked things off by asking him where the idea for WiiWare originated. "The vision for WiiWare started back during the development of the Wii itself," said Fils-Aime, citing the statements of his boss, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata. "A couple of GDCs [Game Developers Conferences] ago, Mr. Iwata hinted at downloadable content; that we wanted to help young, promising developers overcome the limitations of small budgets and team sizes to bring their games to the Wii." Would this mean a price cut for development kits, we inquired? Or would there be a new set of tools and libraries--easier to use, but less fully-featured--aimed at the indie and hobbyist game developer? No. "First, the development tools and SDKs [software development kits] that enable developers to participate are already available," he replied, referring to the standard tools that Nintendo sells to its licensees. "We enable the marketplace where consumers can buy these games using Wii Points. Developers and publishers bring their ideas for games and marketing to entertain and entice consumers." As for a price cut, Fils-Aime insisted that Wii dev kits are already plenty cheap. "All our SDKs and dev tools are already--I don't want to call them inexpensive--they're darn near free to developers. This is unlike our competitors, where you have to spend a lot of money building high-res assets to be competitive. So in that sense, there's almost no cost to developers; the tools are already available at rock-bottom prices. We're providing the venue and light of day for games that might not have gotten attention otherwise." Given Nintendo's well known control-freak tendencies--the developer of a DS music game told us that Nintendo wouldn't allow gamers' compositions to be transferred to PCs so that they could be shared with friends--we were taken aback when Fils-Aime informed us that his company's oversight of WiiWare titles would be minimal. "Nintendo will not do any screening of ideas," he said. "The games have to pass our bug checking process, but that's the only screening that we're doing." We couldn't let that line of inquiry go just then, not with the controversy over the Adults Only-rated Manhunt 2 still brewing like a cup of cappuccino. Was he saying that WiiWare would be the Wild West of videogames, where anything goes? No, he answered; the Entertainment Software Rating Board still has a role to play. "The developer is responsible for getting an ESRB rating for their game, just as with our current publisher agreements. We don't allow AO-rated games on our systems." We reminded Fils-Aime that in an interview last September with MTV News reporter Stephen Totilo, he said. "I'll be spending some time later today with the folks over at Take Two to see what type of support they can give our console." In hindsight, we asked, did he regret his decision to solicit games from Take-Two, and presumably Rockstar? Was a game like Manhunt 2 ultimately not in keeping with the family-friendly image of the Wii? "This is not an image issue," said Fils-Aime. "Wii welcomes games rated E, T and M. We haven't approved AO-rated games. I doubt we ever will. What Rockstar has right now is a game rated outside our spectrum, outside any manufacturer's spectrum." And finally on that point, was he concerned that even if Rockstar were to sufficiently alter the content of Manhunt 2 to secure an M rating, the ESRB might still feel that the gestural controls would warrant retaining an AO rating for the Wii version? "That's an issue for the ESRB and Rockstar to work through. And as I understand the ESRB guidelines, the Wii controls should not be an issue." We then returned to discussing WiiWare, whereupon Fils-Aime revealed that the first such titles would arrive in 2008. He went on to say that while there would be an exchange of information between Nintendo and WiiWare developers to help those game creators understand how to make use of the Wii remote and the nunchuk, developers wouldn't be forced to make gesture-based games. "Again, there's no filtering. We have not put any parameters on the control device or how the consumer will play the games. They can be remote-only; remote and nunchuk; classic controller; Gamecube controller. All of that is allowed." Fils-Aime also stressed that all WiiWare content, unlike that on the Virtual Console, would be brand new games. "WiiWare content is new content. It can come from Reggie's Videogame Garage or from EA." (Don't get your hopes up, fanboys; Fils-Aime has no plans to personally make any WiiWare games.) As for pricing, he reiterated that while Nintendo would make the final decision on the pricing of individual games, it would do so in consultation with the developer and/or publisher, with no predetermined limit on the high-end of pricing. In short, having conquered the kids, the Alpha Moms and the non-gamers, the Wii is now going after the brand new downloadable game market currently occupied by Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. The resulting fireworks should be interesting to watch.