February 19, 2013

Nintendo Out to Get More Third-Party Support with HTML5

One of the common laments going on these days for people who bought a Nintendo Wii U is that there just aren’t a whole lot of games available on the device as yet. Nintendo, meanwhile, has some plans to put some life in the system, and it’s turning in a direction that’s only somewhat unexpected: HTML5.

HTML5 is part of a growing number of languages, including JavaScript and Unity, that Nintendo is looking to get development started for in a bid to increase the overall utility of the system as well as get some fresh gaming blood into the mix. At the upcoming 2013 Game Developers Conference, set to hit this March, Nintendo will be showing off one of the biggest HTML5 developments for the Wii U, Wii Street U. Wii Street U essentially allows for Google (News Alert) Street View functionality placed in the Wii U environment, allowing users to check out street-level views of just about anywhere, and do so on their televisions. There’s even a list of places that are especially worth checking out on Street View, including Las Vegas and the Great Barrier Reef.

This is a big step in and of itself, of course, but it’s really only the beginning. The use of Unity and JavaScript as well as HTML5 is going to open up a lot of new potential venues that were previously unavailable, and not just for navigation apps like Google Street View. There will also be some serious opportunities for games as well, especially for independent developers who need something faster and simpler with which to develop titles. There are already quite a few HTML5 games out, including a complete suite of classic Atari titles.

Of course, indie games have something of a problem to overcome as they’re not geared to provide fun over the long term. There are exceptions to this, of course –”Minecraft” may well be the clearest example — but for the most part, indie games are seen as throwaway novelties. They’re cheap, not unpleasant, but certainly not the kind of thing that keep users coming back for more. Bringing large numbers of them together, keeping them inexpensive and freely available, might be just what Nintendo needs to buy some time until the triple-A titles can start rolling in.

Nintendo needs third-party support. It can only make so many games out of the intellectual property it’s got on hand, and as such, needs a wider variety of experience, the kind of variety that can really only be gained from third party developer support. With an expanded appreciation for and use of different programming languages like HTML5, as well as JavaScript and Unity, Nintendo has an opportunity to not only give itself a sorely-needed shot in the arm as far as games go, it also has an opportunity to expand its horizons into being an app-based tool as well. A game machine with a productivity side? Now that’s unexpected, and sufficiently noteworthy that Nintendo may well plan to do something similar. We’ll have to keep an eye on the whole thing to see where Nintendo goes with this, but it may well be on to something, with HTML5 leading the charge for the company.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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