A new game for the Wii U? In 2022, that alone is worth reporting. Not only was the Wii U denied commercial success and was long since replaced by its successor, the Switch. In February, Nintendo also announced that it would close the Wii U’s eShop by March 2023 (with the ability to deposit credit into the eShop account ending as early as August 29, 2022).
Few people will suspect that new games will still appear under these circumstances. But they still exist, and their creators, who support the Wii U to the last. This may also be due to the fact that the Wii U was the console that opened up a Nintendo platform for the first time to a larger number of indie developers, some of which continued to work on real heart projects to this day.
Marco or »Markanime« is a solo developer from Cartagena, Spain and »Pad of Time« is one of those heart projects. The game seems »out of time« in more ways than one, but mostly because it hit the Wii U’s download store on April 13, 2022, almost 10 years after the system was launched. In addition to the Wii U, the game has also been released for the Nintendo Switch.
I had the chance to speak to Marco, who can claim to have created one of the last – perhaps the last? – games for the least fortunate of recent Nintendo systems. He told me what made him release on the Wii U among all platforms and why »Pad of Time« was released so late in the console’s lifecycle. And of course we talked about the game itself, a colourful platformer reminiscent of the good old N64 era.
German readers who would prefer to read a translated version of the interview can find it here. This is the first time we’ve published an in-depth developer interview here at SPIELKRITIK. I would therefore very much like to hear your feedback. Have fun. [sk]
Sylvio (SPIELKRITIK.com): Hello Marco. Nice to have you here. You are the solo developer behind Pad of Time, a platform game that released on April 13th for the Nintendo Switch as well as, quite unusually for this time, the Wii U. Now, before we talk about the game itself, allow me to address the elephant in the room: Why the Wii U?
Marco (Markanime Studios): Pad of Time is a personal project that I developed in my free time, and I started it around the year 2013. At that time there was no Nintendo Switch, and I really wanted to make a game for the Wii U. As you can see, the time machine in the game looks like a Wii U Gamepad.
Do you have a special affection for the Wii U, or for Nintendo in general?
Long before the Wii U was the NES, that was my first game console, and when I grew up, I really wanted to make games for Nintendo. Thanks to the Wii U, Nintendo started to receive more indie devs, so I was able to join as a dev and it blew my mind.
I wonder, how important a factor is visibility and discoverability? We all know that there are hundreds of new games coming to PC every month, and the number of releases for Switch isn’t exactly small either. On the Wii U, however, Pad of Time was the only new release for months. That is how to game got my attention, at least.
When I planned to make Pad of Time for the Wii U, I didn’t think about that. But since the development was slow and the Switch appeared, I preferred to port it to Switch and do a dual release.
But as you mentioned, the Nintendo Switch receives a lot of games every day, and when I released it, it got less downloads than the original Wii U version! Let me share to you some numbers (15 of May): The Wii U original version was downloaded 122 times. The Nintendo Switch port only 53 times. Who said that the Wii U is over? It still has a lot of fans, sadly it’s on its official end of life.
These are interesting figures. I wonder when did you find out that the Wii U eShop was about to close for good? Only this February, when Nintendo officially announced the closure? Or did Nintendo communicate this to developers before? Did the announcement have an impact on your project? For instance, did it affect Pad of Time’s release date, or was that already decided?
Sadly, I can’t share with you the information that Nintendo provides to developers due NDA, but I can say to you that the end of life of the Wii U was one of the key factors to make me finish Pad of Time. The main factor was cabin fever and working from home that gave me more time to finish it. I didn’t want to miss the chance to publish it on the original platform that the game was made for.
I’m glad you did. Just one more note on the superior download numbers on Wii U… Do you think it’s likely that the upcoming closure of the Wii U eShop has reignited interest in the platform? As for me, I’ve always been fond of the Wii U and kept playing and occasionally downloading new games throughout the years, but it’s only now – with the impending end – that I’ve delved deeper into what the eShop has to offer and grab as many titles as possible while I still can. I would assume I’m not alone in this.
I think that you’re right, this last month a lot of players are caring much about the Wii U. But I had another Wii U title called El Silla that was launched back in 2019. It reached 1357 downloads since launch and 102 downloads in 2022. That means the closure is not the only factor why Pad of Time got more downloads on Wii U than on Switch, it’s also the fact that the game has more visibility on Wii U since there are less titles.
I was definitively surprised to see a new game on the Wii U eShop, even after Nintendo announced the store would be closing in a few months. Therefore, one of the reasons I reached out to you was because I believed that Pad of Time might be *the* last game to come out on the system. Contrary to my expectation, we now know that Pad of Time was not actually the last game released on the Wii U. Another game (Reversi 32) released only a few days later. Would you have liked it if Pad of Time had actually been the very last game for the Wii U? Are you perhaps disappointed that it isn’t?
Sure, I would love to be the last game, but actually Pad of Time is the last Wii U game in America, the other game you mentioned was only released at Europe.
Yes, you’re right about that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if there are any more surprises in the coming months. But as of now, Pad of Time is indeed the final release on the North American eShop.
Now let us talk about the game. To sum it up for our readers, Pad of Time is a platform game with a fair amount of adventure elements, most of which rely on a time travel mechanic that lets players switch between past, present and future manifestations of each level in order to overcome obstacles. In your press kit the game is described as a „classic platformer game 2.5D graphics with Nintendo 64 retro aesthetic (Paper Mario)“. To pick up on the last point, I think I can see the similarities. Pad of Time reminds me perhaps not so much of the original Paper Mario, but of Super Paper Mario, as this also was a platform game infused with adventure elements. Another game I was reminded of, that is in terms of visuals, is Rakugakids, if that tells you anything.
Can you tell us a bit more about your influences and inspirations and your journey into game development? You mentioned earlier that you started work on the game in 2013, that is not long after the Wii U was released. This means a development time of no less than eight years. I assume there was a learning curve? You’re an animator first and foremost, aren’t you?
Sorry I’m not an animator, I’m a programmer. (laughs). And it was that long because it was a side project that I was making on my free time. And as I said before, when Covid arrived thanks to work from home and cabin fever I was having more personal time to finish Pad of Time.
I love since was a child all platformer games: Mario, Sonic, Rayman, etc. Especially Mario and Sonic games were my main inspiration and created the desire to make my own platformer game. If you’re interested to know more about the development of Pad of Time, I gave a talk at the Spanish National Videogame Museum in April. (It’s in Spanish, sorry.)
I am happy to link the lecture (see below). But Pad of Time wasn’t actually the first game you released on the Wii U. You’ve mentioned it above, and I also saw it on your website, there was a game titled El Silla. Was that something of a side project?
El Silla was a break from Pad of Time, it’s a small game and I did it in two weeks. The cool thing about it is that was my first experience publishing on console, and the publishing procedure cost me around four months. Thanks to that I gained experience to plan a clean worldwide release (except Asia) for Pad of Time.
You’ve mentioned it a couple of times, Pad of Time started as a Wii U project but ended up being released for the Nintendo Switch at the same time. How much extra work did the Switch version require? Is developing for the Switch very different from developing for the Wii U?
The Switch Port cost me around three months of my free time, or around 96 hours of work. The original game was made on Unity 4 and the Switch version had to be made for Unity 2019.
Pad of Time being the biggest among your self-published games so far, is there something you’re particularly proud of having achieved? And were there things that you couldn’t realize, ideas that you would have loved to implement but had to discard?
I’m proud to have finished it. Sometimes these kind of projects driven by passion have no end, so closing it was a challenge. But yes, I have some semi implemented ideas that I had to discard, such as a level selection screen and a level based on the caveman era.
That last one sounds fun. Are further Pad of Time ports planned for other platforms or will the game remain exclusive to Wii U and Nintendo Switch for the time being?
Now I can’t confirm any new ports for other platforms, so Pad of Time will be Nintendo exclusive until further notice.
What’s next? I saw that you not only work as a solo developer on small games, but also as a programmer for larger studios. Do you intend to do more solo projects and keep your focus on Nintendo consoles? What would your dream project be?
At the moment I would like to take a break from my personal projects. My dream project is to work on a Super Mario game.
Marco, thank you for the interesting conversation. I wish you all the best in your career and I hope Pad of Time will continue to find its audience.
Pad of Time is available for Wii U (€7.00) and Nintendo Switch (€7.99). You will find our review of the game on SPIELKRITIK.com in a few days.
More on the subject:
- Product page on nintendo.co.uk: Wii U / Switch
- Marco’s website (Markanime Studios)
- Markanime Studios on itch.io
- Marco’s presentation at the Spanish National Video Game Museum
- A video interview about Pad of Time
Image source: Markanime Studios