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Nintendo hopes to win app and web devs to Wii U with JavaScript tools

At GDC 2013, Nintendo attempted to woo web and app developers to the Wii U by showing off new tools that will make it much easier to port apps and even some games to the console.

Nintendo started by showing Wii Street U, the Google-powered app that was released for the Wii U last month. As it turns out, Wii Street U was one of the first apps created using the new Nintendo Web Framework, a tool based around HTML 5 and JavaScript. Since Nintendo Web Framework uses WebKit as a core, it's incredibly compatible with existing apps, Nintendo says, making the process of porting an app to the Wii U quick and easy.

Nintendo emphasized that the Framework can help create apps that run on the GamePad, the TV, or both. It can also be used to port games that were developed using web technology much faster than it would take to port over a game by actually coding it for the Wii U specifically.

As an example, Nintendo mentioned Gunman Clive, a game that was originally created for iOS and Android platforms and was later ported over to the 3DS. Gunman Clive sales on 3DS surpassed its sales on iOS and Android after only one month on Nintendo's downloadable eShop service. Though Gunman Clive did not use the Nintendo Web Framework, Nintendo says it's an example of how a game available on other platforms can benefit from being on a Nintendo system and having access to more precise control methods.

Nintendo senior software engineer Ryan Lynd took over the presentation to show off some of the specific steps in the Nintendo Web Framework process. Starting by demonstrating a simple video-on-demand app, he showed the software's ability to make changes, refresh, and see them reflected on the GamePad or TV screen instantly — the same way a web developer would work on a web app.

Lynd then switched over to Sketch Battle, a simple platformer developed entirely in JavaScript and then ported to the Wii U using Nintendo Web Framework. He showed off the ability to quickly create new stages using HTML backgrounds as well as the option to use the GamePad's camera and accelerometer. Lynd said that Sketch Battle will be included in the Nintendo Web Framework SDK as a demo for developers to mess around with and learn from.

Wrapping up the panel, Nintendo deputy general manager Takeshi Shimada noted that Nintendo Web Framework's codename was Bamboo, because that plant grows quickly over a short span of time. In an effort to live up to that name, Nintendo is pursuing some aggressive developer-friendly policies with Nintendo Web Framework.
The Framework SDK will be available for anyone to use free of charge after signing an agreement. The only thing necessary for devs to purchase is a Wii U developer kit. Shimada also said that Nintendo will not require concept approval, will allow developers to set their own price and release date for apps, and will allow for use of freemium models in apps developed in the Nintendo Web Framework.

Nintendo also has plans for Unity game engine support on the Wii U, as first revealed last fall. More details on how Unity will work on Wii U will be revealed later this week.

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