How Nintendo can improve digitally

Apr 21, 2012

So, I recently tweeted “Wii is a Toy”.  I clarified my point was around the large sales numbers not really representing the software market on Wii for independent developers.  I also dropped such gems of wisdom as “We don’t do Nintendo development”, ” Our previous experience with Nintendo was enough to ensure there will not be another” This all generated a lot of fun for journalists as each spun my little sound bites.  In reality, it is a poor communication of a business decision based on our development experience.

I feel I did a disservice. My career has been filled with the delivery of hard criticism, I always try to call it as I see it. Sometimes I wax dramatic for effect.  But, I always believe criticizing  without offering a solution is worthless.  In this case I did not offer a solution. So Let’s fix that omission:

How Nintendo can improve digitally (for smaller developers)

  1.  Put online and digital front and center.  When you are on the console, you need to know about new, interesting titles and how to get them.  With the Wii this was not so.  On future systems you need the online experience to anchor the system.
  2.  Positive Exposure. On Xbox live, it was Jonathan Blow with Braid. On Steam, Team Meat with Super Meat boy. Reach out, identify the best indie game on your service, move that game to the store front page and post a story about the developer with the game. Co-market the game as if it was from a big publisher, put some PR muscle behind the title and the developer, set them up for interviews and coach them on promoting their title. From this effort you will get a number of positive outputs: Sales, loyalty for the developer and newfound respect from the development community.  You’ve got some good indie titles for 3DS, so push them hard and create a feeling of indie success on the platform (cough,Renegade Kid, cough)
  3. Open up.  You can’t succeed today by requiring a ton of secrecy around the platform.  Blocking people from talking sales numbers just kills potential interest in developing for the platform.  If the numbers are bad, you need to figure out why they are bad.  The success of the various download services has shown the market is ready for digital distribution, so don’t hide problems, hit them head on and fix them.  Kudos so far on 3DS for mentioning things needed to get better than on the Wii.
  4. Drop the minimum sales limit to a reasonable number.  It costs money to send money (apparently this “wire” thing is expensive)  so set the limit at a reasonable level, say $1000.  For a small developer that might just make the difference.
  5. Call a product out.  If you get a submission for cert and it is a pile, kick it back fast to the developer and suggest they up the QA process.  Don’t treat everyone the same, fast track good, interesting games which are close to ship and be open about what you are doing.   When a product is horrible, send the feedback quick and tell them what they need to address before you’ll look at it again.

Hope this helps.  Not really rocket science I know, but it is free advice.

I really hope Nintendo can succeed in the next generation, a world without a new Zelda game is a sad place.

-Trent

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One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Andrew
    May 2nd, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    And the news cycle moves on….with so many up in arms over your comments 2 weeks ago I was surprised to see no comment on this interesting follow-up post.
    All this talk has made me wonder why Nintendo fails to engage and solicit smaller developers. Wii’s potential was ultimately squandered when support for the platform dried up and Nintendo’s own resources had largely been reassigned. Small ambitious teams on a realistic budget could have helped here, but they were obviously not welcome. Well, this attitude may have been sustainable when competition was weaker, but that ain’t the case anymore.
    Nintendo’s platform management has not improved fast enough and its been telling this last 15 or so years. They are organizationally ingrained in old ways and slow to change, a quagmire that seems to have sucked in a majority of Japanese technological industry.

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