Nintendo’s corporate structure is something of an enigma. We’ve seen rare glances into the inner workings of things, but it’s clear the company forges its own path when it comes to how business is conducted. Early last year we reported that Nintendo was lifting the restrictions required to be considered for receiving a dev kit, which is a move that has generated a lot of interest in developing for both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS. Despite that, it looks like Nintendo has been less than forthcoming when it comes to speaking to these new developers.
In a new article on Gamasutra, Brandon Sheffield documents his attempts at speaking with Dan Adelman, the head of the indie initiative at Nintendo of America. They were less than stellar and this presents an all together bigger problem; Nintendo seems like it wants indie developers to embrace their platform, but their corporate policies in place have no room for them. Here’s a short excerpt from the article:
Dan Adelman, the head of Nintendo’s indie initiative, was not allowed to speak with us. This is the sort of corporate policy that perpetuates the stereotype that Nintendo doesn’t work well with third parties, and is an emblem of Nintendo’s reluctance to change and become more open as markets shift. As an indie developer, this is very troubling to me.
Dan Adelman has long been the face of what many consider change for Nintendo of America. But Nintendo of America ultimately reports back to Nintendo of Japan, where all the corporate decisions are made. It’s this handcuffing of regions that makes Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe less effective at their jobs, since these branches were created to deal with the unique culture and aspects of their regions. They’re unable to do so because the corporate policy of Nintendo of Japan reflects Japanese corporate policy, moreso than any other region where Nintendo is active.
I don’t blame Adelman. I know him, and I know this is the kind of thing he would like to do. It wasn’t his decision. It’s Nintendo’s policy not to privilege the individual. It’s Nintendo’s policy to keep messaging corporate, not personal. But that is not the way of things today, and it shows how far behind Nintendo is in terms of its relationship with third party developers, and how it operates as a company: keeping everyone in check, rather than letting innovation and new ideas lead, as its executives keep saying they want to. It shows how far the company still has to go to prove to indies that we should be putting our games on its platform.
Sheffield goes on to further state why Nintendo’s policy of being inaccessible to indie developers is hurting them in the long run. Both Microsoft and Sony continue to have indie initiatives that sees these developers put on stage with them at events and given a piece of the spotlight to highlight their games. One of the biggest reveals at E3 2013 for Sony was Transistor, Super Giant Games next project after the critically acclaimed Bastion. Meanwhile, Nintendo does little more than sponsor a both at the IndieCade event.
You see, Sony and Microsoft are both funding indie games right now, and they’re making a lot of noise about it. They’re putting indies up on stage with them at every show, pushing them into the limelight. When you read articles about who “won” E3 2013, the answer was resoundingly Sony — the company’s image was reassuringly human, and player- and developer-friendly, in part because of its huge indie push.
Sheffield spoke with a few fellow developers who cited numbers sold on the Nintendo eShop, numbers that are shockingly low. One developer sold 1,000 units in the US in the first month, and only 400 in Europe during the same time span. Developers flock to Nintendo systems because it’s currently an uncharted market, but the tools Nintendo has in place lead to disappointing sales and less than stellar feedback. It’s a problem that has plagued the Wii U since launch.
Nintendo’s digital storefront is unwieldy, fragmented across platforms, and sports poor discoverability — that is not convincing. Its antiquated policies toward management of online friends are not convincing. And a lack of interest in even speaking directly to developers publicly is not convincing.
It’s not surprising to see this sort of treatment given to indie developers, given Nintendo’s position in the past, but it is surprising to see that despite opening their policies and attempting to become more indie friendly, that seems to be limited to letting anyone develop for the system without the proper channels of support for developers. Sheffield’s generic PR replies received from specific questions highlight the issue perfectly, as instead of receiving a personalized response to his inquiries from the man Nintendo hired to take care of its interested indie developers, he received PR mumbo jumbo.
This is not the way to attract developers to your platform, Nintendo. This is not the way to handle developers who are interested in making your console library more expansive with enriched experiences. The full article at Gamasutra is worth a read, so definitely check it out.