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Nintendo: 'We Embrace The Independent Spirit'
Nintendo: 'We Embrace The Independent Spirit'
March 27, 2011 | By Cassandra Khaw, Kris Graft

March 27, 2011 | By Cassandra Khaw, Kris Graft
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing

Weeks after Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said "we are not looking to do business today with the garage developer" on the new 3DS, the company's director of PR Marc Franklin told Gamasutra that Nintendo is actually looking everywhere for innovative content.

Asked about the company's stance on "garage developers," Franklin replied, "Nintendo always appreciates good quality content regardless of whether that's coming from an indie developer or a more established publisher."

"For example, we've worked with 2D Boy, the people behind World of Goo for WiiWare," he said. "This is a group of guys who don't even have an office. So we embrace that kind of independent spirit and it's ultimately the most innovative content that will rise to the top."

Nintendo has appeared at odds with smaller developers in recent weeks. Before Fils-Aime's comments on "garage developers," Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata stated at this year's Game Developers Conference that the value of game software is in danger of sinking due to low-priced (and often free) offerings from emerging mobile and social markets.

"The value of video game software does not matter to [mobile and social game distributors]. … The fact is, what we produce has value, and we should protect that value," Iwata said at the time.

Games like Angry Birds from 50-person studio Rovio can sell with a price tag of just 99 cents, and -- in extreme cases -- eventually generate millions of dollars in revenue (Angry Birds goes for free on Android). That 99 cent price point makes a $40 3DS game look pricey.

In less extreme cases, smaller mobile and social developers can at least make some semblance of a living off of a successful low-priced game.

Nintendo will roll out the 3DS' digital storefront, the eShop, in May this year, providing a venue for lower-priced, smaller-sized games.

While these games will be less expensive compared to packaged releases, don't expect to see 99 cent games on Nintendo's digital storefront. Nintendo 3DS project lead Hideki Konno recently told Gamasutra that the company does not plan on competing with mobile games' ultra-low prices.

"I'm not trying to say that I think games on cell phones are a bad thing; I'm not trying to say that they're worthless, or have no value at all," Konno said. "I'm just saying that they're just different."

The Nintendo 3DS launched in Europe on Friday, and in the U.S. on Sunday. Eager fans awaited the device's midnight launch in front of a New York City Best Buy last night at Nintendo's official launch event, which Gamasutra attended.

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Adam Moore
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Nintendo either needs to actually change their stance on indies or be honest. I appreciate Reggie's honesty. Straight out of the updated developer application:

"To become an Authorized Developer for Wii, Nintendo DS/DSi, or Nintendo 3DS:


Nintendo looks for companies that are established game developers, or individuals with game industry experience. Authorization will be based upon your relevant game industry experience.

We require that companies are working from a secure business location. A secure business location has security systems for the building. The office space is secured from other offices in the same building. The office space is not shared with any other company. Sub-leases will need to be reviewed. The office space is not located within a personal residence."

Carlo Delallana
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This is understandable since you will have a dev kit on-site. The average iOS developer just needs Xcode (comes standard on any Mac computer) and a $99 developer annual license.

Fox English
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Yeah, I always get confused when I see press that Nintendo encourages indie/innovative gaming, but then I go to their business site and that's still there. It makes it sound like they only want to work with established people who have the capital to begin with. Heck, it sounds like they got even more restrictive because they never used to talk about sub-leases or shared spaces (which was a solution my friend came up with recently).

To be fair, SCEA may or may not be just as restrictive, but they aren't as public about it: finding information on getting a devkit always seems to lead me to a dead end at most requiring a phone call to the main office. At least Nintendo says up front what they expect.

But still, security is a major concern so I won't particularly bash any company wanting to protect their assets. Reggie's statement wasn't all that controversial, as many indies themselves constantly lament the so-called "garage developers" that take no time to produce a quality game and just do it for a hobby they don't really take seriously. It never seemed to me that he was attacking all solo/low-man teams until others took it that way. The only real disconnect is that there doesn't seem to be a third option for startups that DO want to make the time investment to produce a Nintendo/Sony-worthy game but have yet to be industry proven and/or have enough capital to lease an office the entire time. Even if it felt like they would be willing to review PC-prototypes, it would be a step in the right direction. Maybe they already do, and need to say so.

Joe McGinn
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True Carlo but there's no technical reason Nintendo couldn't have set it up the exact same way. Really, if you think about it, why can't you just use commercial 3DS hardware for your dev kit, like you can with iPhone?

Well we all know the answer. Nintendo is terrified of the open market style app store market, as it means death for the way Nintendo has always made highly profitable software. Can't say I blame them, I'd probably do the same in there shoes. But I'm not sure it's going to save them.

Joel Nystrom
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Nintendo is obviously super-cool, hip and down with the indies - just look at the name / URL for their dev-rels page!

Maurício Gomes
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Remember that the 2DBoy people said the only reason Nintendo worked with them, is that they did not told Nintendo they had no office until the game launched.

Now Nintendo come saying they work with officeless people... no, not really, it is one of their basic rules, no-office, no business.

E Zachary Knight
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I remember that. It was in their World of Goo post mortem. It is really a slap in the face for Nintendo, but they seemed to have PRed their way out of it and that instance out of memory.

Adam Moore
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This is why I thought it was odd that they used World of Goo as an example of embracing the indie spirit - if they had followed their own policies, World of Goo wouldn't be available on WiiWare. Not to mention that this particular example released on Wii in Q4 2008. That's over 2 years ago.

Nintendo isn't interested in doing business with garage developers and they shouldn't pretend they are. It's really bad form for PR to correct the President of the company when he is, in fact, correct.

I'd love to develop for Nintendo's platforms, but the group I work with does not qualify according to their standards, so we can't. When I saw the title of this article, I was excited at the thought of changes to the developer application that would allow us to qualify.

Guess we'll have to stick to Xbox, Playstation, and Steam.

Jamie Mann
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I think Nintendo's stance is probably best summed up as "we're interested in indie developers with a proven track record". Note that this doesn't necessarily mean financially (e.g. Cave Story) but basically, they're not interested in trying to foster innovation from outside Nintendo's R&D departments.

Mind you, Sony doesn't do much better, and while Microsoft has released XNA and created the XBLIG service, it generally feels like the unwanted stepchild of their online strategy...

Maurício Gomes
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Why I have impression that the PR people job is lie, sometimes contradicting the CEO, just to make people hate the company less?

E Zachary Knight
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That is pretty much the definition of PR. Save face at all costs.

Wendy Jones
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"For example, we've worked with 2D Boy, the people behind World of Goo for WiiWare," he said. "This is a group of guys who don't even have an office."

This statement really stood out to me as one of Nintendo's main developer criteria is that they have an office. No home offices will do for Nintendo's, no you must present them with a copy of your lease.

Guess they have different policies for different developers.

Maurício Gomes
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They don't. The PR guy is lieing.

I mean, 2D Boy really did not had a office, except Nintendo only figured that AFTER the game was released.

The PR guy is sorta implying that they knew all along and allowed it. But Nintendo does not allow that at all... It is only that they did not knew.

warren blyth
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I think what's not being spoken about here is : if you're an indie developer and you score a bit hit - you'll likely run to every other platform.

Nintendo's blue-ocean HW strategy isn't compatible with being an also-ran. They don't want to deal with people who will cheapen the value of their unique hardware. they would prefer you make a game specifically to the merits of 3DS or Wii, and not dump a version of it on iOS at $.99.


* Recently, people have often pointed out the 3DS title Pilotwings Resort doesn't have much more gameplay than iOS title (3 hours?). This is used as an example of Nintendo contradicting itself when it dissed smartphone titles. But really Pilotwings Resort is a great example of what Nintendo is really talking about: it is a ip that you only get on 3DS, and won't be ported to every other gaming system anytime soon.

Kamruz Moslemi
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Nintendo has been known to phone it in every once in a while, but as long as they follow that up by delivering the sort of title that their fans love them for everyone has been willing to turn a blind eye.

I think the sheer growth in scope, cost and manpower required by modern game development has put a clear strain on the capacity of their internal teams. Maybe the same conservativeness that prevents them from having to deal with the swath of garage developers in order to try and fish out the few that can actually deliver is to be blamed for them choosing not to grow in size to accommodate the increased pressure.

But they do deliver at least a couple of times a year, so good on them.

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I like most of the comments on here (Ephriam makes some good points), so here's mine:

Key point on "director of PR".