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Kaigler: Nintendo 'Can't Do It All' In Game Software

Kaigler: Nintendo 'Can't Do It All' In Game Software Exclusive

April 2, 2009 | By Christian Nutt

In the wake of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's GDC keynote speech that, in part, laid out legendary Nintendo developer Shigeru Miyamoto's development process in some detail, Gamasutra had a chance to speak to Denise Kaigler, Nintendo of America's vice president of Corporate Affairs.

We discussed a wide range of topics -- which includes Nintendo's sometimes contentious relationship with developers, many of whom feel they have trouble competing in the marketplace with the company's games.

In his presentation, Iwata alluded to the fact that Nintendo initially released a large slate of Wii games to build up interest in the platform -- but is now backing off from that pace of releases to allow publishers and developers to capitalize on the install base.

The audience is even larger on the Nintendo DS and is set to grow more with the imminent release of the DSi hardware in Europe, Australia, and North America. The refreshed hardware includes new features including two cameras and the capability to download games over its DSiWare service.

"You saw the install base," says Kaigler. "We have a 100 million DS worldwide install base with 50 million shipped Wiis. That's an incredible silver platter that we're handing to the development community. Have at it. Here you are. We're giving you, between Wii and DS, a 150 million install base. We want the development community to design and develop into that install base."

She continues, "For [Mr. Iwata] to methodically impart to the development community what Mr. Miyamoto's development philosophy is, we're hopeful that the development community will take that, go back to their offices, their teams, download the teams who weren't here, 'Okay, guys, we got this sort of step-by-step guide on what to do.'"

Iwata's talk focused particularly on Miyamoto's long and involved prototyping process, which sees small mini-teams working on concepts for long periods of time -- concepts which may never see the light of day, or may even show up outside of the titles they were originally intended for.

According to Iwata, titles are only greenlit for full production when the concept is frozen, and release dates are set only at that time -- leading to freedom of experimentation in the prototyping phase.

Addressing the concern that many companies have had trouble designing games that appeal to Nintendo's audience, Kaigler says, "Now it's up to them to do it... having Mr. Iwata himself say, 'Guys, here is what, from my experience, will help you develop games that will succeed on our platform.' I don't know what else it is that he can do."

It's been pointed out that Nintendo can sell its platforms on its games alone; yes, the company makes money on every game sold regardless of who developed it, but why the interest in fostering third parties?

Says Kaigler, "Because the industry needs it. Consumers need it. The more creativity we have -- the more creative minds and teams and people there are developing games for any of our platforms, the consumers are going to be the better for it, right? The industry is going to be the better for it. We can't do it all, and we don't want to do it all.

"So, we're giving the development community, 'Here you go. Take this and give the consumers something that they would love more out of.' So, who does it benefit? It benefits Nintendo, it benefits the industry, it benefits consumers. We need the development community to support our platform, and we recognize that."

The complete interview with Denise Kaigler will be printed on Gamasutra in the near future.

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