Many recognize that Nintendo has been slow to introduce online play. It wasn’t until Mario Kart DS with the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection that the Big N tried its hand at multiplayer over the internet, and even then things were rather limited. Nintendo has since provided expanded functionality, although one could still argue that it falls short of the competition.
During an episode of GeekWire Podcast promotion of his new book, former Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime was asked if he regrets or has learned that the company isn’t pursuing online multiplayer more aggressively. An interesting note is that this seems to have been “an area where America and Europe were constantly trying to educate the company in Japan about the value of online gaming and investing in the online infrastructure that needed to be done to make the experience.” one experience was positive”.
Below are Reggie’s full comments:
“So I’m going to answer the question from two angles. First, Nintendo’s business philosophy has always been to do things differently, to innovate in a way that exploits the strength of the company rather than exploiting the strength of others. So when it came to multiplayer, for example, Nintendo really excelled at what we internally called “couch play” – sitting next to someone playing Mario Kart, sitting next to someone playing a variety of different games like Wii Sports. This in-person multiplayer was really a place where the company excelled, and it’s put a tremendous focus on that.
In order to do online multiplayer, the company had to really think about what the new type of game is, what are the different types of experiences that we need to create in order to excel in this form of the game now. And honestly, it took the company a while to think about it, to find something that they believed would be fundamentally different and add value in new ways. I would argue that the company’s core success began when it took Smash Bros. – a key franchise for them – online, which did exceptionally well. The result was a not-quite-first-person shooter – sort of between first-person and third-person – with a franchise called Splatoon doing incredibly well in the market. So that’s the first part of the answer – the company is always thinking about how it can enter these markets in a unique and different way and play to its own strength.
The second thing I want to emphasize is – and this is about some of the cultural differences. Culturally, the company didn’t see much opportunity in online business. It was an area where America and Europe were constantly trying to educate the company in Japan about the value of online gaming and investing in the online infrastructure that needed to be done to have a positive experience. You’re absolutely right that of the three main hardware competitors in video games, Microsoft invested so much here and it became their competitive advantage – I’d say it still is today when it comes to their connected gameplay. It has been a constant push from the western parts of the company to encourage development and investment in infrastructure and I am sure those discussions continue to this day.”
Reggie has had a lot to say lately. He’s been talking about it for the past few weeks why he thinks Nintendo hasn’t released a new F-Zerolike him originally thought Metroid: Other M would be a “killer moment” for the serieshis hated by Donka Kongaand the fact that Mother 3’s content isn’t the reason the game wasn’t localized.