Posted by: seanmalstrom | January 20, 2014

Email: Nintendo Developers forgot what it means to be one

Master Malstrom:

Been thinking a lot about this. You already pointed out how Miyamoto and company should’ve remained as just developers instead of having a vote in what to do. How they stopped experiencing things and developing according to those experiences. And now there’s a very important aspect I think should be mentioned: how the limitations helped create games.

We all know how the limitations of the hardware made possible for Miyamoto to create Jumpman/Mario: the mustache to distinguish the face, the cap to save on hair animation, etc. It’s pretty much the same with all great games and not so great ones: those limitations made developers challenge themselves to bring to life the vision they had for those games. Create music with basic blips and blops; give personality to a character made by pixels; give the illusion of a big world with the limited memory space on the media; program routines for random encounters, etc. Most programmers and developers back them made the most with what they got, and then tried to polish and surpass themselves if they had the chance to do it again.

But nowadays, as those limitations are practically gone, they have forgotten how to dream big and go beyond that. As you mentioned, Nintendo us making mediocre games. And it’s true, because they are too in love with themselves. Miyamoto hasn’t delivered something decent in ages, because he’s too into himself that he hates to look back. He hates to be reminded of the past, because that would mean learning what worked. No, he has to go forward, he’s a genius. Geniuses don’t pay attention to others. They follow their dreams. If he wants to make another Pikimin he’ll do it. To hell if it doesn’t sell, it’s the others who don’t understand his genius.

But it’s a lie. He’s no genius. He’s a man who forgot how to surpass his limitations and became in love with himself.

Whoa, whoa, beep beep back up the Mario Kart!

As a disclaimer, I don’t know what is going on inside Nintendo. The company has been making irrational decisions so I can only venture hypothesis and guesses as to where the irrationality is coming from. Here are a few things I am sure about:

1) Miyamoto and other elder figures there are never publicly criticized. Bizarrely, everything good Nintendo does is credit to Miyamoto’s ‘genius’. And every time something goes wrong at Nintendo is blamed on the CEO, marketing, or branch. Nintendo developers do not deserve 100% praise and the business side does not deserve 100% scorn.

2) Nintendo has been hiring the wrong people. Miyamoto, himself, indicates this as saying that he couldn’t get hired at Nintendo today. After all, Miyamoto was just a ‘lowly’ Industrial Design major and not one of these ‘top school’ kids that are being hired. My gut sense is saying that these new hires are lacking in the street smarts. I highly suspect that the ‘elder developers’ hired people who believed in their ‘philosophies’ and ‘visions’. So you have these alpha developers hiring all these beta people. Does Aonuma look like a guy who can kicks ass and takes names? No. The rich boldness of Nintendo has been reduced to pathetic echoes. Think of Yamauchi’s steamrolling type attitude. That rich boldness would go throughout the company. Now it seems like we’re getting products weak in spirit. I bet many of the ‘new hires’ are also flag carriers of ‘now is the time for 3d!’ type mentality.

3) There is definitely a ‘cult of creativity’ going on with these developers. I keep saying I am going to write an article detailing why this is bad. Perhaps I should do so.

As a consumer, I feel like Nintendo is not making games for me. If Nintendo were an ice cream company, I would be wanting vanilla ice cream while Nintendo keeps trying to serve me pistachio ice cream. “But I don’t want this…” “You don’t know what you want,” Nintendo spits. When Nintendo does eventually serve me Vanilla Ice Cream, the quality of it is way down and is half melted. “Disappointed by that? Then try this!” Nintendo serves an ice cream bowl that is mixed Pistachio and Vanilla Ice Cream.

I don’t feel like a customer with Nintendo. I feel like Nintendo is trying to manipulate me to convert to liking games they want to make from 3d Mario to Aonuma Zelda to Metroid: Other M. I don’t need this crap from my entertainment products. So I boycott by not buying the consoles or the games. I know I’m not the only one. While I may be articulate in my disinterest, obviously other people’s disinterest isn’t the same as mine. However, the source of the disinterest comes from the sense that Nintendo is more interested in exciting themselves than in exciting the customers.

If there is any quote that defines Nintendo’s Eighth Generation of ‘meh’, it would be Reggie Fils-Aime’s quote of ‘check those boxes…’ The offerings from Nintendo have been very tepid. 2d Mario? ‘Checked that box!’ More Wii Sports? ‘Checked that box!’ More Wii Fit? ‘Checked that box!’ More Donkey Kong Country? ‘Checked that box!’ There’s no ‘va va voom’. Nintendo’s latest franchise releases feel as tired as Mega Man 6 did on the NES. Nintendo’s sequels feel like a Mega Man 6 when they should feel like a Mega Man X. There is no reason to be excited at all.

And how in the world can Nintendo not be prepared for HD content? They had massive profits and an extra generation to prepare!


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