If you\’re a regular reader of Nintendo news, then you\’ve more than likely browsed through a few articles that highlight what former Nintendo-exec Dan Adelman has said about Nintendo’s third-party debacle. Today, I\’m here to give my two cents on the matter.
Now don\’t get me wrong; the man sure does know his stuff. He’s a veteran in the industry; having founded what are now many successful titles on all major platforms, and in his time with Nintendo, he jump-started their foray into the \”indie-world\”. So with that being the case — who am I to go against his words? I\’ll tell you who I am; a human with an opinion.
So, exactly what do I find so \’wrong\’ about Adelman’s comments? Well, without further ado, let’s get into that right now.
Adelman had a lot to say in his interview, but there were a few lines that really caught my attention and mainly drove me to write this article in the first place, starting with this.
There’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy in that publishers feel that they can’t compete with Nintendo first party, so they choose not to invest in making high quality products for the platform.
With this, I can admit that I actually agree with him — third-party companies are indeed intimidated by Nintendo’s offerings, and rightly so. Nintendo is in a very unique position in this industry. They\’ve been in the gaming world for over 30 years, and in that time, they\’ve built themselves a super-massive kingdom of gaming juggernauts; franchises that have stood the test of time and still soar in popularity even today. Because of the longevity of Nintendo’s franchises, they literally do live in their own world. This wasn\’t always the case, though. In fact, let’s take a brief trip down memory lane.
Nintendo weren\’t the pioneers of console-gaming, but rather, they were the saviors. Atari were the ones sitting at the top, but unfortunately, they weren\’t really checking for what was happening right under their noses. Developers had free-run, and they took advantage of it. Several titles were being produced, and with them, the majority were complete garbage. Because of this, the industry crumbled. When Nintendo came in, they single-handedly put the industry back together again and got it back up on two feet. After that, they stood at the top. When that happened, the birth of the majority of their now legendary franchises took place shortly after. Their reign had began, and even SEGA, who was a worthy adversary, couldn\’t completely keep up. Nintendo had a tight hold on the industry; and that included the third-party companies. In an effort to avoid another crash, Nintendo limited the amount of titles that were produced and also made developers send their games in for approval before they were allowed to release. However, in 1994 Sony made a move that would change all of that.
After a fall-out deal between Nintendo and Sony to create a new disc-based game console, Sony took those plans and made their own console. That became what we now call the PS1. With the launch of the original PlayStation, Sony was naturally keen to get developers on their side of the fence — and boy did they. When that happened, Nintendo’s \’king-of-the-hill\’ reign was no more. Eventually, more and more developers turned their focus elsewhere, and many titles were no longer slated for release on Nintendo’s systems. About that time, mainly in the 5th-generation, Nintendo had already started to trek down the very same path we find them at now — independent and un-tethered from the world around them.
Going back to Mr. Adelman’s statement, Nintendo broke off from the \’mainstream\’ a long time ago — over 3 generations ago, to be exact. Because of that, the third-party developers today are naturally afraid to release their games on Nintendo platforms. This fear stems from when their forerunners (meaning, past developers) weren\’t around, Nintendo had built their own kingdom and kept themselves afloat on account of their own strength. On the other hand, while both Sony and Microsoft have their own legendary franchises as well, none of them can even hold a candle to Nintendo’s ace cards. With that, third-parties have taken advantage of the situation, and now have the other two eating out of the palms of their hands — with their userbases in tow.
So, what is Adelman’s suggestion to break this cycle? How does he see Nintendo getting back in touch with their former close comrades?
For Nintendo to break this cycle, I think they need to invest and absorb some of the risk for third parties who try to embrace the features of Nintendo platforms and help communicate to consumers which games are on par with Nintendo first party games in terms of quality. Sony and Microsoft spend a lot of money securing exclusives – or at least exclusive features – on the top games and since Nintendo doesn’t really do that, third parties focus on the other systems.
Now here is where I must disagree.
What Adelman suggests is that Nintendo does exactly what Sony and Microsoft have been doing; follow after the third-party companies and entice them to develop titles for their systems. He wants Nintendo to be the catalyst for the developers to make good games on Nintendo’s hardware.
You know, there’s a word for this — how about \”no\”?
My problem with this statement is the fact that its this same practice that has the gaming industry back in the very same hole that Nintendo pulled it out of — only this time it is much, much bigger.
At this point in time, third-parties mainly have two massive juggernauts of userbase to appeal to — PlayStation and XBOX, both of which who are even bigger and more volatile than back in the day when it was Nintendo and SEGA. Unlike Nintendo, though, neither Microsoft or Sony use their own IPs very regularly. For the most part, it’s the third-party titles that keep the two console spaces afloat. Because of this, companies like Ubisoft, EA, Activision and Rockstar have the ideal situation to make some big bucks — something they\’ve been not-so-secretly doing for quite some time now.
Microsoft and Sony are constantly going at one another’s throats — trying to out-do the other in even the smallest detail. In fact, you don\’t have to look any further than the PS4 and XBOX One; these two systems have to be the most twin-like consoles we\’ve ever had in a single generation. Almost every feature one has, the other posses as well, and let’s not even talk about their game library. Because of the striking similarity, it’s ultimately up to the buyer to decide which side they rather hand their money to and now because of that, third-party companies now have to make sure the version of their game on \’console XYZ\’ is better than the other, just to make sure the fans stay and keep multiplying.
It’s a vicious cycle of buying and manipulation, a cycle that will probably continue to go on for the next few years. Sony and Microsoft have already made their beds, and have no choice but to sleep in them. This \”war\” is between two superpowers, and they\’ve both built up too much force for someone else to enter the fray — and that is, Nintendo.
A lot of people keep saying that if Nintendo were to \”modernize\” and do as Sony and Microsoft does, just like Adelman suggested, then maybe the likes of EA and Ubisoft, among others, would change. If they were to come out with a top-of-the-line system with the best possible hardware and \”none-gimmick\” controller, and solid online infrastructure — all of their problems would be remedied. Even more so, if they were to pass a few dollars over to the aforementioned third-party companies, then franchises like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect and Grand Theft Auto would most surely make their way to Nintendo’s camp, features and DLC in all.
Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. Nintendo shouldn\’t have to pay off third-party companies for multiplatform titles, nor should they have to bribe them to actually make them good. The developers of today are no different from the ones in the Atari-era; they want money. 2014 was a catastrophic year for the gaming industry; possibly the worst in a very long time. At the same time, it revealed something about the industry — quality is a thing of the past. Now, it’s all about flashy graphics, buzzwords, and money-grabbing traps.
There’s a reason why Nintendo is still in this business, even after so much time. There’s a reason why their franchises are still going quite strong. It’s all because they haven\’t modernized. It’s all because they haven\’t followed after Sony and Microsoft. They\’ve stuck to their guns and decided to run the race on their own terms. At this point, a world where Nintendo’s IPs live in harmony with third-party juggernauts just seems more like a fantasy than anything.
Third-party companies are no longer interested in making gamers happy — they\’d much rather make a pretty penny first. I\’m not saying that applies to them all, but there seem to be fewer and fewer each day. Yet even so, there is a bright side to all of this. Nintendo actually has been re-kindling their relationships with certain companies. Both the 3DS and Wii U have been the sources for many great collaborations and deals that have gone down from since the current generation began, with more to come.
At this point, I think what they\’re doing is what’s best. Exclusive titles. Chasing after multiplatforms by money-hatting is merely a short-term success, and with such a mass following on the other systems, it’s only bound to underwhelm. Nintendo chose their path a long time ago. If they choose to veer off and become like their competitors, then Nintendo as we know it, shall cease to exist.