Many recognize that Nintendo has been slow to adopt 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 provided increased functionality since then, although you could still argue that it’s behind the competition.
During an episode of the GeekWire podcast promoting his new book, former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime was asked if he has any regrets / lessons learned when it came to the company not pursuing online multiplayer more aggressively. One interesting note is that this was apparently “an area that the Americas and Europe was constantly trying to educate the company in Japan about the value of online play, investing in the online infrastructure which needed to be done in order for the experience to be a positive one ”.
Below are Reggie’s full comments:
“So I’m gonna answer the question from two vantage points. First, Nintendo’s business philosophy has always been to do things differently, to innovate in ways that played to the company’s strength versus playing to the strength of others. And so for example, when it came to multiplayer, Nintendo really excelled in what we called internally ‘couch play’ – sitting next to someone playing Mario Kart, sitting next to someone playing a variety of different games like Wii Sports. That in-person multiplayer really was a place the company excelled, and that’s where it placed a tremendous amount of focus.
In order to do online multiplayer, the company really needed to think about what’s the new type of game, what are the different types of experiences that we’re gonna need to create in order to now excel in that form of play. And candidly, it took the company a while to think that through, to come up with something that they believed would be fundamentally different and add value in a new way. I would argue the company’s core success started with their taking Smash Bros. – a key franchise for them – taking that online, which did exceptionally well. That begat a, not quite a first-person shooter – kind of in between a first and third-person experience – with a franchise called Splatoon, which has done incredibly well in the marketplace. So that’s the first part of the answer – the company’s always thinking about how they’re going to enter these markets uniquely, differently, and play to their own strength.
The second thing I would highlight is – and this is where it gets into some of the cultural differences. Culturally, the company didn’t see a huge opportunity online. It was an area that the Americas and Europe were constantly trying to educate the company in Japan about the value of online play, investing in the online infrastructure which needed to be done in order for the experience to be a positive one. You’re absolutely right that of the three main hardware competitors in the video game space, this is where Microsoft invested so significantly, and it became their competitive advantage – it’s still today I would argue in terms of their connected gameplay. It was a constant area of push by the western parts of the company to encourage development and investment in the infrastructure, and I’m sure the conversation continues today. “
Reggie has had a lot to say as of late. Over the past couple of weeks, he’s spoken about why he believes Nintendo hasn’t come out with a new F-Zerohow he originally thought that Metroid: Other M would be a “killer moment” for the serieshis hated of Donka Kongaand the fact that Mother 3’s content isn’t why the game hasn’t been localized.