It sounds like Nintendo are ready to not be quite so insular going forward.
Development costs for video games are rising, and even for a company that is as conservative and frugal with its spending as Nintendo is, this is a reality that must be faced. When Nintendo were asked this question at a recent investor Q&A, they discussed that rising costs of development have led to a necessity for higher sales across the board for their games.
“The cost of developing game software has certainly grown over the last ten years. This is a big challenge, as there is no simple formula to calculate the size of how popular a game is going to be with consumers. That said, I think that developing with this in mind will be increasingly important,” Nintendo’s President Tatsumi Kimishima said.
“The thinking for a long time was that computer performance for a game should be dedicated entirely to the consumer’s enjoyment, but now times have changed and the common sense is that computer performance should also be used to improve productivity in making the game software itself. But what is most important is how we achieve balance,” Genyo Takeda, Senior Managing Director at Nintendo, admitted. “I am going to let Mr. Miyamoto speak, as he has spent a lot of time and energy on raising the productivity of software development while doing this balancing act.”
“In striking that balance, while it’s important that we do not overextend by putting an excessive amount of content in our games, the only solution is how to make software that sells well,” Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto said. “There will be big hits somewhere in our business, and they support the games that fail and allow us to take on other challenges. So our basic premise is to create software that will sell in the range of at least two million units. We simply couldn’t recoup our costs if we only released games in Japan that had sales of around 300,000 units, so the global market is our standard.”
“I also think the key word here is balance,” Shinya Takahashi, Director and General Manager of the Entertainment Planning and Development Division, added. “This has a lot of aspects, such as knowing when we need to dedicate a lot of time and people to something and when we do not. Or ways to leverage game engines that are used for general purposes, and how to create our own game engines that lots of others can also make easy use of. For NX, we are thinking about many different development techniques based on these considerations.
On the one hand, a lot of what they say sounds worrying- it sounds like they are contemplating ways to cut down on production costs, and they openly discuss ideas such as less content in their games- but on the other, a lot of what they say sounds encouraging.
Consider, for example, that Nintendo talk about optimizing software development- this sounds a lot like shared engines and assets across their games, and even outright licensing third party game engines, which should definitely help them save on costs, but should also greatly bring down the development time for each of their major titles, too. Then, also, they talk about how they can no longer afford to make games solely for the Japanese audience, and that they need to be cognizant of the global gaming audience- to me it sounds like they are preparing themselves for a reality in which they can no longer be as insular as they have been, but that they will now be more aware of trends in gaming, more with the times, so to speak. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild already appears to be one such game from them.
Let’s just hope that in all this ruckus, they don’t end up losing the Nintendo magic.