CNET recently had the opportunity to chat with Mighty No.9 and Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune about a range of subjects including Nintendo. Inafune believes that the Kyoto based company has a struggle on its hands once its famous designers such as Shigeru Miyamoto retire. He says that this isn’t just a problem for Nintendo but the Japanese video games industry as a whole as there aren’t very many well-known content creators.
CNET: I was going to ask you about Nintendo, because, from my perspective, it has the model to follow. We know its creators, and even people such as Iwata. As Nintendo gets older, and the creators we all know begin to retire, do you think that it will be able to successfully continue that effort? No one really knows how to relate to Iwata’s successor, Tatsumi Kimishima. We don’t know who he is or what to think about him. He doesn’t the same kind of history that we can relate to. Do you think that Japanese creators will continue to earn international recognition, or is it nostalgia that’s keeping the original creators relevant?
KI: The reason Nintendo pushes more of their creators is because the founder, Yamauchi-san, is the one who actually pushed Miyamoto as a creator. To continue that tradition, it will become harder and harder, especially after Miyamoto. It’s really tough to say how we can change this, because, there will be fewer and fewer people well known to the media and the Western world, so I really don’t know what’s going to happen to the industry in that respect. Even Kojima: I think some people in Japan know him, but even Kojima is not that well known by the general public. It’s a really tough time.
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Everyone’s favourite video game analyst Michael Pachter has once again spoken about the forthcoming NX platform from Nintendo. While he only knows as much as we do he says that the console has a 40% chance of failure and a positive 60% chance of success. Pachter believes that the platform will a mobile convergence device. That means it will be a hybrid between a home console and handheld.
Pachter sees the system’s outlook for profit as fairly positive. Overall, he estimates a 40 percent odd for failure and a 60 percent odd for success. While NX is being primed to launch late in a hardware cycle, he still says it could sell as many as 30 million units. To put that number into perspective, PS4 just passed the 30 million sales milestone since its release two years ago.
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Nintendo of America localisation employee Chris Pranger has spoken at length about the cost of localising what Nintendo of America deem to be niche titles. One of the examples Pranger gives is the brilliant Xenoblade Chronicles which he says was guaranteed never to sell enough in North America to justify the costs of localising the game from English to Japanese which is why there was a lot of hesitation to bring it over. However, it was obvious that Nintendo Europe saw potential in the title as the game arrived there much earlier. Here’s what he had to say.
And they just say the classic “Why do you hate money? Why do you hate money, Nintendo?” (said in droning, “dumb guy” nasally voice)
And it’s like “What are you talking about? We’re trying to make…obviously it has to make calculated risks, but at the same time, one of those risks…and I mean they’ll bring up games that are very Japanese games, like Captain Rainbow for instance. They’ll bring that up like “Look how many people want this. Don’t you want money?”(repeats “dumb guy” nasally voice) And we’ll be like “Yeah, we do want money, which is why we know it’s a colossal waste if we ever try to localize that in this current market, because look at you people. You don’t make up a big enough group.
You look at something like even Xenoblade Chronicles. People love that game, you know, within a certain group. That game is not the type of game that just pulls in enough to justify the costs on that. So that’s like, we got it in the States by luck, that NoE decided “Oh, we’ll take the fall. We’ll localize that.” Okay, cause someone is going to have to eat the costs somewhere, because that game is guaranteed to not sell enough to justify how big that game is. You know, hundreds of hours, all voiced. That’s a lot of money that goes into that.
And people are like “Why do you guys hate money?” (Dumb guy nasally voice) We don’t. That’s why you literally can’t make everything. And people don’t like finding out that their fanbase is actually too small to justify the costs of the thing they want.
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Some DLC is well worth your money like the Mario Kart 8 downloadable content and some simply is not. Super Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai isn’t happy about the current downloadable content that we are peddled as he says developers are actually providing us with an unfinished product at launch. Sakurai feels that the product delivered to us at launch should be 100% complete and shouldn’t require us giving additional cash post launch.
These days, the “DLC scam” has become quite the epidemic, charging customers extra money to complete what was essentially an unfinished product. I completely understand how aggravated players must feel. After all, a game should be 100% at the time of release, and I would be livid if it were split up and sold in pieces.
Why, then, do you think so many titles provide premium DLC on or shortly following a game’s release? It’s because that’s the easiest way to make money.
After all, if you wait too long after a game’s release to distribute additional content, players will already move on to the next title. Even long tail titles–that is, ones that perform consistently well over an extended period of time–make more money the earlier they come out.
Moreover, we decided to release other characters as well because part of the fun of Smash is the anticipation: “Which character will join the fray next!?” If we keep distributing content, we can maintain that excitement, and I think that’s a really great thing.
UK publication MCV has written an interesting article exploring the current obsession with Metacritic and why it’s bad for the industry as a whole. The publication has spoken to a number of European video game developers who have once again reiterated that a good Metacritic score means that they can receive pay bonuses and shares for the company rise. Some believe that the scoring system is detrimental to developers and is harming innovation Here’s what some of the developers who spoke to the publication had to say.
“The problem is how parts of the games industry and audience treat Metacritic. The idea that a game isn’t worth buying, or that its developers have failed and don’t deserve bonuses if it scores under 80 or even 85 on Metacritic, is going to result in samey, bland games that are made according to what works in Metacritic’s system. It’s harming innovation in mainstream gaming.”
“I understand the desire to simplify complex matters into easy to understand patterns. But ultimately I believe review scores are a bane to the games industry.”
– Bossa Studios co-founder Imre Jele
“There are so many factors that go into reviews it doesn’t make sense. Some people use the score as a quick shorthand, but there is so much missing.”
“What matters most to us is the response of players and how social media spreads the word about good, playable games,”
– Rebellion founder Jason Kingsley
Nintendo’s former head of indies Dan Adelman believes that third party developers skip Nintendo platforms as they don’t think they can compete against the first party titles that are available. You’d think it was more likely due to the fact that Nintendo implements gimmicks in their platforms that large third developers aren’t interested in taking advantage of. Lack of sales on Nintendo platforms doesn’t seem to help either. Here’s what Adelman believes.
“It really comes down to the business case for these publishers. Nintendo consumers buy Nintendo systems primarily for the first party content. 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. There are some notable exceptions to this over the years like Rayman Legends but many times third party publishers set low sales projections for their games, and then decide a development budget based on that. I can’t say outright that they’re wrong either.”
“There have been cases where companies decided to pull out the stops and make a great game for Nintendo platforms only to find that consumers weren’t interested. And it could be because consumers have been burnt by third party games on Nintendo platforms before.”
“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. I’m not sure about Sony, but I know Microsoft also has a team of technical people that will go work with a studio for a few weeks or even months to help them make their games as good as they can be on those platforms.”
Polygon writer Steve Bowler has written an interesting article that suggests that an acquisition of Nintendo by Disney could help turn the company’s fortunes around. It should be taken into account that this is an opinion piece by Polygon, but it does raise some interesting questions. Although it’s unlikely to ever happen it makes for a good read. Be sure to check out the article, here.
“Nintendo would be Disney’s second priciest intellectual property grab to date. A fairly straightforward way to ballpark a company’s worth is to multiply their net revenue by three to four times. This puts Nintendo somewhere in the neighborhood of a $11 to $22 billion buyout based on the numbers of fiscal 2014”
“This is the lowest it would cost to buy Nintendo in seven years, since the company is in a slump and bleeding cash. If Disney were to buy the company, this is the time. Things are looking up for Nintendo in some ways, but coming off a long stretch of losses and struggling hardware sales there’s only so much big games can do to help the company. Nintendo is at a historic weak point, making the company very attractive for acquisition at a good price.”
“It would still cost a ton of money. To put the $19 billion-ish price into an easy to digest number, buying Nintendo would cost Disney more money than they paid for Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel, combined. It’s a huge purchase, unless you’re Disney.”
“Disney’s current Net Worth is hovering around the $142 billion mark, and the profit they made from the last two fiscal years would allow them to buy Nintendo with cash, if it came to that. And it wouldn’t.”
“The last time Disney made an acquisition this size was when they paid $19 billion for ABC in 1996. With inflation, that purchase would have cost about $29 billion today. Disney is no stranger to huge, ambitious acquisitions.”
“Disney — using the same game plan they used for Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars — could recoup that cost within five years. The secret is that Disney wouldn’t be investing in the video game business, they would be furthering their already near monopoly on characters.”