“Culturally, the company didn’t see a huge opportunity in online”
Former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime has a book to sell, and we’re learning all sorts of fascinating info from his time at Nintendo as a result. This time, we’re learning about the Nintendo online play situation: specifically why the company took forever to actually implement it in earnest.
Speaking to the GeekWire podcast (via Nintendo Life), Reggie elucidated on what a lot of folks assumed over the years regarding Nintendo’s slow play with online, with some inside info. Noting that Nintendo has always been interested in “doing things differently,” he highlighted the strong historical push for couch co-op, going all the way up to the Wii era with Wii Sports (something else Reggie knows quite a bit about).
Following that strong push, when it became clear that online play was going to become more ubiquitous, Reggie says that Nintendo once again tried to think outside the box:
“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.”
The success of Smash kind of came about organically, and after Splatoon, the rest was history. So that’s the impetus for the big shift into online play and a paid subscription: but there’s also a cultural reason for the slow adoption of the service. Reggie explains:
“Culturally, the company didn’t see a huge opportunity in online. It was an area that the Americas and Europe constantly was 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 still is 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 the development and the investment in the infrastructure, and I’m sure that conversation continues today.”
Nintendo has a long road to go in terms of making their online service up to par (even in terms of comparing it to prior generations of competition), but they are still upholding their couch co-op legacy…to a point. I’d love to see full 100% couch co-op for Splatoon‘s campaign, for instance, without strings, on top of online play.