Indie game development has been hot over the past few years. The technology and distribution model leveraged by successful indie devs has been a major catalyst for that space. Something that will always be true is gamers will follow good games. Granted, the big money comes from blockbuster hits like Call of Duty, but the profit margins are nowhere near what several indie games have accomplished. Valve knew that when they launched Steam in September of 2003. Although, in its early years Steam struggled with its infrastructure, it was still a place to get games Valve made. The Orange Box packaged several great titles together and encouraged buyers to register and download those titles through Steam. Valve proved digital distribution can work, and leveraged their outstanding and popular titles to do it. Now, many of the major players have their own digital store fronts – such as EA and Blizzard. But not all of them are finding success. Among them is Nintendo. In my opinion they’re missing a massive opportunity to recruit a legion of indie developers who share more in common with Nintendo than Valve, Sony or Microsoft.
Who are Nintendo? They make games that leverage technology to create a fun user-interaction. They’ve been doing that since day 1. I recall the robot Gyromite, the famed Power Glove, the Light Gun, and even the original Gameboy was unique in that it was the first portable gaming device. The portable tradition has been carried forward with the original DS and 3DS. On the console end, we all know the Wii was immensely popular because it opened the door to casual gamers and said “you’re welcome to play with us.” This happened at a time when Sony and Microsoft were focused on core gamers: those who spend money on big budget titles in a variety of genres. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata stated that they designed the Wii U to cater to core gamers as well. Although, based on the new consoles from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, it appears the latter are competing with each other while Nintendo is off-base with what gamers want. So what is Nintendo’s stated purpose?
Nintendo’s Mission Statement
We are strongly committed to producing and marketing the best products and support services available. We believe it is essential not only to provide products of the highest quality, but to treat every customer with attention, consideration and respect. By listening closely to our customers, we constantly improve our products and services.
So if Nintendo are looking to stand out and be that true innovator of unique games and hardware, why not pull a Valve and build their own Greenlight community? That would speak directly to their Mission Statement, and also to their customers. Clearly there is demand for digital distribution and no developer has a better library of games than Nintendo. Without even remastering their old titles, making them available digitally for their handhelds and home consoles would drive Nintendo’s public image through the roof. More importantly, they need to make it very easy fro indie developers to access their ecosystem. Games like Fez and Super Meat Boy pull so much from old Nintendo games. These developers would not shy from telling you they grew up on Nintendo. So, naturally, they make games that are in some ways a throwback to those classic titles like Mario, Zelda and Metroid. If the only place to get these games were the Nintendo store front, that’s a hell of a reason to own a Nintendo console.
It’s time Nintendo embrace their history and use it to drive their future.