Multiplayer online games

Reggie talks about Nintendo’s slow adoption of online gaming

Picture: Nintendo via YouTube

Reggie has been doing the rounds lately, hasn’t he? The former president of Nintendo of America promoted his new book, disrupt the game, since its release in North America earlier this month. And along the promotional trail, Reggie Fils-Aimé dropped tons of nuggets and thoughts about the company that so many still associate him with.

The final leg of his book advertising adventure was with the GeekWire Podcast, where Reggie talks about the history of his book, his time at Nintendo, and the origins of a famous quote. In the second half of the podcast, GeekWire co-founder and podcast host Todd Bishop asks Reggie about Nintendo’s approach to online gaming – something the host admits Microsoft and Sony were good at. best to invest in – and if there were any regrets or lessons learned.

Reggie’s answer is particularly detailed, as he reflects on Nintendo’s ethos and what they excel at, and how that might have influenced the slower answer:

First, Nintendo’s business philosophy has always been to do things differently, to innovate in ways that play to the strength of the company rather than the strength of others. And so, for example, when it came to multiplayer, Nintendo was really good at what we internally called “couch gaming” – sitting next to someone who was playing Mario Kart, sitting next to someone playing a variety of different games like Wii Sports. That in-person multiplayer was really where the company excelled, and that’s where it focused tremendously.

In order to do online multiplayer, the company really needed to think about what the new type of game is, what are the different types of experiences that we’re going to have to create in order to excel in this form of game now. And frankly, it took the company a while to think about that, to come up with something that they thought would be fundamentally different and add value in a new way. I would say that the heart of the company’s success started with their taking Smash Bros. – a key franchise for them – taking this online, which has worked exceptionally well. It spawned a, not quite a first-person shooter – kind of a first-person, third-person experience – with a franchise called Splatoon, which did incredibly well in the marketplace. So that’s the first part of the answer – the company is still thinking about how it’s going to enter these markets in unique, different ways and play to its own strength.

Nintendo started dabbling in the online space in the Wii and DS era – with Mario Kart DS, Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Animal Crossing: City Folk (among many other games). Many of them proved hugely successful, but online gaming had already taken off years before, in 2002 and the launch of Xbox and Haloand Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast had also boldly entered the online market with Star Fantasy Online – which also had online functionality in its GameCube version.

Nintendo, however, wanted to bring its philosophy to online gaming – it didn’t want to compromise. Replicating the feel of “couch game” or challenging popular genres – like racing games, first person shooters, etc. – but this approach arguably caused the company to enter the market more slowly than others.

Reggie also reflects on another aspect that may have affected Nintendo’s approach to online gaming, and that’s culture:

The second thing I want to point out is – and this is where it comes into some of the cultural differences. Culturally, the company didn’t see a huge opportunity online. This was an area where the Americas and Europe were constantly trying to educate the company in Japan on the value of online gaming, investing in the online infrastructure that needed to be in place to make the experience a positive one. You’re absolutely right that of the top three hardware competitors in the gaming space, that’s where Microsoft invested so heavily, and that’s become their competitive advantage – it still is today I would say in terms of connected gameplay. This was an area constantly called upon by Western parts of the business to encourage development and investment in infrastructure, and I’m sure that conversation continues today.

Nintendo is now pretty firmly established in the online games market – Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Smash Ultimate are still played by many online gamers – but not without hitches. Nintendo is still considered to be behind the times – especially with Smash’s online gameplay – but it has recently improved. Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise was the first game on Nintendo’s new online server, and the upcoming Mario Strikers: Battle League and Splatoon 3 are set to be a showcase for online play.

Still, it’s extremely interesting to hear the former president of Nintendo of America explain why Nintendo has been slower to embrace online gaming. And, as he puts it, “that conversation continues today,” so Nintendo is now acutely aware of its importance.

You can listen to the full episode of the GeekWire Podcast with Reggie below. What do you think of Reggie’s comments? Let us know in the comments.

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