Iwata Hits Out at Smartphone and Social Network Game Developers
Posted by Trevor Chan
GDC comments draw critics from industry
For all the praise that Nintendo got from its appearance at the Game Developers Conference this year, it seems President and CEO Satoru Iwata came away from his keynote (which was streamed live) with as many satisfied fans as he did disgruntled critics.
During his speech, he made several comments on the differences between the goals of more traditional games developers, and those of mobile phone manufacturers and social networks, stating that the latter "have no motivation to maintain the high value of videogame software." Noting that having quality content and a good imagination is vital in the gaming industry, Iwata hit out at mobile phone manufacturers and popular social utility networks for their apparent lack of subscription to this core belief:
For them, content is something created by someone else... Their goal is to gather as much software as possible: quantity is what drives their profit. Quality does not matter to them.
Citing the high volume of games that are available for home consoles, Iwata acknowledges that it is a difficult task to get games noticed in this competitive age. It's even harder to produce big-sellers. The situation with the smartphone market is one that Iwata finds even worse; quoting figures from analysis firm Screen Digest, he concluded that smartphone software ― which number in the five-figure region ― are cheaper to make than retail games, and the majority are either free or extremely cheap. Convinced that the industry is no longer striving to make the best gaming experience as possible, and instead choosing to develop low-cost software, Iwata fears the industry is dividing and jeopardizing the jobs of developers who make a living from it.
Everyone's favourite research analyst at equities firm Wedbush Securities, Michael Pachter didn't agree with Iwata's perspective:
Long-term, Nintendo is doomed... He’s [Satoru Iwata] under full frontal assault by Apple.
Jeff Brown, the Vice President of Corporate Communication at Electronic Arts wasn't entirely convinced either:
He may be right, but then the 200 to 300 million people who play games on Facebook are wrong[?]... Social gaming as a whole aggregates into a business that is undeniably big money... When it’s that big you are forced to pay attention.
Zynga, the developer behind popular Facebook games such as Farmville, and Mafia Wars had a hard time agreeing with Nintendo's stance. The company's Chief Game Designer Brian Reynolds defended what developers like Zynga are doing and felt that the Nintendo CEO was missing the point:
I expected better from Nintendo. They are missing the point of what we are doing... We are making games that everyone can play and socialize on while playing.