News Article

Next Level Games "Doing Only Nintendo Products Now"

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Still an independent company, however

Next Level Games has produced a good number of Nintendo titles — including the excellent Punch-Out!! reboot on Wii — but truly shot to prominence with the critically and commercially successful Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. The studio has been working solely on Nintendo games for a number of years, and told us in our interview last year that it "actually feels like" it is an official Nintendo second-party. Yet despite its run of Nintendo titles it is still officially an independent company, unlike subsidiaries such as Retro Studios and Monolith Soft.

In an interesting interview with Gamasutra, co-founder Jason Carr and Dark Moon producer Ken Yeeloy have explained that, at present, its staff of around 70 is currently committed solely to Nintendo games.

Jason Carr: We are doing only Nintendo products now.

...We have worked with a lot of other companies before, and we're super happy with our relationship with Nintendo. There's no reason to look anywhere else. They keep giving us better and better IP to work with, and as long as we do our job and make good games for them there's no reason for us to venture out.

Because we're still a small shop. We're under 70 people. We like that size. For us, we're like, why would you want to go and talk with these other guys? What's it doing for your business? The guys in the company are just really, really proud of the company and proud of the games they work on.

The interview explains how the company has become increasingly familiar and comfortable working with multiple producers and teams from within Nintendo. In particular it's highlighted that the oversight management from Nintendo is typically made up those that are game designers, a different experience from the business-focused management of some Western publishers.

It is different, though. Like you say, it's about the people for them, a lot. We've noticed with their producery-type guys, these are all guys who have usually worked on content, art, whatever, and they've moved into roles where it feels like the creative guys are the decision-makers.

A lot of the North American publishers we've worked with, a lot of them come from a business background. They're money guys. It's like, "Wow. It's really nice working with guys you can imagine designing a game." Working with the guy who's basically controlling the path of the schedule, and it's like, he's a designer. He's not going, "Well..."

And they're very responsible on the business side, with their launch dates, and all of that, and they're very secretive about when it comes out, as you alluded to. But, man, it sure is nice working with guys who understand gameplay, and games, and game experiences, and stuff like that.

Another theme raised is that Next Level Games is keen to stay relatively small, maintaining a happy working environment; that seems to be a focus of Nintendo and senior figures such as Shigeru Miyamoto, too.

And the big thing for a lot of us, especially with guys getting older and having families, we thought we could build an environment where we could build games and not kill guys. Not slack off, but not throw the pool table in and "Here's some free food, and more pop! Stay here forever! Eat the magical fruit!" We realize that there's a whole life outside of making video games.

And for a lot of guys, when they come to work, they're fresh, they're immersed in it, they're excited by it. They want to come to work — they're not dragged in. It's worked out really, really well. And it's the kind of place where people want to stay — not all the time, but when they're there, they're happy.

Again, another Miyamoto-san quote, but he always asks us, "Is the team having fun? Are they having fun making the game?" It's really important that the team's enjoying themselves there, because they feel — and I agree — that if you're miserable it'll follow suit in your job. How are you supposed to make an engaging Nintendo game that's actually fun? We don't do the gimmicky stuff that you hear a lot.

It seems that Next Level Games is invested in the idea of working exclusively for Nintendo for a good while yet, even if it is technically entirely independent. Whether a true 'second-party' or not, that should only mean good things.


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User Comments (54)



Freakazoid said:

i like their statement about making good working conditions for their employees. also its always nice to see that they like nintendo so much



MikeLove said:

Since they have Japanese bosses, hopefully none of the employees are forced to karoshi.



Mario-Man-Child said:

One of my top games on Wii was Mario strikers charged football. I found on the Nintendo channel I had played it for 300 hours. That's saying something. Such a fun game, I'd love if Wii U got a new version.



erv said:

I'm happy to hear this. They seem to know how to build a company with people, not machines, and get to build games for people, not machines.



originaljohn said:

Having recently been laid-off myself just before Christmas, I can say it's very good that Miyamoto-san always asks if they are enjoying themselves as they create new games. I had a blast playing Punch-out on the Wii with my mates, you can see the enjoyment the studio had while creating that game. I haven't played Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon yet but I will get round to it at some point. I am somewhat concerned about the size of the studio, I suppose I'd like to see Nintendo buy them out right and hire more staff for larger WiiU projects but I think that could be the case for every Nintendo studio. All in all though I look forward to playing more from Next Level Games.



Shiryu said:

I seriously have no clue why Nintendo aren't knocking on their door and asking Next Level Games to reboot NES "Ice Hockey". Just look at their "NHL Hitz" pedigree! It would be awesome! Looking forward to see newer versions of "Mario Strikers" and maybe even "Punch-Out!" on both 3DS and Wii U



ToneDeath said:

@Kyloctopus I was thinking yesterday that Nintendo should give Shin'en the keys to Mach Rider.

It might also be nice to see Next-Level do another Mario Strikers, and maybe even a new Battalion Wars from Headstrong Games. FIFA? Battlefield? Who needs 'em?



BigH88 said:

Very cool. Knowing they work in such an enviroment they should always come out with fantastic games. Nintendo should pick Next Level Games up and make it an official thing.




Keep up the great work NextLevel. I really hope they are working on a new Wave Race title. I have been waiting 13 years for a new entry. At this point I'll even take a 64 HD remake.



sinalefa said:

"Is the team having fun? Are they having fun making the game?"

This, for me, is the Nintendo difference. You can feel that, whether you are playing A Link to the Past or Super Mario 3D World. As any common sense thing, so important, yet so easily missed and forgotten.



Socar said:

While I'm a bit disappointed about Dark Moon not living to the original's expectations a bit, I still had a fun time with the game with its animation, humor and some of its fun mechanics and its definitely the best game for the 3DS but not my favorite.

I hope they can make the next luigi's mansion better than now and here's hoping for the next game from them.



King47 said:

I liked their work on Luigi's mansion, so I've been waiting to hear about their next job. I'm looking forward for more news.



Tritonus said:

@Falco I am REALLY hoping for a Mario Strikers follow up on Wii U. That game was one of the best games on Wii, hands down. For me I think it even beats Brawl in terms of pure fun.



ricklongo said:

That was awesome. The last quote, specially, shows what I enjoy so much about Nintendo. They care about long-term viability and building memorable experiences rather than milking franchises to death in annual instalments, or catering to the whims of the dudebro demographic to the detriment of gameplay and brand value.

Luigi's Mansion was one of my favorite games of the year, and probably the biggest gaming surprise I had in 2013. I really, really hope we get a new Luigi's Mansion game on the Wii U in the near future.

By the way, any idea what they're working on now? Maybe an unannounced title?



Remisio said:

"Is the team having fun? Are they having fun making the game?"

All of this! I love it! This it how it should be! I've always considered game development to be an art form and reading this quote from Miyamoto-San just further cements it for me. The one thing all of my art teachers agree on (no matter how much my New Media teacher may Make fun of my Paint and colours teacher or photography) is that while you are working on a piece it is imperative that you are enjoying yourself, having fun or at the very least doing what you want to (because not all subjects to art are meant to feel fun but if you are doing what you feel like and want to do it is good, for example: war Photography and the such, you can't possibly be having all that much fun, but if you are doing it because you want to make a difference it shows.) they all continuously stated that if you are miserable while doing something it'll show on your art piece, and transfer onto the viewer, but the same goes for when you are clearly putting the effort in and are enjoying it, making a piece that can truly be enjoyed by others.



MrWalkieTalkie said:

Very happy to hear that. I can't wait to see what comes next! Both Punch-Out and Luigi's Mansion have been an absolute joy to play. They've got a sense of nostalgia mixed with modern gaming goodness within them.



Remisio said:

I'd really love working at Next Level Games but I live all the way at the other side of the country at the other mediaopolis with so many big development studios right around the corner from where I live I'd like to garner some experience before eventually moving on and doing more of what I want with my friends and the such.



Jimmy_G_Buckets said:

I would love to work for Nintendo. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I sometimes image me going to their headquarters to inquire about a job. I don't have any degrees for the business. I would be happy working for them as a tester, even a cook at a cafeteria, whatever.



AyeHaley said:

I know its a bit soon but I would love a Luigi's Mansion for Wii U. Or maybe these guys can make a Metroid for 3DS! Anyway, they got my trust



Kirk said:

Well this all sounds good and I like what these guys have done so far.

I'd like to see a new Punch Out!! from them that expands upon the last one they made a little bit and fixes some of it's issues; proper intro walk-ons for the characters. Also get rid of those 2D artwork "intro" parts because they just look a bit cheap. Rings where you can see the full crowd more clearly so they don't feel small and empty, even in the bigger arenas. So it looks closer to the SNES version. Fix the slightly shiny look of the toon-shaded graphics, particularly on the characters, so it's a bit more matte and really nails that toon look fully. Much better menu design in terms of pleasing aesthetics.



Nintenjoe64 said:

I don't mind if they go back to an existing IP but I hope they don't just end up being the "Luigi's Mansion Team" or something because they're doing well with a nice variety at the moment. Having said that, I would not say no to Luigi's Mansion U



StephenYap3 said:

Good. Even though I wasn't as stoked with their recent Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, I looked at them as Nintendo quality regardless. Besides, even though I love Mario and Zelda, we need more IPs revived and it seems that NLG is the one to look up to after how they pulled off the modern Punch Out on Wii.



NintyMan said:

Next Level Games reminds me of Retro Studios. If they can keep up their fun mantra and make more good Nintendo games, they'll be right up there with Retro. I trust them with any Nintendo series.

I think for their next game they're going to make a new installment of a past series, like Mario Strikers or Punch-Out. I want to see a Luigi's Mansion for Wii U at some point, but that can wait another year or two. Then again, I would love if they revived a retro game like Ice Climber.



Rezalack said:

I wonder what they're working on right now. I really hope it's a Wii U title. Can't wait to hear what they have in store, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was one of the best 3DS titles of 2013.



Captain_Toad said:

Luigi's mansion Dark moon, Punch-out Wii, Strikers Charged. These games has so much character and charm about 'em it's hard to see anyone else work on those games. I can't wait to see what else they have in store.



Mchl496 said:

Nintendo needs to spend some of that money they have printed out from the wii and 3ds and buy some of these quality developers. If they have a history of making fun and quality games for you... lock them down. If you like it... put a ring on it.



bizcuthammer said:

I love Next Level. Glad they love working with Nintendo. I'd love to see them work on some of Nintendo's neglected franchises like they did with Punch-Out and Luigi's Mansion 2. Maybe they could make a new Star Fox or 2D Metroid. Or i'd be up for Luigi's Mansion 3 on WiiU! Whatever they work on, i'll be interested in it because their past work is phenomenal.



Angelic_Lapras_King said:

Please give them an IP that people have been begging for! I'm sure people would not mind if the next Starfox or F Zero was made by them!



Peach64 said:

I had no idea they worked on non-Nintendo stuff. As much as the Wii U needs help, I'm not sure they're big enough to do a full console game that's anything but sports/arcade based, and I really wanna see another adventure type game, so hopefully they stick to 3DS. A Starfox Adventures type game would be lovely!



Nintendude789 said:

I really hope for them to become a Nintendo second party developer.

Now let's wait for Microsoft to kill them.



K-Gamer said:

These guys did Luigi's Mansion!? Make one for Wii U or just port it onto the Wii U.



Luna-Harmony said:

Fantastic punch out was my first nes8bit game mike tysons punch out and i love super punch out too. This dev team rocks lets hope they make a new games soon.



hiptanaka said:

Quotes like these, along with the occasional superb game like the recent ALBW, are the things that put Nintendo on a pedestal for me, despite their missteps and missed opportunities. They really understand and care about games.

Punch-Out!! Wii is fantastic, by the way.



64supermario said:

New Punch-Out!!! Please! You guys did SOOOOO fantastic with the last one, probably one of my favorite Wii games.



JaxonH said:

Fantastic! I love hearing Nintendo is a company that insists the developers have fun when making the game. Basically said that if they're not having fun, it will show through in the finished product. Miyamoto is truly one of a kind. Irreplaceable. Not just his talent and ability to make the best video games in the world, but his ethics, his policies, and his ability to understand how employee satisfaction affects the game's quality.

This is why I love Nintendo. A gaming company run by gamers and developers, not money-hungry corporate suits.



TwilightOniAngel said:

nice good for them and i hope there next project is a new punch out cause that game was amazing still they have my trust.



Technosphile said:

This is Rare/Retro now, people. Retro is finished. NLG is the western powerhouse dev for Nintendo now.



WaveBoy said:

A team of 70 people seems pretty nice, a lot better than the monkey farms down at EA.



FJOJR said:

@Shiryu Give this person a medal. That is a brilliant idea. Heck rebrand it with Mario or go big and get the NHL license.

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