Nintendo's approach to indie developers has undergone a massive overhaul in recent years, and that is partly thanks to the considerable efforts of one man: Nintendo of America's Head of Digital Content and Development, Dan Adelman. Adelman was instrumental in getting indies on board with the Wii, Wii U and 3DS, and has been cited by many developers as one of the main reasons they wanted to work with Nintendo.
After almost nine years of employment, Adelman has now parted company with Nintendo in order to work independently with developers. His public profile within the firm had diminished in recent years, thanks to Nintendo clamping down on his ability to use social media. Adelman's comments regarding region locking apparently earned him the ire of his employer, and he was subsequently banned from using Twitter:
I think people were kind of on pins and needles about anything untoward I might say. And every once in a while, I'd give an answer that people didn't like, and some people would freak out, so they tried to scale things back. First they had me do interviews with someone from PR or marketing. Later they just decided that I shouldn't be in the press at all anymore.
I don't think region locking itself was that sensitive an issue. It was more the straw that broke the camel's back. My first strike was when I hinted that we were finally changing our ridiculously outdated policy of requiring developers to work at an office outside of their homes. The second one was a Binding of Isaac question that they didn't like my answer to. The funny thing was that I was trying really hard to be as diplomatic about it as possible, since everyone knew I thought it was a really bad decision, but I guess it wasn't enough. I think there may have been a few other things. I had been strongly encouraged to stay off of Twitter – or at least say only things that were clearly safe – so after the region locking comment they just said I needed to stop completely. When people started complaining that I wasn't active on Twitter anymore, it was suggested that a PR person could just post in my name. I thought that was about the worst idea I'd ever heard, so I left it as is and let the silence speak for itself.
How do I feel about it? I have to admit it was really frustrating. So many developers felt comfortable reaching out to me on Twitter, and now that was being taken away. We were back to presenting ourselves as a behemoth, faceless company, which I saw as a major step backward.
Despite the troubles he had towards the end of his tenure, Adelman insists that Nintendo has been supportive of his move:
I think everyone there has known for a while that my passion has always really been about helping the indie community develop and thrive, so even though everyone was really surprised when I gave my 2-week notice, they all understood and wished me the best. I couldn't have asked for a better sendoff.
Adelman also feels that Nintendo is doing a great job of working with indies, and adds that he thinks an account-based system for the Wii U and 3DS would be a "great" idea:
There are a bunch of other business terms that were made much more favorable to developers. I think a lot of those are covered under NDA, so I can't go into detail about them, but suffice it to say, it made Nintendo much more comparable, and in many cases, even more indie-friendly than other platforms.
That said, there are still important things to fix. People ask me all the time about an account system. I think that would be great. I'd love to see the team that manages the layout of the eShop give more of that real estate to indies. Even now that I'm outside of Nintendo, I'll continue to offer constructive feedback.
Adelman is now going solo and will be working with indie developers on promoting and improving their games, and admits that while the move is an exciting one, he's also nervous:
I'm really excited. I've been hanging out with indie developers for so long and their entrepreneurial spirit is so infectious that I just felt I had to do it. I have to admit, going off on my own after having spent my entire career at large companies is a little scary and exhilarating. I vacillate between feeling like it's such a slam dunk that I'll wonder why I didn't do it years ago and feeling like I've just made the biggest mistake of my career. Time will tell, I suppose. Either way, it's exciting to be flying without a net!
What do you make of this news? Has Nintendo's stubbornness resulted in it losing one of its most valuable employees, or do you think that Adelman's move would have happened eventually regardless? Share your thoughts with a comment below, and don't forget to check out our exclusive interview with the man himself from 2012.