News Article

The Man Responsible For Reviving Nintendo's Relationship With Indies Has Left The Company

Posted by Damien McFerran

So long, Dan Adelman

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 My first strike was when I hinted that we were finally changing our ridiculously outdated policy of requiring developers to work at an office outside of their homes.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.


From the web

User Comments (76)



unrandomsam said:

"Later they just decided that I shouldn't be in the press at all anymore." When a company decides that then they are exactly the type of person whose opinion I am actually interested in hearing about.

Marketing and PR is nothing but lies.

And he likes the Binding of Isaac cannot fault the guy.



Dazza said:

This news is a crying shame as I honestly believe that without Dan working behind the scenes that the coolest indie games such as World of Goo and the Bit Trip series (as a small example) would not have come to Nintendo platforms.

Dan has an amazing rapport with the top tier of indie talent and a natural openness with the gaming community, which seemed to me to be a great asset to NoA. It's a shame that NoA's senior management felt they had to keep him quiet rather than letting him do his job effectively.

It was a great pleasure to work with Dan on this interview back in 2012. I think it nicely conveys his passion for the job of bringing the very best of indie content to the eShop and moving things forwards in the way Nintendo interfaces with indies as a large corporation.

Best of luck for the future Dan!



Peach64 said:

Just shows whenever one of these higher ups says anything, it's a carefully planned statement written by PR. Good luck to him. Top quality ndies are finally starting to dip their toes in the Nintendo pool, so hopefully he's left behind a good legacy.



S3OL said:

Everybody's said pretty much all there is to say. Thanks Dan and best of luck.



Xilef said:

Well that sucks. Nintendo made a big loss. I wish him well in the future!



AyeHaley said:

Thanks for all the awesome things you've done, Dan! You deserve better anyway.



AyeHaley said:

OMG this is insane!: "I already mentioned about that office requirement. It was crazy. There were people whose job it was to look up addresses in Google maps to see if the business address was a home or an office building. And if it looked a little residential, they'd ask for photos. There would be e-mail threads with literally a few dozen back and forth exchanges about whether the couch in someone's office was really used for business purposes or did someone really live there? That policy, thankfully, is gone."



Spoony_Tech said:

Sounded like he was more hand tied there and needed to get out. For all the good he did sounds also like he couldn't do any more then he has already done. Someone had to say and do the things he did to make notice of the problems Nintendo had behind closed doors. Someone had to lay the ground work.



BertoFlyingFox said:

While I enjoy Nintendo, this is going to be their biggest problem going forward: acting like normal humans.

Some of these companies treat their business like feudal Japan, a chained country completely bonkers with secrecy, or self-image, or a mix of both. Their eccentricity is both a strength and a weakness.

Adelman really is better off, instead of being treated like some Nintendo Pariah (most ridiculous thing I've ever typed I think) not allowed to comment on anything. I hope this doesnt mean they'll hire some weirdo to run their indie department and eventually turn it into the crap it was before.

Good luck Dan



Razzle said:

The strength of every business is in it's people. Nintendo will miss you Dan, best of luck with the future!



Hero-of-WiiU said:

Well guess what Nintendo, indies is basically your 3rd party right now so you better not do anything to lose those Indy devs. And the indies have definently delivered quality, such as SK, Guacamelee!, and Armillo.



sinalefa said:

I love how even the tweet itself is humorous and sarcastic. Another fail for NOA's long list, and my best wishes to Dan the Man!



TrueWiiMaster said:

Though this seems like a loss for Nintendo, maybe it's best if they go their separate ways. A big company can't have its representative saying whatever they want on twitter, and he seems to want that freedom. Hopefully his departure doesn't hurt the indie movement for Nintendo. Lately it's been getting better and better, and it would be a shame if it started going downhill.



XCWarrior said:

There's so much behind the scenes arguing between Adelman and Nintendo of America that we'll never know exactly why this happened. But considering he quit, he probably couldn't stand something that's been going on.

Not sure who is to blame for some of the shoddy eshop titles we've seen in past months, why they aren't getting a bit more testing before being released, but maybe that has something to do with it?

Either way, I'm sure he'll be happier not working at Nintendo anymore. He wouldn't have quit otherwise.



Yurikun said:

I see this as a sad day. I unfortunately did not know who Dan was but after reading this I now know who to thank for some of my favorite games being on the WiiU.



ricklongo said:

@TrueWiiMaster Mark Rosewater, lead designer for Magic: the Gathering, has a personal blog where he answers public questions about everything from his TV series preferences to behind-the-scenes facts at Wizards of the Coast. His replies are often candid, and he's not afraid of giving his opinion where he thinks the company is doing something wrong.

Now, he obviously tries to steer clear from the most sensitive issues (often stating outright that he can't comment on them), but the fact of the matter is this is working great for them. Wizards of the Coast, which is a big company, has a major spokesperson to be the face of their most popular franchise to the public at large. He answers several questions a day, and is quite "reachable". I wish Nintendo did something like this, but the whole debacle around Dan Adelman shows us that this is still a long way from happening.



Emblem said:

Best of luck to him, I felt he was getting abit too big for his boots towards the end but its still a loss for Nintendo anyway you look at it.

That said its worth pointing out in the article that Dan was not solely responsible for Nintendo's indie scene, lets not crap on all the hard working folks at Nintendo.



datamonkey said:

This is a bad loss for NOA. He reminded me of Harrison and the other Ninty execs from the late 90's who actually had some balls and got stuff done that benefited the company.

Wish him all the best in his future endeavors...



akaDv8R said:

Well, yet ANOTHER massive mistake on Nintendo`s part. If they cannot handle a small amount of constructive criticism, there is something wrong at HQ. Also, you do not get rid of a guy who over many years has built up a great relationship with the smaller developers, and helped to bring them to the Nintendo platform. I can see in the near future, maybe a drop in the amount of, and quality of e-shop titles.

Also, just as a quick side note. Iwata needs to go NOW. He is totally out of touch when it comes to knowing what people want from a modern console. Most of the Nintendo dev team wanted to put at least 4gb RAM into the Wii U, Iwata said NO, 2gb is enough. Also, they should NEVER have used the name Wii in this console, it just does not differentiate it enough from the original Wii, unless you actually go out to find out about it.

Anyway, good luck Dan, I am sure you will continue to have a great career,



WebHead said:

Good luck Dan. Hopefully you get more freedom. And hopefully indies don't shy away now because indies are like 75% of Nintendo's third-party support right now.



Jazzer94 said:

Nintendo handled the Dan situation so badly for once we had a vocal point at Nintendo who answered questions by fans honestly and he was silenced like he had committed treason.



Morph said:

Dumbmove from nintendo letting him go. I've only heard good things about him from indie developers and if he really was as instrumental as he seems to nintendo's changing stance on indies, then they've dropped a right clanger here.

Insight like this just goes to show if nintendo do ever make it to the 21st century, then they will be dragged there kicking and screaming



eaglebob345 said:

At least he's alive! Nintendo is so secretive I though they snuffed him out.

Seriously though, what did he say?



Rin-go said:

What you say in private is one thing and what you say in public another, especially when it comes to company-related issues.

Also, what is this about letting him go? If he wanted to pursue his own business no one can force him to stay.



Jock_Nerd said:

Too bad the big N operates like a dinosaur sometimes. Hears to hoping they always make improvements, which I believe they will. Just takes time.



MrWalkieTalkie said:

Guys, he had a whole team who handled it with him. He was more of the figurehead that everyone knew best. The indie support isn't going anywhere.



Emblem said:

@akaDv8R Most of Dan's recent work has not yet bared any fruit as we are still awaiting for them, I don't think we'll see any ramifications (if any) until 2016 at the earliest. It's also worth noting Dan worked with a team so its not like there is no one covering the base.

@Jazzer94 He did commit treason (well not really ), he publicly ridiculed his employer and its practices. If you are in the public eye you represent the company, if you feel strongly about something you decline comment to the public and or you say you are working with the company to makes changes etc. You do not make controversial statements because they either look like you are trying to use public opinion to force the companies hand or you are being salty about something so are being vindictive. The moment you speak against your company it sends a million mixed messages out there to both consumers and competitors which hurts the overall company.

IMO both parties handled the situation quite poorly but this resolution is for the best. Dan gets to be free and do what he really wants and Nintendo will realise how big of a gap Dan has left and double up on filling the void and maybe relaxing a few of their policies.

Dan simply outgrew Nintendo, it was obvious towards the end he could no longer work in the constraints of such a large company. This is the perfect time for him to join the indie scene and all his connections will surely help so i wish him all the best.



Darknyht said:

I'll play devil's advocate here and say that the reason that Nintendo so tightly controls things is this: In a podcast I listen to last week I heard how someone presenting a demo for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to a magazine told them that the game would release on a Gold Cartirdge. The game wasn't supposed to, but because of that statement being printed in the magazine Nintendo ended up producing Gold Cartridges.

A more recent problem was the mess over the release of Super Mario Bros. 3. Everyone took a executives word as gold that the game would be released "this year".



rbmoura85 said:

If this guy really wanted to help nintendo he woulb probably understand better why he shouldnt say some things...sounds like hes more interested in his will then in the benefit of the company.



SKTTR said:

Dan loves video games and Nintendo.
And he seems to be in contact with anyone in the industry.
What he stated on the communities ringed true, not just about Nintendo but anyone.

His passion at Nintendo was to get in touch with smaller studios all around the world and giving them a chance to make games and money.

10 out of 15 games I beat on eShop, Dan Adelman is mentioned in the Special Thanks of the credits!
He left a huge impact.
An inspiring man.



Yorumi said:

This is one of those things that annoys me on a lot of levels. For Dan's part he should have been able to find a way to say things without suggesting nintendo is doing a bunch of things wrong. Nintendo really should have let him speak anyway because that level of candid talk often makes a company more approachable and does more good than harm. On a broader level it annoys me though in that companies really do need carefully crafted PR statements. This is cause the internet is always looking to completely destroy the life of anyone who makes one little misstatement. So in some ways nintendo isn't wrong is shutting him down.

The pitchforks and torches are constantly out on the internet whether justified or not and it's just stupid that we tolerate this behavior. But it's the world we live in and that just sucks.



noctowl said:

Dan doesn't realize they already have an account system? I'm surprised he didn't get fired for being as ignorant as the media seems to be on the issue. I'll say it again: if your Nintendo console gets lost damaged falls in the ocean, etc you will not...will not...lose your eshop purchases.



GN004Nadleeh said:

a lot of his ideas are great and nintendo usually acts likes a teen girl and will do the opposite just to prove they are not listening and in the end we suffer. region lock makes no sense especially if you are an adult and i don't really see an 8 year old shopping on an import site. the binding of issac would have been fine, for some reason in persona q you can point a gun to your head but how dare you talk about demons and play top down just like zelda (which has gods and demons all over). so i have to play it on ps4 as another game nintendo wont have. he was a good guy and will find work somewhere else without so much restriction.



GN004Nadleeh said:

@noctowl they make you jump through a lot of fire hurdles to make it happen. when i sold my ps3 i did not delete everything and when i turned on my replacement i just signed in and got all my games with no hassle. that kind of account system is better than now where it is like asking your grandma for your saved money and she says no



LittleIrves said:

Adelman: "I know there are going to be a bunch of forum comments and editorials saying, 'OMG Nintendo is doomed!' but the truth is that Nintendo's indie program is in good hands."

From the full interview. (Not saying that's what NLife said. But for those in the community with their hands to the sky screaming NOO, this is good to keep in mind.)



TrueWiiMaster said:

What works for one company might not work for another. It's also worth noting that Nintendo is probably a much bigger company, with a much more famous reputation. Also, Mark Rosewater is a designer, while Dan Adelman's job was largely based on communication.

And couldn't the Binding of Isaac topic be considered a sensitive issue?



Sparx said:

Hope the best for both parties! Nintendo to find the guy they need, and Dan to enjoy his new job



Yorumi said:

@GN004Nadleeh if you honestly think that's the reason binding of issac wasn't allowed then you are extremely ignorant of the game and the issue. You're statement is roughly the equivalent of saying "why is mortal kombat rated M and street fighter isn't, they both have fighting in it."



Kyloctopus said:

The guy wasn't given alot to deal with. Just a console that was seriously underperforming, but he did a lot of work getting the Wii U to it's indie welcoming status. I think Nintendo will continue the support and follow Dan's ways. But it's really hard to tell, because I don't know the bureaucracy within Nintendo.



GN004Nadleeh said:

@Yorumi tell me the exact reason then. i am an adult and i can play what ever i want. nintendo says no so i will spend my money elsewhere. no one should tell me what i can and can't play especially when i am a paying customer.



moomoo said:

"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."
Wow. Nintendo continues to prove how backwards they are. Absolutely rediculous.



Yorumi said:

@GN004Nadleeh because as a private company nintendo can choose what they have on their platform. Each company sets it's own standards on what they'll allow. None of them for example allow pornographic games, or explicitly racist games. If you truly have the maturity of an adult you should have learned that every single private entity on the entire earth controls their own products.

Specifically for this game it makes an all out bigoted assault on really the 3 major world religions. Nintendo decided, and I for one greatly appreciated it, that they will not be associated with a game that insults and specifically attacks groups of people on earth. They don't mind people drawing inspiration from these sources but they draw the line at bigoted attacks. Some people still appreciate a company that at least on some minor level refused to be associated with hate and filth.

EDIT: I suppose I should amend my statement some, the game is racist since it's attacking the Jewish people. So I guess some companies will be associated with racism as long as it's the right races.



MAB said:

Nintendo are out of touch with their own employees just as much as their customers



FJOJR said:

It's amazing how much Nintendo can have one foot in the 21st century and the other under the archaic and constrictive ways of Hiroshi Yamauchi. Just look at how they handle the Seattle Mariners.



GN004Nadleeh said:

@Yorumi we should still have a choice and a say. the game is wanted and was being made so to not release it is to not make more sales which they sorely need makes no sense. you can attack anyone you want in a video game but to call it hate and filth because you and some church goers don't like it is extreme. all thee major religions have killed more than that game ever will but that is ok they are tax exempt. but i get nintendo don't want it so i can't buy it here and have to buy it elsewhere, with many more choices. something i have 'control' over



Yorumi said:

@GN004Nadleeh ah yes racism and bigotry is justified as long as someone in that race or group did something wrong. You can say you should have the choice to buy it all your want but nintendo is a private company and all you're doing is justifying racism and bigotry. Nintendo decided they didn't want their products associated with that and I'm happy for it.



Smooty said:

I guess this explains all the crappy eShop games that we have been seeing



64supermario said:

@Yorumi Racism? What part? I might be a little ignorant to the whole matter since I don't really follow any religions. But from what I gathered all it was doing was telling the story of Abraham from a very bizarre perspective.



AVahne said:

Aw, that's really too bad. It's like Nintendo of America has lost their voice of reason with him leaving. The future looks bleak for us Nintendo gamers now, but I wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors.



GN004Nadleeh said:

@Yorumi i stabbed gannon in the forehead then flooded the chamber because he used his equal god power differently than me cartoon style. thats ok because it was awesome



Silent said:

Do you really think companies are supposed to tell you every little secrets they have? They can't act like Normal humans because they're not a single person making the decisions. Unlike Normal humans, they have to account for competition, cost as well as a plethora of things. They also have to keep a good image about themselves so customers don't go bonkers over the smallest of things.

Marketing and PR are just that: People who are speaking for the company. Since Dan Adelman wasn't speaking about the plans of the company, he had to be removed from the press and social media. If he's PR, he can't be going about saying things he isn't supposed to say or that do not represent the company.



Yorumi said:

@64supermario the Jews are both a race and a religion. Not all jews practice the religion but they all take the genesis account of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob as absolute literal history. They call themselves the "children of Abraham." These people are known as the Jewish patriarchs, and they trace their entire identity beginning with Abraham. The game tries to say the jewish patriarchs were all psychopathic murders and lunatics and that the jewish race draws their lineage from there.

Look at it with another group of people substituted. Imagine a game showing the original Africans as a bunch of savage lunatics obsessed with violence. Then as justification they say "well blacks have killed people before, this game won't hurt anyone." Or imagine a game implying all gays just want to rape children and using nambla as their justification.

Those games would be sick, and everyone who's not a klansmen or neo nazi would be condemning them and their creators. But in this case the game attacks the jews and christians, and somewhat indirectly the muslims, so racism and bigotry are justified.

@arnoldlayne83 with that post I get the feeling your avatar is a first person view, lol.



joey302 said:

Typical of Nintendo to shut him down on twitter when we all know the wii u needs software/games badly!!



Samurairu said:

Low class departure. I'm glad someone like him doesn't work for a company I still like.



Windy said:

He wasn't in charge of the Virtual Console was he? That's the guy who should be departing. Whoevers in Charge of the VC YOUR FIRED! {insert picture of Donald Trump} I'm really getting tired of firing that VC guy



Windy said:

On the serious side of this and on Topic. I've started to wonder where quality control is going in regards to the Indie Devs. Most titles are excellent but lately especially in regards to Nicalis who got 2 bug ridden games into the Eshop with 1001 spikes and Grinsia. Is this going to become a normal thing where the games get fixed after release? I would imagine Adelman caught a lot of heat because of these 2 games. By the way I really liked Grinsia especially after the crashing was fixed.



Zombie_Barioth said:

"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."

Thats so backwards I don't know where to start. How any reasonable person could think thats a valid solution is beyond me, and just shows how little the PR department thinks of peoples' intelligence that they wouldn't notice such a change.

What statements like these tells me is Nintendo can't handle criticism, that they want to continue to cover their ears and remain, or at least appear to be, blissfully ignorant to opposing views. This certainly wouldn't be the first time they've done so. Right or wrong its their choice, but obviously what they don't want is a guy like Dan whos happy to speak his mind, so this is good for both sides.



ricklongo said:

@TrueWiiMaster You bring up differences that, in the end, don't really matter much when we're talking about having a "human face". I think it's better to take a look at the similarities: both WotC and Nintendo are large, international gaming companies with extremely loyal fanbases. They both have popular IPs that are decades-old (Magic and Dungeons & Dragons, when it comes to Wizards), and as such have fans who grew up with their products and continue to play with them to this day. Players attached to both companies usually scour the web for a constant stream of content, which means they need a constant online presence to appease those fans.

I think Nintendo would have a lot to gain if they had someone to be an approachable public face; someone who could answer questions without corporate talk, share behind-the-scenes tidbits, and just plain interact with the fanbase directly on a daily basis. It could even be Reggie, but as a President I doubt he has much free time to dedicate to this project.



EngieBengie said:

This is something that has to be said: Nintendo's top management needs a good, clean swipe and get replaced with more open people. Nintendo is my favorite game company but there is no good that I can see when they need to make him shut up or by making him not work there anymore. With the bad relationship with 3rd party devs, Indies were essential and then they do this. Really, top management neeeds to change their games and fast.



ricklongo said:

@EngieBengie Well, to be fair Nintendo didn't really "do" this. Adelman left on his own accord to pursue his own business venture. He even explained his reasons in detail on the Kotaku interview.



Knux said:

Prime proof on how just much of a dictatorship the Mario Mafia is. Tretton's doors are always open, Dan-san.



TrueWiiMaster said:

I think the differences do matter. I don't know too much about Wizards of the Coast, and I don't think that's unusual or uncommon. Almost everyone knows Nintendo, and Nintendo's clean, family friendly, doesn't-offend-anybody reputation. They can't have someone sending out random tweets while representing them. The positions these two men hold/held also matters. Communication isn't Rosewater's main job, but it was Adelman's. If someone whose main job is communication isn't communicating what you want him to, there's definitely a problem.



maceng said:

My thoughts exactly.
When I looked at the photo, I thought that his head was made of cardboard pr something and used an old photo off him.



Mewtwo21 said:

Dan Adelman left on his own accord to work with indies. I think some of you are getting the wrong idea that Nintendo fired him because of his tweets.

"Nintendo has been really supportive of this 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."

  • from a kotaku interview with him

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