Nintendo CEO lambasts low-quality gaming apps

Ronny Kerr · March 3, 2011 · Short URL:

Mobile and social gaming market is not motivated to make high-value video games, like Mario and Halo

I am a male in my twenties. I grew up on video games. From the classic side-scrolling adventure of Super Mario Bros. (all three) on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) to the high-flying virtual maneuvering in Pilotwings for Super Nintendo to the complex-as-chess real-time strategy of StarCraft on the PC, I lived in a world where video games could be considered works of art for the elegance of the gameplay itself.
That’s why it pains me a little bit to see that the fastest rising gaming companies on the still young social and mobile platforms are companies that appear to be more focused on chasing virtual goods sales than building quality and rewarding gaming experiences.
And it’s also why I love what the CEO of Nintendo had to say at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Satoru Iwata lambasted smartphone and social network games for sacrificing quality in the name of producing tons of games for quick and easy money.

“They are not like gaming consoles, there’s no motivation [for] high-value video games,” he said.

The big three consoles--Iwata named Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360--require months and months and millions of dollars for game development, and all the while there’s no promise of seeing wild success upon the game’s release. But some do and those become years-long multi-million dollar franchises, like Halo and Super Mario.

“We have some differences in the way we do business but games always come first. The console is just to enable gaming.”

And the games come first because companies like Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and third parties absolutely depend on their games selling for up to $50 per title. When was the last time you spent any money to actually start playing a mobile or social game?

“92 percent of mobile games are free, and the rest are sold with a low price”, said Iwata. “We have always been able to make a living with games.”

In spite of Iwata’s grievances, the market is moving ahead just as it would like to. Whether they are developing hackneyed gaming experiences or not, social and mobile game studios continue to attract tens of millions of dollars from investors because of two words: virtual goods. People around the globe are spending billions and billions of dollars on virtual goods, and that's music to investors' ears.

Good luck fighting against that tide, Iwata.

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