A Guide for Third Party Developers on Nintendo Consoles

With the new 3DS and the possibility of a Wii successor either next year or the year after, it’s probably a good time to let third parties know that they haven’t been up to snuff on Nintendo’s platforms lately other than the DS.

The following is a ten step guide to finding success on Nintendo consoles.  Success seems to be elusive as third parties struggle to succeed and feel that they have tried everything (obviously not everything, like make mostly high-quality games from launch) and still find that the Wii and sometimes the DS audience are reluctant to purchase their products.  So what follows is a handy set of guidelines that will help you on your way to financial or at least critical success on Nintendo’s platforms.

Step One:  Be inspired by Nintendo.

Nintendo makes a wide variety of games, from platformers to racing games, shooting games to adventure games, RPGs, etc.  There are plenty of games to draw inspiration from and learn what makes the uber-loyal Nintendo fan tick.  But don’t go overboard on this because…

Step Two: DO NOT RIP OFF NINTENDO.

Sure you’re inspired by Nintendo, but releasing Resident Evil Kart or Final Fantasy Sports is obviously trying to put one over on the userbase and you’ll be in pain.  Video game customers can be fooled, but they aren’t idiots, and will pick Mario Kart over NASCAR Kart or MySims Kart any day of the week.  Have a legitimate plan for your entrant that doesn’t involve slapping “Kart” or “Fit” on the cover and hoping you’ll trick people.

Step Three:  Be prepared to fail.

Not every game is a major success, even if you have all your ducks in a row.  Just ask Nintendo.  They have had a lot of games fail in their day, even some that were adored by critics and had a large marketing campaign.  Examples include ExciteBots, Elite Beat Agents, and Geist.  Being jealous of Nintendo’s successes without recognizing their failures is sour grapes based on an idea that everybody who owns a Wii or a DS is a raving Nintendo fanboy.

Step Four: Earn the right to innovate or try new IPs.

Trying a new IP without setting a foothold as a good developer in familiar territory will lead to pain.  You must earn the right to try something new by satisfying core wants.  Examples of this include making a fighting game based on a popular action-adventure series without actually putting that series onto the platform first, as seen with Castlevania Judgment.  Or, conversely, an adventure game based on a popular fighting game without having an entry of the fighting game on the series first, as with SoulCalibur Legends.

Step FiveReputation Matters.

If you get known to the userbase at launch for making a bunch of tripe, nobody is going to care how many times you’ve said you’ve turned over a new leaf.  Ubisoft felt this pain when they made a fantastic game in the form of Red Steel 2, but it ultimately saw failure due to the poor reception of the first at the Wii’s launch.  Any third party who has pledged to “get serious” about Wii development has had to fight uphill against encumbrances of their own making, and almost all will blame Nintendo as if they held a gun to their heads and forced them to make awful games.

Step Six: Market like you mean it.

Market your product to the market you want as if you actually intend for your product to succeed.  Self-sabotage like an all-Twitter campaign or a “day after Christmas” launch leaves your potential customers uninformed and fans befuddled as to your intentions.

Step Seven: There is no “one size fits all” solution.  Do not ‘demograph’ the userbase.

Whatever game you think all of the userbase owns, less than 30% actually do.  Attempting to paint the entire userbase with a broad brush leads to struggles.  Making the thirtieth Wii Sports or Wii Fit clone isn’t going to make you suddenly a success.

Step Eight: Big Teams at launch make the way for Little Teams throughout.

Shigeru Miyamoto once said that third parties often times struggle to make headway onto Nintendo consoles because they routinely put their third or fourth string developer teams on their Nintendo games while Nintendo always has their first and second string teams make the big titles.  Obviously it would be an attack on variety to only demand the first string efforts forever, but the second and third stringers can learn from the efforts of the first string efforts at the outset.  Handing development responsibility for an entire platform to fresh recruits and poorly funded development teams is too much for them to handle, and they seldom strike gold, especially if they are competing 100% of the time against Nintendo’s Best.  For an example of this in action, compare the excitement over the 3DS’s third party launch efforts against the meager third party offerings of the Wii’s launch.  Konami bringing Metal Gear and Capcom bringing Resident Evil is certainly more exciting than Konami bringing Elebits and Capcom bringing jack squat.  Even if Elebits is a good game, it can only be helped by having been made by an established developer with a good reputation instead of being a small team’s one-off lab experiment.

Step Nine: Stop making excuses.

Nintendo does not make excuses for their failures, even when they get the spurs put to them by the major gaming press and their fans.  Blaming the userbase, blaming Nintendo, or blaming the recession is a great way to get Nintendo owners to buy more Nintendo games and less of yours.  Hardcore Nintendo fans are made, not born.

Step Ten: Be yourselves.

Even if you follow none of the other steps in this guide, following this will at least earn sympathy should you find failure.  Trying to mold yourself into what you think the “monolithic userbase” wants almost always fails.  Be yourself, and not a crappy imitation of Nintendo.  People who enjoy Mario might also enjoy Resident Evil.  Be true to yourself, and not to your marketing and demographic departments, and you will find critical success.  Make the games you want to make, or the games that you have been inspired to make, and stop trying to be somebody you are not.

11 thoughts on “A Guide for Third Party Developers on Nintendo Consoles”

  1. Yeah, I hate when companies create games for a “market”. Just MAKE A GOOD GAME! Fun is universal, targeted selling points will always be niches. Not everyone likes bald guys, or puppies, or on rails shooters. Everyone likes fun, it’s the only thing that can be the foundation of a game. Games based on image will crumble, every single time.

    Lots of good points in this article.

    Like

  2. Third parties are never going to admit to making any mistakes with the Wii, otherwise they’d have answer to the shareholders and investors for it. Not now, anyway.

    I believe 5 or 10 years from now we’ll hear a lot of “Yeah, we fucked up on the Wii. Sorry.”

    Like

  3. It would probably be considered trolling by Former Nintendo Fan Report Planet staff if it was posted over there. That’s what it’s doing here.

    Like

  4. I know its kind of odd to put this post here since there hasn’t been one since May of last year, but I felt this was the best place to it.

    Anybody know about Trent Oston? No? I didn’t either until My Nintendo News did a newsreport about him bashing WiiWare and Wii in general, after he was asked about Bulder’s Gate (a shitty game that nobody should care about) being put on WiiU. His experience with WiiWare left him a attention seeking man child who decided to paint the entire Wii base as casual seeking faggots who only bought Wii Sports. My response? He made a shitty game, and if he makes a shitty game nobody will buy it; I also linked the 3rd Party Wall of Shame for good measure.

    I called him out over Twitter and Grubdog trolled him. Guy is a fucked up closed minded shit-head. Grub was being sarcastic and he actually AGREED with him. Good lord, I give up. This industry is fucking stupid and I hope his new game fails. Being put on a iPad already tells me what the quality will be like (again, Bulder’s Gate was shitty, it will double in that amount).

    Good lord.

    Like

  5. What’s astounding about this article is that many large third-party developers will probably ignore many of these steps either because they are allergic to money or because they want to “play it safe” and phone it in as “proof” of their support. Just look at the Wall for proof of their “support” towards Nintendo.

    Meanwhile, we’re seeing smaller developers and indies following many of these steps and giving their strong support to Nintendo systems, showing that there are third party developers who care about them as opposed to some larger third-parties who couldn’t care less about them #coughEAcough#.

    Like

  6. Pretty interesting how third parties seemed to have botched up any chance they had on the Wii U by pretty much doing the exact OPPOSITE of every step on this list. I could go into detail:

    1. EA: YAP we’re REAAALYY inspired by Nintendo! That’s why we’ve put out 2 sports rehashes and a Mass Effect game for the Wii U launch!

    2. ESPN Sports Connection and Rabbids Land. aka Wii Sports and Mario Party knockoffs! Nice one Ubisoft!

    3. Third parties at E3: We got Nintendo’s back!. Wii U is a marvelous platform to work on!
    2 months after launch: Wii U owners are TERRIBLE. Wii U is a piece of garbage that nobody can make money off of. Let’s blow this popstand!

    4. There was one truly new IP out at launch: the buggy ZombiU. Ugh…

    5. Third parties, by pulling all this BS, have pretty much guaranteed that they won’t be making any money off the Wii U for the rest of this gen. As if the 6+ million owners will ever forget all the sh*t they’ve been put through.

    6. I didn’t see a single commercial prominently featuring a Wii U game from ANY third party dev for ANY game at launch with pseudo-exception of ZombiU. Yet they wonder why people only thought to buy NSMBU at launch.

    7. Half the launch games were Wii style party games and shovelware. When will they learn…

    8. The ports for Wii U games were so bad, I doubt they had more 10 people working on each game and it’s not like that’s unrealistic. Black Ops on Wii only had 4 developers….

    9. Making excuses is pretty much all they’ve been doing since launch. But some don’t make excuses. They prefer to just openly sh&t on Ninty’s face. Seriously EA, what the hell is wrong with your employees?

    10. Third parties don’t even KNOW who they are anymore.

    Please Nintendo, I beg you. Don’t really on any third party dev not called Sega or Platinum Games during 9th gen AT ALL. Support yourselfs and don’t rush your systems! Aiyah….

    Like

    1. Third parites were just embarrassing on the WIi, and now they are not even trying on the Wii U. Rather than try to get new people and NIntendo fans interested in their games on the Wii, they wasted that window of opportunity. Companies like Konami have been avoiding the Wii U: http://nintendoeverything.com/konami-community-manager-says-wii-u-install-base-is-too-small-for-pes-2014-down-on-nintendos-third-party-relations-more/
      After doing some research on VGChartz (not the most reliable, but it works) I found that a lot of the things this guy said were far from the truth. In short, he is a liar. Konami did in fact have a 1m+ seller on the Wii (a crappy dancing game), but rather than taking that as a sign that people could trust their brand and market better games, they threw away that trust with crappy shovelware and more dancing games. Many third parties had 1m+ sellers on the WIi (contrary to what Bhatti said in his tweets), but many of them threw that away with crappy shovelware titles, too.Most third parites spent the majority of the Wii’s life span making crap games, and now they avoid the Wii U because we won’t fall fortheir crappy gimped games, old ports, and shovelware (again). Also, the guy keeps saying third parties suffered on Wii, but always neglected to mention that the ones who suffered put garbage on the Wii, even Konami.

      Platinum and Sega are the only friends Nintendo has left, and to a lesser extent Activision. Ubisoft is backing away, even though they are the ones who put themselves in the position they are in now with the Wii U with the problem they made with Rayman Legends, ZombiU (I don’t understand why this game looks worse than Assassin’s Creed), and their expectations that Nintendo console owners want to be treated like the mindless sheep that buy the same game every year (Assassin’s Creed). Capcom and Square Enix are not really trying on the Wii U but both of them were throwing support for the PS4 and XB1, even before they launched.EA is crap, anyone who feels the need to defend them or buy their games is also crap. The rest of the third parties are lining up with EA and Sony, because rather than jumping on the system with the least third party support, these companies are too afraid that their rather bland and trite (probably FPS) games will not latch on with the fanbase notorious for playing high quality (NIntendo) games. None of those people will admit it, but Nintendo is one of only the major publishers not laying off people at an embarrassing rate, actually they are not laying people off at all. The higher ups took pay cuts, and they went back to the grind.

      If third parties open their eyes and see their problems for what they are, THEIR problems, they could get back to making actual good games. I would rather Ubisoft make an excellent Prince of Persia game than those mediocre borefests that are Assassin’s Creed. EA could have put the Mass Effect Trilogy on the Wii U, and they probably would have seen better sales.

      Also, I see a whole lot of commercials for Call of Duty: Ghosts, yet Wii U is the only console to not be put in the commercial…

      Bottom line: third parties have went down hill, ever since gouge the consumer for money became the new business model, replacing the old make great games and they will sell business model.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s