Nintendo’s Plans To Address The Increasing Costs Of Game Development

By Ishaan . April 30, 2013 . 2:20pm

A few months ago, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata highlighted the fact that console games are becoming increasingly expensive to develop, and that it’s becoming harder for software publishers to make console-exclusive games. In a recent financial results Q&A, Iwata admitted that even Nintendo themselves are starting to feel the increasing costs and resources required to develop high-fidelity console titles.


Specifically, Iwata points to Wii U launch games, which he says required more resources than Nintendo had anticipated, and that resulted in the company pulling developers off other projects to help get Wii U launch software completed in time.


“The reason for the delayed release of our first-party titles was the fact that completing the games released at the same time as the launch of Wii U required more development resources than expected, so some staff members from development teams working on other titles had to help complete them,” Iwata shared.


Iwata elaborated: “In short, the development teams of ‘Pikmin 3’ and other future games were understaffed during that period. We do not simply have one easily identifiable bottleneck in software development. These days it is becoming increasingly challenging to determine the minimum development resources required for customer satisfaction. The point I am trying to get across is that currently it is more challenging to sell packaged software for around $50-$60.”


While hit games are selling more now than ever, these select few titles can’t be the only games a company relies on. Nintendo appear to be taking a three-pronged approach to ensure a steady stream of content. The first is collaborations with external game developers, which are already underway. The second is an increased emphasis on the company’s digital business. Finally, the third is allowing development of Wii U games and applications using technologies such as HTML5 and JavaScript, and the Unity game development engine.


At this year’s Game Developers Conference, Nintendo introduced the ability to develop Wii U software using HTML5, JavaScript and Nintendo’s own “Nintendo Web Framework,” which was used to develop Wii Street U powered by Google. Iwata estimates that software developers who use web technologies such as these are probably “more than 100 times” the amount of developers making software for dedicated game consoles. He adds that, since their GDC announcements, Nintendo have received inquiries about their web-based development technologies from “hundreds of new development companies and individuals”.


In addition, Nintendo also announced a partnership with Unity at GDC. Developers that buy a Wii U development kit will get a Unity Pro 4 license for Wii U for free. Iwata hopes that this initiative will attract developers that use Unity—of which there are over a million—including those in developing countries where game consoles aren’t as popular.


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