The two heads of indie games on Nintendo platforms, Yusuke Soejima and Park Seong-sa, recently sat down with Entertainment Station to talk about indie games and their stance on indies on the Nintendo Switch. Of highlight in the interview were their answers on why the Nintendo Switch eShop doesn’t have a dedicated ‘Nindies’ section, Nintendo on handling publishing for indie games, and their hopes for Nintendo in the indie scene.
Entertainment Station: We mentioned this at the start of the interview, but compared to other platforms, the Nintendo Switch eShop treats indie games with equal value as a game from a large corporation. In recent years, ‘indies’ have come into a brand of their own, especially overseas, and the number of players who prioritize indie gaming continue to increase as well.
Park Seong-sa: “As we are in the midst of collaborating with various indie games, it would be great to see them become an attractive brand of their own. However, Japan has a lower recognition of indie games than overseas, and so first we’d like to have our consumers recognize the attractive points of indie games. We don’t want to ‘differentiate’ based on the fact it is an indie game.
ES: What do you mean by ‘differentiate’?
Park: “For example, if we do create an indie game store, and customers start to think that there are only bad games there, then they will stop looking at the store. If it comes to that, it’s possible they would stop looking at any game just because they are ‘indie’.
ES: So the indie game branding has the danger of working negatively.
Park: “While it would be nice if the indie game branding guaranteed a great game with great value, on the other hand the possibility that the same game becomes unaccepted by the wider audience because of its branding still exists. That is something we must avoid at all costs.”
From the second half of the interview, Soejima and Park handled questions on publishing for indie titles, and their hopes for Nintendo working with indie developers.
ES: Are there any cases of Nintendo working with indie developers to publish their games? Also, will there be this sort of collaboration in the future?
Park: “There are several cases from the past. During the Wii U era, we helped publish several titles in Japan under the theme of games that might interest the Japanese audience.”
Yusuke Soejima: “While Shovel Knight was released abroad earlier by Yacht Club Games, Nintendo handled the publishing of the game in Japan, alongside the amiibo functionality.”
Park: “On the Nintendo Switch, there is Snipperclips: Cut It Out Together. Also, Nintendo published Flip Wars outside of Japan.”
Soejima: “While we have these past examples, we don’t have anything to speak of for the future. In the Wii U era, it was difficult for games to release in Japan, but now the hurdle for global releases has gone down a lot, so overseas developers can release their software easier. In the end, there is less of a need for us to step in and help out.”
ES: Please tell us about what hopes Nintendo have in store for indie development in the medium term and long term. What kind of vision are you aiming for currently?
Soejima: “Firstly, we would like to be a platform that developers choose to make their game for. While not really a ‘target’ per se, before the Nintendo Switch really got going, in trailers and posters for indie games, they would always show platforms from other companies. Nowhere did it say Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Wii U… It was a complete state of being overlooked by developers. I thought, ‘I really want to see the Nintendo Switch logo up there with the other logos’.”
Park: “Fortunately, the Nintendo Switch is doing well both in Japan and overseas, and I think this has improved chances of being chosen as viable platform. Keeping this momentum, we would like to aim for Nintendo Switch to be an obvious choice from Day 1 of game development.”
Park: “On a long term scale, this is not something that we can handle alone, but we would like to see a cycle of indie games becoming easier to develop and profit from, leading to new developers following their example and entering the industry.”
Soejima: “When a title sells quite well, and gets recognized as an IP, it would be great to see it become an IP that lasts in the minds of consumers. Increasing the number of these sorts of titles in the indie scene is something the game industry in general, and not just Nintendo, needs to think about. Finally, while indie games have the image of being part of a digital world, we’ve come to understand that the community surrounding it is incredibly analogue. The connections between people are very important, and we would like to continue to treat that preciously.”