Iwata's views "no reflection of what consumers want"
Kuju Entertainment founder urges developers to take control of the entire dev process
Tenshi Ventures' Ian Baverstock has claimed that Satoru Iwata's GDC keynote is a "shocking indictment" of the way Nintendo views the industry.
In his keynote address, Iwata claimed that craftsmanship in game development was dying due to the abundance of smaller, less expensive games on new digital platforms
Speaking at the Develop conference, Baverstock, who co-founded Kuju Entertainment, vehemently disagreed, saying that these new platforms have expanded the traditional skill-set required to make games.
The rise of Facebook, iOS and Steam have shifted the emphasis away from pleasing retail partners – something that Nintendo's business is built upon - and given developers more control over what they create and who they create for.
"I just don't agree," he said. "This lack of craftsmanship is really a reflection of Nintendo's point of view – they are completely obsessed with retail, and have been very successful in that."
However, by ceding so much power to their retail partners, the platform holders have led the industry towards a "narrow distribution pipe, with huge inventory risks and huge inventory costs." Baverstock believes that retail buyers don't make decisions based on craft or quality, but on who has "the biggest sign" at E3.
As he left Iwata's keynote, it was "abundantly clear" that the majority of the audience couldn't relate to its content. They were making games for Facebook, Steam, Android and iOS, yet the message was that console platform holders are still the key relationship for all developers.
"Ultimately for Mr Iwata to be able to sit there and say that we're losing craftsmanship, we're losing skills... at the same time that Minecraft comes out, sells millions and makes one man lots of money and creates a huge public buzz, is a shocking indictment of his view of the world that we all see."
Baverstock posited that we are in the "second great age of independent development" - the first being the late Eighties - and developers now need to rise to the challenge, and broaden their skills so they don't need to rely on the support of publishers and platform holders.
"We're not very far away now from the beginnings of next generation [of technology] from Sony and Microsoft. I don't know when that will come, but at that point... the idea that there are going to be many independent developers with either their own money, or even publishers money, making games on those platforms – there are going to be very, very few."
Developers must take advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet and social media to independently manage the PR, community management and marketing of their games – the sort of services that used to be done "forcibly" by publishers.
The real message of Iwata's talk, he claimed, was one of control, an attempt to preserve the system that allows platform-holders and giant publishers to exist.
"In the end, once you get past that preachy title of why developers need to change, the reason why I'm so riled by Mr. Iwata's point of view is that fundamentally it's smack talk: 'You, Mr. Developer, stay in your box, you stay down there, we'll do with this other stuff, you just carry on making games.'"
More importantly, the opportunity is there for developers to do a better job of these aspects than a company like EA was able to do.
Baverstock venerated a more personal approach to the marketing, and suggested that developers begin to look at their content as just a facet of an ongoing relationship with the consumer. The truth is that the games Iwata claimed were hurting the industry have created enormous new demand, but it's a demand that Nintendo is not well placed to satisfy.
"I think that, fundamentally, Mr. Iwata's view of this market from a value creation and number of title point of view was skewed entirely to his interests as a successful platform holder, and is in no way a reflection of what ordinary consumers want."
Baverstock believes that the games industry is at the forefront of dealing with consumers in "intangible goods", something that an enormous number and variety of industries want to know more about.
"That... personal relationship [with consumers], the games industry is absolutely leading that. Everyone you talk to in a marketing department wants to talk to game developers, because they want to understand what we know about this."
"To come back to my Mr. Iwata point, it's shocking that he can't see that we're leading the world - off the platform he has created - in this way. There is a lot going on; it just hasn't happened in his space, and realistically can't."