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"To Nintendo, social elements are nothing new at all"

Iwata equates NES, Pokemon and 3DS to social gaming

Nintendo believes its history of multiplayer gaming features predates and is equivalent to the current interest in social network games.

President Satoru Iwata told investors last week that "It has been reported that social entertainment is the key to video games... Nintendo has been developing social entertainment in the field of video games for a long time.

"Social elements tend to be narrowly associated with human relationships through computer networks. We believe, however, that the essence of social entertainment is that the relationships with other human beings add a social nature to the play and make it more interesting.

Although Iwata appeared to be addressing the growth of titles such as FarmVille and Japan's phone-based MobageTown, he saw parallels with Nintendo in that "NES had two controllers from the start and Nintendo 64 was the first home console system to make four controllers available.

"The link cable for GameBoy allowed two players to compete in Tetris and later enabled the trades and competitions of Pokémon, and gradually these features were made available wirelessly. To Nintendo, social elements are nothing new at all."

He observed that "When you hear the term 'social network,' it generally means a service taking advantage of social human relationships through a constantly connected network with smart phones and PCs. In contrast, Nintendo appreciates real human relationships among people."

The 3DS' StreetPass and SpotPass features, which automatically arranges and even plays games with passers-by, played a part in Nintendo's ongoing social game strategy, he claimed, as well as "further expand[ing] the gaming population."

The company perhaps seems a little less interested in fuelling its social systems with download-based gaming however, having just announced that its eStore for 3DS has been pushed back to May.

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Latest comments (11)

Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde10 years ago
I can appreciate the point Iwata is making. However, this understanding of social gaming is arguably outdated and I feel should really be a part of Nintendo's overall strategy.

I am no doubt like many readers here who remember gathering at a friends house to play games together; be it Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, Goldeneye etc. It was common for people to play games together in such a fashion, with the Nintendo 64 really pushing that kind of social play (I remember calling around to make sure everyone brought controllers so we could all play split screen Goldeneye/Starfox/F-Zero/Bomberman 64).

However, I don't find that particularly applicable in this generation. Younger gamers are more inclined towards online gaming and are less likely to go round to a friends to play splitscreen deathmatch if they can do so at home with a headset on (shame on them). One area that Nintendo has helped maintain this social aspect is by bringing gaming into livingroom/lounge etc. through the Wii and the party atmosphere it generates.

Ultimately, I feel they need to consider that the landscape is shifting rather dramatically. There are at least three forms of social play that could be exploited; the 'core' gamer playing online, the 'group' gamer who enjoys playing Wii/Kinect/Rock Band games with friends and family in the livingroom and the social gamer who plays games on portable devices/facebook etc. Sony, with their introduction of the NGP and their portable gaming platform, combined with the PS3 appear to be in the best position to exploit this in future, while Microsoft are certainly broadening their horizons. I fear that if Nintendo do not consider expanding, that they isolate themselves in the social gaming spectrum. Which given Iwata's comments, would be rather ironic.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 10 years ago
Good comment Tommy! I cannot expand upon that, so will just add the obligatory +1 :)
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Tony Johns10 years ago
Social gaming has always been there.

It is only the most of society being ignoring gaming because of the manipulation of the news media that has made everyone else forget that.

To most gamers...such as we have multiplayer games that encourage us to have a friend with us to play, or a tough single player game that encourages us all to share information on how to get past this dungeon or this hard boss fight, these are the elements of social gaming that not many people outside of gaming realise.

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Show all comments (11)
Tony Johns10 years ago
Even Trading pokemon between two different games between two friends are another aspect of social gaming that I know nintendo have been involved with.
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David Bachowski VP Business Development, Babaroga10 years ago
Nintendo sounds like the old grandfather talking about the days when family was important and everyone gathered around the fireplace to hear stories.

In this case I hope Iwata is right...I also miss those days, and hopefully they never go away fully.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 10 years ago
Gaming in the same room as friends for me is a far superior experience to playing someone online, but as my friends and I get older and less available, hooking up together online instead is the best way forward. That said, it's still a nice surprise when a developer goes to the effort of including a split screen four player mode.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 10 years ago
Actually, this enforced evolution of today's online gaming scene is a big no-no for some parents who actually PREFER their young kids play video games with other kids at each others houses and NOT online as a pure safety reason. I think that's the user base Nintendo is targeting while also realizing that today's always connected crowd wants something more.

I'd say the company will never desert that physical media fan base, as it helps the company cast as wide a net as possible. Other devices shut out nearly anyone who simply doesn't want to or can't afford high-speed connections (or are just antisocial and have no use for interacting with other people in the online space, har har).

Nintendo is smart enough to KNOW that too much tech thrown at its wider user base just confuses them. Not EVERYONE can adapt to some of the stuff we tech-heads take for granted and by stepping to its own beat while adding elements of modern devices here and there, the company is simply assuring anyone who picks up a Nintendo product that they can use it within a few seconds to a few minutes without the need for a thick manual or hours spent on the Internet looking for hints on how to find the "On" switch.

Nintendo doesn't NEED to copy Apple, Sony, Microsoft or anyone else these days - as long as they continue to innovate on their terms and don't disappoint the fan base while creating games and systems that have that certain "Nintendo" appeal, they'll succeed. Granted, too many portables in such a short time has been a bit of an issue forme. But, they all seem to be selling well enough, so what do I know?

And wait... the words "younger gamers" and "split-screen death match" don't quite fit if we're talking about kids under a certain age, right?
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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 10 years ago
If Nintendo is serious about social gaming then maybe they should be more series about providing a better network service through Wii and DS. Animal Crossing Wii could be a great opportunity but they killed it with unsupported hardware that pushed up the price of the software. Mario Kart Wii is another lost opportunity because they never really market the online side of the game (which was actually pretty well done). Monster Hunter Tri, despite being a good game fell short in the west (as with the whole franchise). Just imagine that if for example titles like RE: Umbrella Chronicles (not the second one which is aweful) have online components, Wii as an online social gaming experience will be so much better. I still think that Animal Crossing completely missed the mark and opportunity because of Nintendo's old school of lip service online social gaming philosophy.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 10 years ago
I might give Nintendo credit for knowing their way around peer pressure, competitive grinding and TV marketing, but social gaming? Sorry, that's a no. For me social gaming is more than just other people being there with you, either in the room or at the other end of an Internet connection. Social gaming is more than requiring a second person for some weird key-door game mechanic. It is more than facilitating instant matches at random telephone poles to see who can take the bigger piss.
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Charles Dawkins10 years ago
I never looked at Social Gaming like that before but he is right. Me and a few buddies still have Gaming nights where everyone brings their TV's (Thanks God TV's have become lighter) and their 360's. 360's still have Systme link so it's still a great console for social Gaming offline. Unfortunatly Nintendo, I hate spliting my screen. Call me selfish.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 10 years ago
The "Nintendo 64 [introduced in 1996] was the first home console system to make four controllers available"?

What about the Turbo Tap (5 controllers) for the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16 (1989), the 4 Way Play and J-Cart (1993/4) for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Multitap for the Super Nintendo (1994) and of course the multitap for the Playstation?

And even if you take his meaning as, "the first console to have four controller ports in the standard configuration, with no extra hardware," he's wrong there; that would probably be the Bally Astrocade (1977!). The Atari 800 (1979) also had four joystick ports, though that could be argued to be a "home computer" rather than a console, despite all of its console-like features.
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