Reggie Fils-Aimé unveiled more information about Nintendo’s stance on online play. The former president of Nintendo America is currently promoting his book, Disrupting the Game. And as he presents his book to the world, Reggie Fils-Aimé also talks about his time at Nintendo. He revealed the company’s strategy when it comes to multiplayer and why Nintendo was slow to adapt to online play.
If Nintendo is the most popular company when it comes to family and couch co-op games, the company is still behind when it comes to online play. “Nintendo’s business philosophy has always been to do things differently, to innovate in ways that played to the company’s strength versus playing to the strength of others,” says Reggie Fils-Aimé. “And so for example, when it came to multiplayer, Nintendo really excelled in what we called internally ‘couch play’ – sitting next to someone playing Mario Kart, sitting next to someone playing a variety of different games like Wii Sports. That in-person multiplayer really was a place the company excelled, and that’s where it placed a tremendous amount of focus.”
Nintendo was looking for a different strategy
If Sony and Microsoft already had online communities for years, Nintendo only began developing online games in the Wii and DS era. Some of these online games, like Mario Kart DS or Super Smash Bros. Brawl met huge success, but Nintendo’s competitors were already far ahead with their online communities.
“In order to do online multiplayer, the company really needed to think about what’s the new type of game, what are the different types of experiences that we’re gonna need to create in order to now excel in that form of play,” explains Reggie. “And candidly, it took the company a while to think that through, to come up with something that they believed would be fundamentally different and add value in a new way.”
“I would argue the company’s core success started with their taking Smash Bros. – a key franchise for them – taking that online, which did exceptionally well,” he adds. “That begat a, not quite a first-person shooter – kind of in between a first and third-person experience – with a franchise called Splatoon, which has done incredibly well in the marketplace. So that’s the first part of the answer – the company’s always thinking about how they’re going to enter these markets uniquely, differently, and play to their own strength.”
A cultural difference
Another aspect that slowed down Nintendo’s embrace of online gaming is culture. “The second thing I would highlight is – and this is where it gets into some of the cultural differences,” states Reggie. “Culturally, the company didn’t see a huge opportunity in online. It was an area that the Americas and Europe constantly was trying to educate the company in Japan about the value of online play, investing in the online infrastructure which needed to be done in order for the experience to be a positive one. It was a constant area of push by the Western parts of the company to encourage the development and the investment in the infrastructure, and I’m sure that conversation continues today.”
Since these times, Nintendo managed to catch up with online gaming, especially with games like Monster Hunter, Mario Kart, Splatoon, and Smash Ultimate. The company’s online strategy is still different from its competitors, and Nintendo kept its lead when it comes to couch co-op.