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22 Oct 2014

Lessons Indie Developers Can Learn From Nintendo

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I read an article a few weeks ago written by Jools Watsham in which he describes some of the best things Nintendo does that makes the company so successful. These are practices the company has utilized for years, and while I don’t feel they’re nearly as successful as they once were, their best practices have kept them afloat for decades so they’re obviously doing something right.

Give Watsham’s full article a read if you have the chance as it’s well worth it. Below are a few of the points he made. Take a look at them and consider applying them to your own indie studio:

Nintendo is confident in their products

Watsham states that Nintendo is extremely confident in their games, and it shows in how they market their games and show them off to the public via occasional trade shows and the few Nintendo Direct events that crop up every year. Another word for it is ‘they own their games.’ In other words, whenever they show off one of their upcoming games, they don’t have this apologetic tone or attitude about them. And should they? Nintendo has always believed that their games are for everybody, and they truly believe that if you don’t think a Nintendo game is right for you, give it a play and you’ll at least come across with a smile on your face.

No matter what kind of indie game you develop, have the attitude that there is a chance that anyone who plays it will come away being a fan.

 A focus on the satisfaction of players

Watsham also states that the most important facet of Nintendo’s games is that the main focus is on the satisfaction of the player – and it should be. A game that doesn’t satisfy players is a game that’s fundamentally broken, but unfortunately, we see so many games get released that fail to do exactly that. Nintendo’s games are about what 99% of every game should be about: having fun. Ensure that’s the focus of your indie game too: if players aren’t having fun, you’re, well, not going to have any players.

Honesty – the best policy

Near the end of the article, Watsham says developers need to abide by this rule – a rule that describes Nintendo perfectly:

“…to communicate a product’s qualities, so the audience themselves can determine whether it is something that appeals to them.”

Nintendo does this with every single game, and while it sounds like marketing 101, developers don’t do this as often as they should. If you follow the development of AAA games and especially watch presentations from AAA developers such as at E3, you will quickly find out that when a developer and/or publisher begins to talk about their game, occasionally a lot of BS is thrown around in such a way that you walk away with more questions than you had before.

Nintendo most of the time doesn’t do this. What you will get is what they tell you, and while that doesn’t always result in an awesome game, the truth is you never really feel slighted when buying a Nintendo game. You usually already know what you’re getting, so there’s not really a gamble to buying a Nintendo game or not. They’re honest, and you need to strive to do this with your own indie game.

No smoke and mirrors: describe to the player exactly what they will be getting with your indie game, and if it’s something they like? They’ll probably buy it!

Don’t bother with trying to market your game in such a way that you are tricking people into buying it: be honest like Nintendo, and the rest will fall into place.

Source: Gamasutra

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