Let’s be honest—video game fans are always clamoring for news about upcoming titles. From devouring magazines to traveling to conventions, fans have been devoted to following the development of games they want to play because, unlike mediums such as books or films, video games are an immensely interactive art form that requires one’s direct physical input to experience.
We are the heroes; we are the ones controlling the story and action via our controller or keyboard. This is probably why there has been so much support for games on Kickstarter over the past few years. Fans want to be involved and want companies to match their level of involvement. When a game they’ve been following and supporting for years gets canceled or delayed, fans want to know why.While the news about Metroid Prime 4 is important, the way the news was delivered is just as important, if not more so.
Last week, Nintendo fans woke up to a bittersweet video uploaded to Nintendo’s YouTube channel. The video features Nintendo’s Senior Managing Executive Officer, Shinya Takahashi, speaking directly to fans about the development of the highly-anticipated Nintendo Switch game, Metroid Prime 4. Takahashi explains that the current development has not met Nintendo’s standards for what they believe a Metroid Prime game should be like. As a result, Takahashi mentions that they’re restarting development from scratch with the original trilogy’s team, Retro Studios, at the helm. This means fans will have to wait another few years before they can get their hands on Metroid for their Switch.
While the news about Metroid Prime 4 is important, the way the news was delivered is just as important, if not more so. Recent years have arguably been the most cynical in regards to developers’ transparency. From EA cancelling Star Wars games to the abrupt closure of Telltale Games, these events were unexpected, and it was understandable for fans to feel betrayed since they were given the impression that everything was fine. Granted, the game industry is just like any business. It makes sense for a business not to disclose any internal problems they might be facing but, a little transparency for their customers (i.e. the fanbase) can go a long way.
That’s why what Nintendo did is so refreshing.
The video they released is simple, straightforward, and intimate, not unlike the early Nintendo Directs with the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. Takahashi makes clear that he’s talking to their fans, mentioning the wonderful reception they received when they announced Metroid Prime 4 at E3 2017, then moving on to discuss the standards they set for themselves and how they were restarting with the fan-favorite studio of the series. Nintendo had every right to hide these development issues. It’s quite possible that if this information had leaked or come from anyone else, the general reception would not have been nearly as positive as it has been.
Yet by being open, honest, and transparent, Nintendo has garnered admiration. They’re treating the customers of their product as people and fans, not just as vessels to make them money. By using social media to deliver this message, Nintendo knew they would be reaching out to the fans first rather than releasing the information in a press release or via an investor’s meeting. Nintendo made the effort to be personal, making them appear more human instead of appearing as a giant company. This is one reason Kickstarted indie games have such devoted fanbases. The developers regularly give updates to their supporters and let them know the struggles and challenges they go through during the developmental process. Just like in real life, when people are open and honest with us, it is much more likely that we will build a trusting relationship with them, and Nintendo is doing just that by being transparent.Yet by being open, honest, and transparent, Nintendo has garnered admiration. They’re treating the customers of their product as people and fans, not just as vessels to make them money.
We should also not take light of the fact that Nintendo is restarting development from the ground up either. That’s at least two years of work (and money) that has been, for lack of a better word, wasted. Metroid, while being considered one of the Big N’s main staples, has never really had the sales figures that Mario and The Legend of Zelda have experienced. Nintendo is putting the money where their mouth is, and if that doesn’t show commitment to a game and its fanbase, then I don’t know what does.
Although no one ever wants to appear weak or struggling, if you’re open with others, people will typically be understanding and forgiving, and the same can be said for companies and organizations as well. It doesn’t take much. I’m not saying big AAA studios should be sending out developer updates every week, but just a little personal message via a YouTube video can make a world of difference in regards to public perception. Nintendo and Takahashi have shown that, even when big companies are involved, honesty is still the best policy. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see this level of transparency from Nintendo. It wouldn’t hurt to see other companies follow suit.