Nintendo discusses how they handle the game development crunch

Anyone who follows the game industry knows about the crunch developers go through. The squeeze time when devs are working their butts off to get a game out by its release date. Long hours are worked, devs get less sleep, and it's a stressful time for everyone involved. Vice wanted to talk to various game companies about how they handle crunch, which is what this interview snippet with Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime focuses on.


V: How is Nintendo committed—and what are you doing now to—to ensure that there is good work-life balance and fair conditions across first party title development, your executive level, your support roles—the stuff happening at Nintendo and hopefully even at close partners? How are you combating an industry wide relationship to crunch that can often be deeply unhealthy.

Fils-Aimé: So look, I can only answer this question from Nintendo of America perspective and for us, crunch happens differently. It's not a development crunch, but it could be a bug check crunch. Or it's a crunch in preparing for an event. Or a crunch in preparing a game to pass our lot check process. Our approach is this: We flex through the use of contract employees. We flex in the way we work with our agency partners. Our mentality is we're going to flex by adding headcount as appropriate to help us get over a crunch. That's the way we approach it.

V: Does that mean bringing on more employees so that work hours don't become extensive?

Fils-Aimé: That's correct.

V: And you have examples of doing that recently? That's just the normal strategy?

Fils-Aimé: That's is our course of business. That's the way we operate. And so we're not asking people to go for a couple days without sleep. We're not asking people to ignore their family and friends and their social life. We're not asking people to do things that are unhealthy. That is not our approach.

V: Do you think that there is as Nintendo, as a platform holder, some ability that... You know, Nintendo can't fix the world, I understand that, but as a platform holder, some ability to attempt to address this industry-wide problem?

Fils-Aimé: Well, again, I believe the best way to lead the is through example. And so what we do is reinforce with the way we encourage our business partners to act with the way that we encourage, if you will, the community that we touch.

And it's not only on work life balance. It's issues like diversity and inclusion. You know, with all of those tough conversations our mentality is that we're going to model the behavior that we want seen. So that's why I have a diverse senior management team. That's why as a black man leading a Japanese company, I feel good about the things that we do to deal with higher order issues and to deal with them in a way that models positive behavior.

Reggie and Takahashi face off against Miyamoto and Mario in Mario Tennis Aces

Oh come on, Nintendo...you can't do that to us. Who was inside the Mario suit? Was it you, Bill Trinen?! WAS IT YOU?!

Nintendo's Reggie says Nintendo doesn't hate Waluigi, making him playable in Smash Bros. Ultimate is Sakurai's decision

What was the big talk coming out of E3 2018? Waluigi wasn't revealed as a playable character in Smash Bros. Ultimate. Waluigi in general has been a hot topic for Nintendo fans for a couple years now, as they'd love to see him get his own game. What's the deal here, and why does Nintendo seem to keep holding Waluigi down? Reggie Fils-Aime talked about all things Waluigi with Vice.

CLEARLY, Nintendo does not hate Waluigi. Because here I am with him as my main character. I mean look, we're making every character that's ever been in a Smash Bros. game available in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. [With faux exhaustion] You would think that would be enough to satisfy the fans. But noooooo! The fans have to focus in on one character that isn't part of the series and to demand their inclusion.

So, one of the good things about the way we approach E3 is when it's all said and done we step back. We look at all of the feedback and share with the devs and certainly Mr. Sakurai will be aware of the groundswell of support that appeared for a Waluigi. And in the end it's his decision to make. Just like when we were getting ready to launch the Wii U and 3DS version there was this groundswell asking for Reggie to be a playable character in the game. I mean...

(further into the interview)

I love that our fans have a passion for our intellectual property that feels so good....it's humbling, but I've got nothing to announce about Waluigi.

Nintendo talks Hollow Knight sales, controls for disabled gamers, Switch Online features, and more

Reggie Fils-Aime sat down with the Vice gang to talk about all sorts of things coming out of E3 2018. In the snippets below you'll get some major talking points, but make sure to hit up the full interview to see everything that was discussed.

On Hollow Knight sales

I can tell you that Hollow Knight on Switch is doing exceptionally well.

On creating controls/control options for disabled gamers

So I'll answers this in two parts.

One, the conversation around accessibility is significant and it's happening at the highest levels of the company from the development standpoint in terms of how do we make sure that every player who wants to engage with our product can. So it's it's a huge topic.

The other piece I'd say is, I was over at the Microsoft booth yesterday. And we had some hands on time with the Adaptive Controller. And this is an area where I believe it's in the best interest of the industry to have the conversation, and to think about the longer term solutions because this is not... I would argue this really isn't a platform specific issue. It's an industry issue of how do we make sure that our content and the ability to play our content is as inclusive as possible.

On Nintendo Switch Online offering new features/updates for already-released games

What I would say is that we've got a number of months until the service launches. We'll continue to provide detail as we go. Right now the message is that it's launching in September. Fundamentally there are three elements to the service: connected play, the cloud saves, and the legacy content. We're going to continue providing more details as we get.

IGN: Multiplayer is a key part of the Switch's experience, but more single-player games are coming, says Nintendo

A lot of Switch games Nintendo showed off at E3 2018 focused on multiplayer content. Should fans of Nintendo's single player experiences worry that Nintendo is moving on? According to an IGN interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, that's not the case.

"A core proposition with Nintendo Switch is the ability to be playing a game and having an experience, seeing someone looking over at what you're doing, and the ability to just pop out a controller, hand it to someone, and to jump into a multiplayer experience really is a key part of the proposition. [Multiplayer experiences are] not exclusive, so we will still have these wonderful single-player experiences like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The ability to have a multiplayer experience was a key part of the thinking for the Nintendo Switch."

Nintendo says their tech team is working with EA to make FIFA 19 the best it can be

From the hands-on impressions we've come across, it seems like FIFA 19 is going to be a much improved version of last year's Switch outing. How is EA pulling off a better game this time around? Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime says EA and Nintendo are working together to make things better.

“How do you take a game like FIFA, built on the Frostbite engine, and have it look and play as well on our platform as it does elsewhere? Our technical team is working with their technical teams and development community to bring that to life.”

Nintendo is happy Sony/Microsoft don't cater to the younger generation, as it lets Nintendo foster lifelong fans

Sony and Microsoft may have some games on their platforms that are friendly to all ages, but they're output is nothing like Nintendo. The Big N creates franchises that can be enjoyed by all ages, and is usually more than appropriate for even the youngest of kids. According to Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime, they're happy that Sony/Microsoft don't pay much attention to the younger crowd.

“We are happy that they don’t. It’s been an incredibly important market because the kid who’s 5 or 6 today is going to be 12 or 13 and not all that many years later 18 or 19 … And when you have an affinity for Pokémon or The Legend of Zelda series or Mario Kart or Super Mario Bros. that affinity carries with you.”

Nintendo says Switch has done well due to its positioning and proposition, which is where Wii U faltered

The Wii U was not a good console for Nintendo. Audiences never seemed to have much interest in it, and it was a solid downward slide from day one. The Switch has been the exact opposite, skyrocketing to success from launch. What made the difference between the two platforms? Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime had this to say.

“We have a lot of momentum out there. It’s wonderful. But we also know that in this games business, things change quickly. What we’ve been able to do with Nintendo Switch is a number of very important things. First, we’ve been incredibly clear with the positioning of the product. Why should you purchase this device? Well, it’s because you can play this great content, anywhere, anytime with anyone. Tell me what the Wii U proposition was in 10 words or less. We weren’t as incredibly clear.”

Nintendo talks Smash Bros. Ultimate being a new game, and engaging more with the eSports scene

Nintendo certainly seems like they're warming up to the eSports scene, and that trend continued with Nintendo's focus on Smash Bros. Ultimate during E3. In an interview with Forbes, Reggie Fils-Aime discussed Smash Bros. Ultimate as a completely new game, as well as how it leads into Nintendo's embracing of eSports and the competitive Smash scene.

First, we did go into a lot of detail on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and we did that to make sure consumers across the globe really understood that this is a brand-new Smash Bros. game, with every character from past Smash Bros. games included with updates to the gameplay mechanics. It was very important to drive home that message. That said, the unique thing about Smash Bros. is that it's a great couch co-op game for consumers who aren't all that familiar with the game. They can very much pick up and start smashing right away.

But to the second part of your question, the competitive scene: We have been doing more and more with the competitive Smash scene. We've supported EVO, we've supported a number of the other tournaments. And the Nintendo philosophy is this: We want to first obviously provide a game that really is well-suited for the competitive activity. Certainly Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, we believe, will deliver on that regard. But the other thing that we worked with the EVOs of the world is to have some consistency in the format of the tournaments to make sure that the best players do have an opportunity to compete. And those activities will continue. We believe that letting the communities grow around Smash Bros. as a competitive experience is good for Nintendo and it's good for the pro players of Smash Bros.

Nintendo Power Podcast #6 - Special E3 2018 Episode: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Reggie & More!

Host Chris Slate is joined by Kit Ellis and Krysta Yang from Nintendo Minute to discuss all things Nintendo from E3 2018, from big announcements to tournaments to the amazing new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate game for the Nintendo Switch system. The team also welcomes two special guests to the show: the winner of the Super Smash Bros. Invitational 2018, ZeRo, and the President and COO of Nintendo of America himself, Reggie Fils-Aimé!

00:00 – Introduction
00:15 – Reggie Fils-Aimé
23:00 – Super Smash Bros. Invitational 2018 Winner
47:50 – Our Favorite Moments from E3 2018
58:32 – Signoff