Last week, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said he regretted going it alone with the Wii, which was an odd regret given the machine's massive success. Was something lost in translation? Today, we get a look at how Nintendo itself translated Iwata's remarks. Suddenly the regret is more clear... and more understandable.
The specific problem, Iwata noted in a Q&A with Investors that has now been translated, is that the Wii didn't have a good networking infrastructure. It won't come to any avid gamer or Web user as news that the Wii, though supported with built-in Wi-Fi and an online shop, was slow to connect to the Web, lacking in online features and nearly barren of any convenient web-enabled social features.
"Honestly speaking, Wii's future could have been different if Nintendo had made better partnerships with outside companies in the field of network services at the early stages of the penetration of Wii," he said. "In other words, Nintendo might have been a little obsessed with the policy "Jimae-shugi" ["doing things by one's bootstraps"] at that time. Although we have already put ourselves back on track, we would like to clearly differentiate what is our true strength from what we can basically do by ourselves but can be done better by more skillful outside specialists in order not to fall into that trap again. You may be aware of some features which I am implying now in relation to the future developments of Nintendo 3DS and Wii's successor system that we announced yesterday. I am sorry I cannot say anything more specific today."
"In the field of networks in particular, I admit that we cannot do business in pace with the changes in the world and the requests from consumers only within our company."
The vague comments confirm that Iwata was dissatisfied with the Internet set-up for the Wii and suggest that new arrangements are underway for the Wii's successor and the 3DS. He admitted that this is just not Nintendo's strength:
"In the field of networks in particular, however, I admit that we cannot do business in pace with the changes in the world and the requests from consumers only within our company and with development companies we have long been in touch with. I am not sure which term suits us as collaborations for this purpose, M&A [merger and acquisition] or partnership. Anyway, I feel that we would spoil the party in a negative way if 'we sticked to create everything by ourselves' based on the policy 'Jimae-shugi,' and eventually it would make our business slow."
Iwata also seems prepped to solve another variation of going-it-alone issue that has sometimes bedeviled Nintendo: support from third-party developers and publishers. On the DS, Iwata said, support was good, but he believes that the Wii struggled to draw that support due to a variety of issues. Taking the lead from a questioner's suggestion that that problem was the Wii's inferior graphics capability, compared to that of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3's, he said: " Wii is good in some areas but not in others, so especially for games like Call of Duty, the Wii version sold pretty well [Note from Kotaku: In some cases, over a million copies], but the unit sales were very different from the versions of other platforms, and I assume that one of the reasons is the issue with the graphical representations which you mentioned before, and also, the consumers who like that kind of game will have other platforms at home as well, which led to this result."
Iwata signaled that this will change for Nintendo's next console, which is slated for release next year: "Of course, we would like to cooperate with software developers for Wii's successor, and as I am repeatedly saying, I don't believe Nintendo can carry out everything alone. I am saying that we are responsible for building up the market, but I don't think that Nintendo can maintain the market alone; We are aiming for creating a situation where software publishers will be willing to cooperate. As for commenting on such things as the performance, I already stated in the beginning that I would not mention any specific plans. Thank you for your understanding."
The Wii was a huge success for many reasons, but its failings in online gaming and in attracting broad, high-caliber third party development have been obvious to Wii gamers and the press for a long time. Clearly, they're crystal clear to the president of Nintendo as well.