GDC: Iwata warns developers

In his GDC 2011 keynote "Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future", Nintendo president Satoru Iwata issued a serious warning to developers on the danger posed to their future by the rush to mobile apps. He pointed out that to phone companies, it is a matter of quantity, and that they have no motivation to maintain the quality of video games. "The value of videogame software does not matter to them," Iwata said. He followed up saying, "We produce value; we should protect that value." By comparison, he said that Nintendo sees hardware as something people reluctantly purchase so that they can play the games they want to.

In the bigger sense, Iwata noted three concerns he holds for the future. First, he discussed how the tremendous scope of modern games undermines craftsmanship. He said that there's simply not the ability to polish things over and over, no matter how much money, time, and talent are involved. Second, he wondered where the next generation of "master game creators" who can see the overall vision of a game will come from in an era of development teams made up of specialists. And finally, the divide in the business, as he warned about with regard to mobile apps, he feels could threaten the very livelihood of game developers.

To combat these issues he offered two directions to get games noticed and rise above the rabble. To start, Iwata offered that in the modern era games must show their central appeal with the first 10 minutes. The other point he offered was the unique nature of a game must be something anyone can quickly and easily describe. Only then can it be shared, leading to it reaching the tipping point at which the game begins to sell itself.

In closing, Iwata said that innovation holds the key. At Nintendo, he said, they have always looked for that which people thought was impossible, and then made it possible. "Trust your passion; believe in your dream," he said.