Former Nintendo executive Dan Adelman has provided frank insight into the Japanese platform holder’s inner workings.
Adelman, who was one of Nintendo’s most important developer liaisons, left in August 2014. One of the first things he did was say that Nintendo had issued a gag order on his social media use, and shortly thereafter called the Wii U’s name “abysmal”.
He hasn’t stopped entertaining and educating us since, and in a new interview with Dromble, gave some very interesting comments regarding why Nintendo is comparatively slow to embrace new ideas and practices.
“They’re very traditional, and very focused on hierarchy and group decision making,” Adelman said of the company’s structure.
“Unfortunately, that creates a culture where everyone is an advisor and no one is a decision maker – but almost everyone has veto power. Even Mr. Iwata is often loathe to make a decision that will alienate one of the executives in Japan.”
Adelman said that getting anything done involves a great deal of groundwork bringing different groups on board, and is even harder for those outside Japan, because the whole process has to be repeated at multiple levels.
“All of this is not necessarily a bad thing, though it can be very inefficient and time consuming,” he added.
“The biggest risk is that at any step in that process, if someone flat out says no, the proposal is as good as dead. So in general, bolder ideas don’t get through the process unless they originate at the top.”
That’s not the only issue, either.
“The most senior executives at the company cut their teeth during NES and Super NES days and do not really understand modern gaming, so adopting things like online gaming, account systems, friends lists, as well as understanding the rise of PC gaming has been very slow,” Adelman said.
“Ideas often get shut down prematurely just because some people with the power to veto an idea simply don’t understand it.
“There is very little reason to try and push these ideas. Risk taking is generally not really rewarded. Long-term loyalty is ultimately what gets rewarded, so the easiest path is simply to stay the course.”
Oof. The full interview is pretty much mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in Nintendo, and you should definitely read it just to get Adelman’s comments in their full context.