Today Nintendo shared the news that Metroid Prime 4 would have to be delayed as they are bringing on Retro Studios and restarting from zero with development of the game. However this disappointing news served to create something positive, as the overwhelming response from gamers has been one of patience understanding. The announcement video sits at over 90k likes, and the community is applauding Nintendo for their transparency with this delay, others are even more optimistic on the title as the news of Nintendo bringing on Retro Studios is something they had hoped for from the start. This air of understanding is truly a golden moment, a golden moment that Nintendo created by approaching the community with respect and transparency.
In this age of game studios that engage in questionable practices and then berate the gaming community as unintelligent, toxic, and a myriad of other labels, to defend against all criticism, the relationship between gamers and game studios has become terribly adversarial. In this era where EA Games executives are calling the community “unintelligent” and telling them not to buy the game, where Bethesda bans players from games for discovering dev rooms, and Blizzard chides a live audience of their most loyal and dedicated fans daring to be disappointed in the announcement of a mobile game over the game the fans had been expecting for years on end. It comes as no surprise that gamers have become jaded and cynical, expecting nothing less that deceit, disrespect, and to be treated with the utmost contempt by the game makers.
Nintendo sets a great model for how game developers should handle their fans, their decision to treat the community with the decency to be up front with them about the delay, the reasons for the delay, and what their plan is going forward. This is the latest in a step-by-step approach the company has been taking to communicate and interact more directly with their fans. This sprung from Satoru Iwata’s concept of Nintendo Directs, forgoing the circus of flashy style-over-substance press events, and presenting the games and information direct and unfiltered to the community. The community has responded by embracing these Nintendo Directs to the point that they have become events unto themselves. To speak so directly, and honestly to the community about a delay in a much-anticipated title comes as a breath of fresh air in an industry where the game makers typically bury bad news, which typically has to be dug up and brought to light by outside parties, and attempt to head off all criticism by calling any descent entitlement and toxicity.
While it is true that there are people that behave badly, as there are in all aspects of life, the overwhelming majority of the gaming community are good people, hard-working, enthusiastic, passionate. They welcome challenges, and create and adjust to change quickly. The myth of the gaming community being toxic by default is perpetuated by people and companies that themselves are not acting in good faith. A community that is truly toxic and entitled, and all of the epitaphs that have been careless tacked on the community would never have embraced this news with the grace, respect and understanding that I have seen from the community today.
If more game studios would follow the example Nintendo is setting of approaching the fans with and open transparency about the games they make, this industry could finally turn the corner back towards the civility and respect that allows the gamers, and the game studios that truly have a passion for creating games for everyone to enjoy, to flourish.