EA has had an interesting relationship with Nintendo over the years going all the way back to the 8-bit era on the NES. There have been many games released on many consoles. From the NES to the Wii there has been a healthy amount of games published by EA to appear on each console. No less was expected when former EA boss John Riccitiello went on stage during Nintendo’s 2011 E3 press conference to pledge an “unprecedented relationship” with Nintendo. Apparently the “unprecedented” part meant to abandon the Wii U with Need For Speed:Most Wanted U being the last major EA game to be published by EA on the console. After that the floodgates opened and pretty much all 3rd-party support left the Wii U. EA has made overtures to Nintendo that they would like to repair that business relationship. Should Nintendo trust EA? Let’s examine.
Just six months ago we got a report that EA CEO Andrew Wilson when asked if EA planned to support the NX he said,
“As we look to the future, we see a world where more people are playing on more platforms in more geographies than ever before. We see the platform cycle now not just as a traditional six-year console cycle, but as kind of a six-month refresh rate on mobile devices, smart TVs, Internet-enabled refrigerators, or whatever it might be, and what we’re doing in terms of resource allocation is really investing at a core digital platform level, at an engine level, and at a game architecture level to ensure that we are able to deliver amazing experiences, six inches to 60 inches and beyond, two minutes to two-hour session times and beyond, across any and all relevant devices where gamers are playing.
As it relates to Nintendo, we’ve had a tremendous relationship with them over the years. And we will evaluate any and all opportunities with them in the same way we do all platform opportunities.”
Okay. That sounds good enough. I think more was said about the direction of where gaming could be going than what EA plans to do with NX, but an a-typical response from a CEO that you would expect. Non-committal, yet non-dismissive. Recently the question was asked again on where does EA stand in regards to NX support. The question stems from EA Studios Executive Vice President being asked if the newly announced Battlefield I will be coming to NX. His response was
“I personally and the company are huge fans of Nintendo, they’re the reason why I started making games. We’re in constant communication with them and when they come to market something – and if it makes sense for us – we’ll be there.”
So we go from EA “looking to evaluate any and all opportunities” to “if it makes sense.” Clearly this shows that at least as of right now EA has nothing in development for the NX. Safe bet is that EA has a NX dev-kit so they have the tools necessary to start development on a game even if the final specs of the NX are still being decided. Depending on what architecture the NX will use (which most agree will be x86 or an x86/ARM hybrid) a dev-kit may not even be needed. Especially to port a multiplat such as Battlefield.
My question is, should Nintendo even do business with this company again? This is the same company that stood on YOUR STAGE and told the world world that they had your back, and then pulled support of your main console before it had even been on the market for a year. Now they are basically for all intents and purposes are saying that they’ll make games for the NX if they feel like it.
Now people will say that Nintendo needs to restore their relationship with EA in order to get third-party support back. EA specializes in a lot of genres that virtually go untouched by Nintendo because they aren’t interested in them. EA commands a lot of pull within the industry, and the fact that Nintendo has delayed NX until March 2017 (at the very least) could signify that third-party support for NX has not kicked in like Nintendo hoped thus far and to avoid having the same type of droughts that killed-off a promising start for the Wii U, they are going to double up on first and second-party games to be ready for launch and throughout the year. Sounds like EA kinda has Nintendo over a barrel on the surface, but perhaps not.
The most precious commodity in business is trust. You cannot operate without it. You have Tecmo-Koei telling investors that they started with games in development for NX. You had Square-Enix announcing that they had 2 games coming to NX before they were supposed to. You have the director of Bayonetta from Platinum Games thanking fans of the franchise in a tweet which closed with “look forward to what’s to come” which would signify that at the very least Platinum Games is looking to develop another Bayonetta game in the future on Nintendo hardware.
While because of non-disclosure agreements companies cannot reveal what they are working for unrevealed hardware, but if you have any intentions at all to develop games for a console you are gonna be plain about it. EA seems to be playing games and looking at Nintendo as needing THEM more than they need EA.
I’ve said this before in previous podcasts and I’ll say it again. Nintendo needs to create their OWN third-party support. This company has billions of dollars CASH in the bank. They just sold off their majority stake in the Seattle Mariners and now retain only 10%. The team is worth 1.4 billion. So whatever the amount they get back will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. My point is that Nintendo got bank. It’s time for Nintendo to stop pandering to these third-parties studios and start building back up their second-party studios. Buy Capcom. Buy Konami. Buy Platinum Games. Buy Shin’en Multimedia. Buy NaturalMotion. Continue to do third-party exclusives. Make your first and second party coalition so strong that third-party support becomes an accessory rather than a necessity for the success of the NX.
This all should have been done already, but if you announce the partnerships and accusations of these companies that would turn the gaming world on it’s ear.
What I’m hearing from EA is more of the same rhetoric that I’ve heard from countless studios during the Wii U’s life cycle. Nintendo cannot go through this again. It is still early and we don’t know who is all on board with the NX just yet, but they really need to make sure that they never have to rely on a company like EA to be the lynch-pin that brings third-party support back.