Nintendo EPD - Development Process

Nintendo's entrance into the HD and "3D" market was a huge transition affecting the amount of development staff required for retail game production. This same hardware transition previously witnessed all the big Japanese publishers shrink their once prolific calendar releases to a meager and cautious list of yearly games. Nintendo's answer to one of those specific hurdles has been embracing a multi-developer structure [B]for their own internal games[/B]. While previously, or generally, the phrase "co-development" could be gratuitously used when Nintendo published a game developed by an external company, the phrase has taken on a more concrete form in regards to a practice of R&D and subsidiary and contract company cooperation.

Miyamoto and Eguchi embraced a new development culture for their internal teams to not only develop the same amount of games despite the large increase in staff (and money) across the board, but Miyamoto actually challenged his teams to release more games.

How would this be done? Internally at Nintendo's EPD Division (housing about 10 production units, each unit usually working on 2 properties at a time), game development has been broken down into the following:

1. Mega Game Internal Development (w / asset support)
Examples: Splatoon, Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3
This scenario is where the game is prototyped and then fully developed internally at Nintendo EPD. Obviously, like all HD games developed in Japan, there are additional assets contributed by internal and external assistants.

2. Prototype Development with Full Production Co-Development
Examples: Steel Diver, Wii Sports Club, Star Fox Zero
This scenario is where the game is prototyped internally, usually meaning the basic mechanics and templates are programmed and designed internally, but there isn't a full production staff to complete the game. Nintendo then partners with another agency to continue working with the prototype and co-developing a finished product.

3. Sourcing Engine And Producing a Remaster
Examples: Star Fox 64 3D, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D
This scenario is where Nintendo EPD provides source engine of a previously released game to an agency, and handles some basics like music and sound remastering, while the outside agency ports and reworks most of the game.

4. Creating Games With Small Art Staffs or Recycling Assets
Examples: Super Mario Maker, New Super Luigi U, Captain Toad
This scenario is a twofold concept involving creating new game content while reusing graphics (like NLSU or Toad) or new concepts that don't rely on much assets at all (like Flipnote Studio or Tap Amiibo: Greatest Bits).

5. External Production
Examples: Style Savvy, Fire Emblem x Shin Megami Tensei
This development process involves production and planning taking place internally, alongside the procurement of an external developer to facilitate main development of software. In addition to producing and planning the title; other elements like music, sound effects, network, and technical support are provided from internal resources at Nintendo.

6. Licensing IP
Examples: Hyrule Warriors, Fortune Street
The exception where Nintendo's EPD group supervises the licensing of an IP. No production or development is involved outside of minor supervision.


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