January 10, 2009

What Doesn't Get You Published: A Lesson in the Video Game Industry

I keep up with GamePolitics.com religiously these days.  Blame The Boyfriend, since he's been introducing me to a lot of good gaming news sites.   So today I wake up to see an article about a guy who attempted to lock himself in his room for 100 days to protest against Nintendo.

"But why would a man do this d20 Sapphire?" you might be asking right now.

This guy (named Robert Pelloni, or Bob) ambitiously created what he calls a "2D adventure game with focus on story, puzzles, item collection and communication" rather than battle sequences.  I may be wrong, but isn't that an RPG?  Sorry, I'll get to my gripes later.

Bob has spent years on this game that he was hoping to port to the DS.  He claims he just needed to purchase a DVD from Nintendo with software that would allow his game to be retail ready.  He contacted Nintendo, he fits all the requirements necessary to legitimately purchase this software, and after being given the run around, Nintendo says they'll here from him in 6-8 weeks.  He waited 17 weeks.  

Bob finds this unacceptable, so he decides to lock himself in his room for 100 days to protest against Nintendo in order to get this software.  I'm sorry... but protest?  When I think of protest  I think of people who are fighting for their human rights or against mistreatment by authority figures.  I think of Martin Luther King Jr. marching down the streets of Chicago for fair and equal housing.  I think of the Suffragette Movement when women starved themselves outside of Congress in order to have the right to vote.  I think of the sit-ins by workers who were being mistreated by their employers during the Industrial Revolution.  I do not think of one guy who made a game and wants a multi-million dollar corporation to take him seriously, because you're no longer talking about what people's rights are.  You're talking about business.

Business is unfair and unjust because it doesn't need to be fair and just 100% of the time.  If Nintendo is not interested in your business, it can refuse to help you develop your game.  It's that simple.  Bob could try to convince them in letters, in game demos, in calling the office as much as possible, but if Nintendo doesn't want to give him the software, it doesn't have to ever.  Protesting was not the right way to go about this.   Finding another way for Nintendo to take the game seriously should've been on Bob's agenda.

My biggest gripe with this is that Bob seems to think he has the right to this software.  But it isn't a right, it's a privilege.  I understand he's up to par with the requirements, but this isn't like a driver's license.  This is not a government-sanctioned permit or something.  It's an opportunity that is given to someone by Nintendo.  It is a privilege to be able to work with such a company.

There are plenty of instances where good game ideas get screwed over.  The Boyfriend has had experience with that.  I won't go into details because it isn't my story to tell, but he essentially had a good game idea, and one of the three console companies loved it and said they just wanted a publisher.  No publishers stepped up to the plate, and one or two even blatantly tried to steal the idea instead of helping The Boyfriend and his company.  It was a big bummer, and now the company is trying stuff again.  But The Boyfriend didn't think he had the right to have a publisher pick him up.  He accepted the road block as part of the business world, which is harsh but something all entrepreneurs have to live with.  Now he and his company are working on other projects in hopes of gaining some ground.  Business isn't fair, and it's a privilege to have a company believe in your idea enough to invest in you, whether you earned it with hard word or not.

In the end, Bob couldn't even finish his protest and stopped after 30 days.  Even as his protested died his arrogance got the best of him.  Look at the news portion of his horribly designed site (horribly designed because I had to scroll a long way to discover there was a news section on his site) and see what he says during his lock-in, and after.  I don't think insulting Nintendo during the protest to plea with them gains you any favor, Bob.  Saying "I am far better than Miyamoto, Itoi, Kojima, Carmack and Wright COMBINED" shows a lack of respect for the same company that you wish to gain favor in.  That's just bad public relations, Bob.  Just as bad as the youtube video that involves you working on your game in nothing but your boxers.  Could you at least put a shirt on?  Most other people do while they're working.

There are things I think about the game to, such as I think it's an RPG rather than an adventure game, and I think it's hard to trust a product that complex made by one man since he could be a jack of all trades and a master at none, making everything just plain old average.  But this isn't what my post is about.  My post is admitting that the business world, even for video games, isn't the nicest place.  If you want to work in that world, you have to accept that sometimes you're not going to get what you want and there's nothing you can do about it.

In all honesty, good luck Bob.  At least you have the ambition and drive to finish such a huge product.  I hope you do get something out of it.


  1. According to Nintendo's Software Development Support group (warioworld.com):

    An Authorized Developer will have demonstrated the ability to develop and program excellent software for Nintendo video game systems or for other game platforms . In addition, an Authorized Developer will have a stable business organization with secure office facilities separate from a personal residence ( Home offices do not meet this requirement ), sufficient resources to insure the security of Nintendo confidential information and in order to ensure an effective environment for working with Nintendo and/or its Publishers. Nintendo provides Authorized Developers with highly confidential information and many of Nintendo's Publishers also rely on recommendations and referrals to Authorized Developers. For these reasons, Nintendo exercises a very high level of care in evaluating Authorized Developers.

    Bob is not at all acting professional, which is something you'd expect at least a little from someone who spent 5 years working on a game, even if it was in his boxers.

    Also, there is no way in HELL he can compare to Miyamoto, a person called the Walt Disney of video Games, a person knighted by france for his work, a person who was on Time Magazines Top 100 for Person of the Year in 2007 and won in 2008. Bob just has too much ego for his own good.

  2. I guess there's a reason Nintendo's been around since the 1800's. And it's probably not Bob.