Last week I made the rather bold prediction that Nintendo’s strategy with Miiverse involves shifting online discussions about gaming from typical browser-based formats to a Nintendo-branded console-native social network in order to more directly and effectively connect gamers. Based on a recent Kotaku interview with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, I wasn’t too off the mark – but Nintendo is aiming even bigger. They’re not only seeking to make Miiverse an alternative to the gaming message boards, they’re seeking to make Miiverse a more gamer-friendly alternative to the big social networks like Facebook.
“We have reached an era where even a single-player game experience [can] have a social component that is very important. And I think, again, that social component is mandatory. Early on, when I played a Mario game, it was really fun for me to sit and chat with my friends about, ‘Hey I found coins over here, there’s a hidden place.’ [or] ‘This is how far I got.’ That interaction was great. It was really a lot of fun, and I think you’ll agree that [it was also great] to help your friends in playing a Zelda game by saying, ‘Hey, this is how you get past this boss or solve this puzzle.’
“Of course the Internet does provide a lot of that interaction, but it’s not built for that purpose. For example, Facebook is something that connects you socially with a lot of different folks, but that doesn’t guarantee that the people you are going to have interactions with via Facebook are interested in games. And what I’m saying is that I don’t believe that the life experiences that you have—and those might be with the people you are connected with on Facebook—are not equal to the gaming experiences you might have with a lot of different folks.”
It’s pretty true – Facebook is a platform more suited towards sharing general life experiences, not gaming-related ones. There’s just no avoiding the fact that most of my friends on Facebook aren’t huge gamers. Miiverse is designed to remedy that. No matter what, you know when you talk about your favorite games on Nintendo’s social network, you’ll know that the other users you might encounter online are interested in video games as well.
Read on for a few more comments from Mr. Iwata.
I feel that we need to create—or present—a gaming platform as the place to create that ‘social graph’ for folks who are in gaming circles, I guess. So that’s kind of the reason for creating Miiverse. When we looked at the timing of how we are going to be implementing it, [we said], ‘Okay, when are the best points when people want to have social interactions and makes them want to reach out and say, “Me too,” “I did that,” “I feel the same way,”?’ I think, on a very human level, that is what will give them a sense of satisfaction.
If you look at gaming services, for example if you look at Xbox Live, one of the more traditionally or generally accepted features of the gaming service is the ability to play with folks at different locations at the same time. On the other hand, you’re not always going to be available at the same time to play with each other. And of course we’re going to have that service of head-to-head [multiplayer, when you are] on at the same time playing games against each other, but what we really want to do is create a place where folks who are playing by themselves will not feel like they are playing by themselves. They’ll be able to share those experiences and have that empathy that we mentioned earlier.
So with Miiverse, “connection” to other players doesn’t just mean linking up with them to play together. It also means adding that feeling that you are only part of a much wider community of people who are all enjoying the same games together. This goes a little bit deeper than simply having a network set apart for Nintendo gamers in general.
For example, I recently picked up the niche Wii RPG The Last Story. I’m just itching to share and compare my experiences with others, to give and receive tips on how to get the most out of the game… but the problem is, the game’s not that widespread, and there simply aren’t that many people that I can find in my usual circles who are talking about it. With Miiverse, everyone who’s playing the game can easily link up with anyone else who’s enjoying it as well, since each software title will have its own mini-community within the network.
Will this be enough to get people to participate actively in the Miiverse community? In particular, will it add enough to draw Xbox and PlayStation users to the online side of the platform? That’ll depend in the end on how robust the head-to-head and cooperative play components wind up being I’m sure, but it’ll also depend on how well Miiverse can truly capture what Nintendo seems to believe it represents.
In the meantime, I’m honestly rather sick of Facebook: I don’t really feel like it offers any meaningful connections between me and my friends. A more interests-based network seems like it’d suit my online interaction needs much better. We’ll see if Nintendo’s approach satisfies in the coming months.