Nintendo is going through the same growing pains Xbox 360 and PS3 developers went through seven years ago. Producing for HD consoles is much more resource intensive, not to mention costly. This rise in price led to a slow down in production, and the rise of staff sizes to exceed the 120-150 mark, almost double the average studio size in the previous generation.
“When it comes to the scale of software development, Wii U with HD graphics requires about twice the human resources than before,” Miyamoto said. “Please allow me to explain that we may have underestimated the scale of this change and as a result, the overall software development took more time than originally anticipated just as we tried to polish the software at the completion phase of development. However, we are almost out of this phase, and we are also trying to create something unique utilizing an easier development approach called ‘Nintendo Web Framework.’”
Nintendo maintained their small development size, because it allows for a closer group, and a more focused development team. The downside is development takes much longer. Take Pikmin 3 for example, it was rumored as far back as 2010, and was originally a Wii game, but got pushed to WiiU, and had to be rebuilt from the ground up for the new console.. Pikmin 3 was supposed to be a launch game, then a launch window game, it’s almost a 1/2 year passed the launch date and it still hasn’t hit store shelves.
To compete in the current market Nintendo can’t maintain their current work practices. They’ll either need to increase staff size, outsource more labor intensive assets, cut corners, or make smaller games. Whatever they do it needs to happen quickly.
Personally I would love if Nintendo started handing out their older first parties to other companies. Retro Studios has already done an excellent job with both Metroid and Donkey Kong, and Next Level Games has done surprising well with both Punch Out for Wii and Luigi’s Mansion 2. Both of whom are western studios that have handled very well multiple Nintendo IPs, all while maintaining a tone that is still quintessentially Nintendo.