Nintendo's Kyoto Office

Dan Adelman finished his nine year tenure as an executive for Nintendo last year. When he left, he was in charge of working with indie developers and building up the eShop service. According to most, he was fantastic at his job.

Now in the wake of his voluntary departure to become a consultant, Adelman did an interview with Dromble in order to talk about where he is and where he came from. In that interview, Emily Rogers (the writer of the piece) asks Adelman about the red tape and bureaucracy within the ranks of Nintendo. His response is sort of fascinating.

Adelman starts by talking about Nintendo as it relates to its home city and the rest of Japan.

"Nintendo is not only a Japanese company, it is a Kyoto-based company. For people who aren't familiar, Kyoto-based are to Japanese companies as Japanese companies are to US companies. They're very traditional, and very focused on hierarchy and group decision making. Unfortunately, that creates a culture where everyone is an advisor and no one is a decision maker – but almost everyone has veto power."

He explains that all this focus on hierarchy means that it's tough for decisions to be made. The biggest problem? Stuff gets snuffed out quickly.

"The biggest risk is that at any step in that process, if someone flat out says no, the proposal is as good as dead. So in general, bolder ideas don't get through the process unless they originate at the top."

Adelman goes on to talk about the very nature of the hierarchical companies and how the top-tier executives are the oldest members of the team. The problem?

"…it winds up being that the most senior executives at the company cut their teeth during NES and Super NES days and do not really understand modern gaming, so adopting things like online gaming, account systems, friends lists, as well as understanding the rise of PC gaming has been very slow. Ideas often get shut down prematurely just because some people with the power to veto an idea simply don't understand it."

According to Adelman, the company is so caught up in old Japanese corporate ways that it's really hard for things to change in sweeping motions. This isn't really a surprise given what Nintendo's done over its existence, but a lot of what Adelman talks about sort of confirms what outsiders have thought all along.

Nintendo is a slow moving beast. It's capable of wonderful things, and its pace of development oftentimes creates much better made games than other companies, but it's slow to change.

I'm not really surprised by this, are you?