Miyamoto vs. Malstrom: user generated content edition.


Sponsored by Pinchpenny. It's also a website about video games.
You guys remember Sean Malstrom, that guy who writes extremely long articles about Nintendo's business strategies?  He thinks Nintendo's biggest figurehead should retire.  Shigeru Miyamoto... retire?  His beef with Shigs is about his comments about user generated content which Shiggy-san is very much open to. 
 
"This is an area that I have a lot of interest in, and I think that the side-scrolling Mario games in particular are well suited to that idea." - Shigeru Miyamoto 
 
Malstrom picks him apart about this subject stating that, "There has been no success stories of User Generated Content in any for on any medium.  Any "success" is something that is given away free and has users but not customers such as Wikipedia or Youtube (and YouTube still loses money!)."  And he goes on and on ad nauseum.  He does make some valid points even though I disagree with his opinion.  He makes a good argument about users wanting professional content more than anything and yes, he's got a point.  Let's take the user generated Mario game as an example.  I'm sure with the right tools I can make a pretty decent 2D Mario level complete with warp pipes, blocks, the usual Mario stuff, but would my creations pass Nintendo's strict quality standards?  I assure you that I'd be kicked out of Kyoto and be sent back to America in shame.  The problem with user generated content is you have to weed out the coal in order to find the diamonds.  Look at Super Smash Bros. Brawl's level editor and then look at the dozens of professional-grade stages.  Night and day in terms of quality.  Of course, the level editor is pretty simple even by level editor standards, but we're limited to what is given to us... at least on consoles. 
 
In fact, this doesn't concern the PC since you can simply hand over the source code if you want great user generated material.  Garry's Mod is probably the biggest example of that. 
 
Where Malstrom gets it wrong is the so-called lack of success of such games when in fact some games did well in recent years almost solely based on user generated content.  LittleBigPlanet might not be the biggest seller of 2008, but it wasn't a flop.  LBP managed to sell over a million, win several awards, and sell enough to warrant a PSP version and a likely PS3/4 sequel.  Then there's Spore which sold a ton despite some being disappointed with the execution.  I'm sure the people at Maxis were not expecting sales at Sims levels despite the hype surrounding it, but Spore keeps on going strong.  Even Wii Music only flopped by Wii (insert name here) standards.  That total music sandbox sold over 2 million, numbers some developers would die to have.  Perhaps I'm trying to force myself to believe that these are successes, but I'm sure they were all moneymakers for their respective companies. 
 
I think his complaint stems from the theory that we don't like making our own levels and characters and not like playing the creations of other people unless they work for Nintendo, Sony, Valve, etc.  We as gamers want quality content from the developers themselves, no disputing that, but a good mix of the professional and the amateur like we saw last year with LittleBigPlanet seems to work well for everyone.  Imagine the money Nintendo would be rolling in now if they took the LittleBigPlanet formula, streamlined the Wii's online clusterfuck, and used it with the Mario brand.  That's all the money in Japan going to Nintendo right there.  Maybe the catch with these create-your-own platformers is not the amount of variety and the ability to play World 1-1 on another game, but the thought that you can make World 1-1 and show it off to the world.  It's very simple, really.  Give us the tools we need and the flexability to change whatever we want (physics, textures, audio) and see a game with user generated content flourish!  The "serious mod makers" as he puts it might never be satisfied, but the average user could live within certain boundaries as long as we have enough freedom.  Plus, there's the Field of Dreams approach where if you build it, they will come.  A strong community of level designers can turn a solid game into an epic one. 
 
Quite honestly, I would be thrilled if Nintendo did make a 2D Mario game with a robust level editor... it would make my year, maybe my decade if they threw in some Kuribo's Shoe.  I don't see it happening in the near future, but I think this is the push we need to get user generated content into the mainstream. 
 
And for the record, Wii Music was not a success as a "game"... I think most of us can agree on that. 
 
Oh, here's a link to today's sponsor.
2 Comments
2 Comments
Posted by Dalai

Sponsored by Pinchpenny. It's also a website about video games.
You guys remember Sean Malstrom, that guy who writes extremely long articles about Nintendo's business strategies?  He thinks Nintendo's biggest figurehead should retire.  Shigeru Miyamoto... retire?  His beef with Shigs is about his comments about user generated content which Shiggy-san is very much open to. 
 
"This is an area that I have a lot of interest in, and I think that the side-scrolling Mario games in particular are well suited to that idea." - Shigeru Miyamoto 
 
Malstrom picks him apart about this subject stating that, "There has been no success stories of User Generated Content in any for on any medium.  Any "success" is something that is given away free and has users but not customers such as Wikipedia or Youtube (and YouTube still loses money!)."  And he goes on and on ad nauseum.  He does make some valid points even though I disagree with his opinion.  He makes a good argument about users wanting professional content more than anything and yes, he's got a point.  Let's take the user generated Mario game as an example.  I'm sure with the right tools I can make a pretty decent 2D Mario level complete with warp pipes, blocks, the usual Mario stuff, but would my creations pass Nintendo's strict quality standards?  I assure you that I'd be kicked out of Kyoto and be sent back to America in shame.  The problem with user generated content is you have to weed out the coal in order to find the diamonds.  Look at Super Smash Bros. Brawl's level editor and then look at the dozens of professional-grade stages.  Night and day in terms of quality.  Of course, the level editor is pretty simple even by level editor standards, but we're limited to what is given to us... at least on consoles. 
 
In fact, this doesn't concern the PC since you can simply hand over the source code if you want great user generated material.  Garry's Mod is probably the biggest example of that. 
 
Where Malstrom gets it wrong is the so-called lack of success of such games when in fact some games did well in recent years almost solely based on user generated content.  LittleBigPlanet might not be the biggest seller of 2008, but it wasn't a flop.  LBP managed to sell over a million, win several awards, and sell enough to warrant a PSP version and a likely PS3/4 sequel.  Then there's Spore which sold a ton despite some being disappointed with the execution.  I'm sure the people at Maxis were not expecting sales at Sims levels despite the hype surrounding it, but Spore keeps on going strong.  Even Wii Music only flopped by Wii (insert name here) standards.  That total music sandbox sold over 2 million, numbers some developers would die to have.  Perhaps I'm trying to force myself to believe that these are successes, but I'm sure they were all moneymakers for their respective companies. 
 
I think his complaint stems from the theory that we don't like making our own levels and characters and not like playing the creations of other people unless they work for Nintendo, Sony, Valve, etc.  We as gamers want quality content from the developers themselves, no disputing that, but a good mix of the professional and the amateur like we saw last year with LittleBigPlanet seems to work well for everyone.  Imagine the money Nintendo would be rolling in now if they took the LittleBigPlanet formula, streamlined the Wii's online clusterfuck, and used it with the Mario brand.  That's all the money in Japan going to Nintendo right there.  Maybe the catch with these create-your-own platformers is not the amount of variety and the ability to play World 1-1 on another game, but the thought that you can make World 1-1 and show it off to the world.  It's very simple, really.  Give us the tools we need and the flexability to change whatever we want (physics, textures, audio) and see a game with user generated content flourish!  The "serious mod makers" as he puts it might never be satisfied, but the average user could live within certain boundaries as long as we have enough freedom.  Plus, there's the Field of Dreams approach where if you build it, they will come.  A strong community of level designers can turn a solid game into an epic one. 
 
Quite honestly, I would be thrilled if Nintendo did make a 2D Mario game with a robust level editor... it would make my year, maybe my decade if they threw in some Kuribo's Shoe.  I don't see it happening in the near future, but I think this is the push we need to get user generated content into the mainstream. 
 
And for the record, Wii Music was not a success as a "game"... I think most of us can agree on that. 
 
Oh, here's a link to today's sponsor.
Edited by Claude

I made my first user created content with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion construction set. I didn't share it with anyone, but I loved it. It was a small mod. A little room under a manhole cover that led to my little loot lair in the market district of Imperial City. I used the Ach-Mages room and some stairs to make it look cool and plenty of storage devices. I was so proud. I should have uploaded it. Sean Malstrom sounds like a tool who likes to write words. Thanks for the sponsor link.