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Satoru Iwata defends Nintendo’s level of social engagement

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There are those who argue that Nintendo is behind the times in a few fundamental ways. They argue that the company has failed to embrace the sort of community building that you see on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. They also point to the company’s relative absence from the mobile gaming market while console-making competitors Microsoft and Sony, not to mention just about every game publisher you can think of, has taken steps in that direction. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata defended the company’s attitude toward social media during a recent Q&A with investors.

“The keyword ‘social’ has rapidly become very popular in these last two years and some say that Nintendo may be behind the social age,” he began, according to Gamasutra. “They might mean that Nintendo, uninterested in so-called social games from a business standpoint, fails to ride on the boom of social games.”

Iwata disagrees, arguing that “Nintendo has been a company attaching a high value to human relationships for a long time.” He points to the company’s roots selling playing cards as an example of how far back that awareness goes. He acknowledges the changes wrought by the arrival of the Internet and the social media tools it offers, but goes on to say that “I think that there has been no best answer yet to the relationship between a real network and a virtual network.”

“The big theme for us is to provide new and fascinating human relationships composed of various networks, a real network with those close to you, a virtual network with those distant from you, and networks beyond description created by your experiences of sharing the same place with someone or of visiting certain places and specifically provided by SpotPass and StreetPass.”

Personally, I think Nintendo has done a fine job connecting people socially in the flesh as well as creating “networks beyond description” with gamified 3DS features like SpotPass and StreetPass. Virtual network though… sorry, no. Wii Friend Codes are a testament to how behind the curve Nintendo continues to be in that arena. There’s an argument for the company’s stated goal of keeping things safe and free from antagonism — anyone who’s heard racist slurs on XBL or PSN can appreciate that — but the tradeoff Nintendo has made in supporting an obtusely designed online network is not the answer either.