Nintendo Is the Biggest Company in the Video Game Industry to Turn Its Back on AI

Nintendo defends its decision by citing intellectual property issues and a desire to protect creativity... but is that really all?

Nintendo doesn't want generative AI in its games. And it has a very clear strategic reason
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A few days ago, during a recent Q&A session with investors, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa clarified the company’s position on artificial intelligence. Nintendo believes that its use could impact intellectual property rights. And in line with the company’s approach to copyright infringement of its properties, it prefers not to walk on thin ice.

Decades of experience. TweakTown reported on part of Furukawa’s statements: “In the game industry, AI-like technology has long been used to control enemy character movements, so game development and AI technology have always been closely related," the Nintendo president said, adding, “[AI] has issues with intellectual property rights.” 

“We have decades of know-how in creating optimal gaming experiences for our customers, and while we remain flexible in responding to technological developments, we hope to continue to deliver value that is unique to us and cannot be achieved through technology alone.”

The industry is positioning itself. In recent months, as the technology has advanced, many big companies have taken positions for or against generative AI. Square Enix, for example, changed its mind six months after initially supporting the use of AI in one of its video games, although given the company’s track record with NFTs and other technological fads, it may change its mind again. 

At the other end is Microsoft and Xbox. The company has partnered with Inworld AI—which is setting a new standard for AI characters by powering the “brains” that inspire their personalities, dialogues, and reactions—to include AI in its games. Inworld's other partners include EA and Tencent.

Nintendo’s reasons. However, it’s strange that Nintendo, known for its non-confrontational posture when controversy comes through the industry, has taken such a clear and direct position. The secret may lie in where it made these statements: at an investor meeting. Nintendo is making its intentions clear and also taking care of its image. It's also reassuring investors by saying that what sets it apart from the competition is its million-dollar IPs, and that it won’t put them at risk for artificial intelligence. Image or not, Nintendo’s real financial asset is its creativity, and its position on AI seems to stress that this will continue to be the case.

The importance of creativity. It’s well known that Nintendo’s image and positioning in the industry doesn't resemble that of Microsoft, EA, or Ubisoft. Nintendo takes extreme care to make universal and thoughtfully crafted toys and doesn't do quick runs of franchises it doesn't own. In his analysis of the issue at, former editor Rob Fahey says, “Nintendo feels a responsibility to safeguard the company's long-term future even if it's at the risk of a few percentage points of performance in this quarter or the next.”

Will Nintendo give in? Did it give in to mobile games, the latest big trend in the industry? Well, it gave in, but Nintendo-style, by releasing a few products that were isolated from what the competition was doing, away from the fads, and eventually returning to business as usual. Nintendo lives in its bubble of creativity, which doesn’t make it the fastest to adopt new technologies. But it has also kept it from being blindsided by things like NFTs, which Ubisoft was quick to adopt and just as quick to abandon.

A work issue. Finally, there’s another issue: The work culture is very different in Japan. Today, it’s impossible to talk about AI without addressing the short- and medium-term consequences it may have on the work environments where it’s adopted. "Many senior people in Japanese game companies view working up through those junior roles to be a core part of the staff development process. If AI is doing the jobs of junior designers, coders, or artists, then where does the next generation of experienced people to fill senior roles come from?” Fahey asks.

Image | Nintendo

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