For the last few months, amateur game developer Robert Pelloni has made an Internet sensation of his quest to make an official Nintendo DS game. Pelloni claimed to have spent five years, on his own, developing a role-playing game for the DS. He called his work “Bob’s Game,” and posted video clips on his site to show how much he had accomplished.
Late last year, Pelloni let the world know that he was frustrated with Nintendo. He said he contacted the gaming company to obtain a DS development kit, so he could release his game officially. But, he claimed, the company reneged in providing him one.
In December he began a dramatic locked-room protest. His protest proved popular on gaming blogs and message boards. But the 100-day protest ended weeks early. After it ended, he wrote a creed on his website against Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime and other company officials, threatening to reveal secrets.
None of this elicited public comment from Nintendo, whose representatives declined requests I made during the protest for the company to explain its side of the story.
Pelloni also appeared uninterested in talking to the press, as he and I failed to schedule an interview despite repeated attempts. In January, he noted in our last e-mail exchange about setting up an interview that he had been “abducted by aliens.”
With neither side commenting, it’s been hard to figure out what really happened with “Bob’s Game.”
Last week, just days before Pelloni released a downloadable demo of his game (available through his website), I brought the matter up to Fils-Aime.
MTV Multiplayer: Since you were talking about hate that you get, I have to ask you about Robert Pelloni, maker of “Bob’s Game.” Did he actually contact Nintendo for a development kit? Did you guys just not fulfill his legitimate request for one? Or is there some other part of the story we’re not getting?
Fils-Aime: He did submit to be a licensed developer. We have an evaluation process. We evaluated the opportunity. We decided at this point in time that he did not meet the requirements to be a licensed developer.
MTV Multiplayer: Here’s a guy who programmed a game on his own and appeared to be developing a game he poured a lot of himself into. He seemed to be trying to go through just that one last hurdle to take his dream — to get a development kit and put his game out. Can other people who are inspired by that part of his story think that, if they pursued things that way, that they might have a shot? Or is there something about the basics of what I just described that would be the wrong path for an amateur developer?
Fils-Aime: My hope is that people would be inspired by the story of 2D Boy and “World of Goo“: professional developers knowledgeable about their craft who shared their vision with us and have seen tremendous success as a WiiWare title. I think that is the model for how knowledgeable developers should think about the opportunity with Nintendo. We love taking big ideas with small budgets and bringing them to life.
MTV Multiplater: So what did they do that…
Fils-Aime: We, unfortunately, cannot get into the details of Bob …
MTV Multiplayer: I understand that, and I’m not trying to corner you into details that you can’t share about what was wrong with [Pelloni’s situation]. But I’m trying to clarify, for people who have a dream for a DS game, what path they might take. Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy was an ex-EA guy. So he had EA on his resume. Their game was a nominated for the Independent Games Festival. Those were some of the credentials they had going in. They weren’t a garage developer.
Fils-Aime: There are a ton of stories. “Tetris.” Just a guy out of Russia. “Pokemon” is another example. Before that was published in Japan, what was “Pokemon”? I think it’s fair to say that Nintendo has a history and a legacy of bringing novel, unique ideas to the marketplace.
MTV Multiplayer: So if I’m someone doing homebrew DS programming, I shouldn’t feel that my options are out?
Fils-Aime: My hope is that any developer who has a compelling idea will reach out to our licensing organization and share their idea and go through the process of becoming a licensed developer for the Nintendo platform. And we have a legacy of supporting that type of development.
For more from Fils-Aime about other Nintendo matters, check out the links below.
Frustrated DS Developer Picks Bad Time To Lock Himself In Room
Reggie Talks Wii: Not Paying For Exclusives, Avoiding The Japan Wii Slump
Reggie Fils-Aime Wants To ‘Set The Record Straight’ About ‘Mother 3?
Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime Talks DSi-Enhanced Games, ‘Zelda: Spirit Tracks’ And More