Paper Mario giving a thumbs up in Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Nintendo Continues Its Winning Streak By Saying It Won’t Use AI

2023 and 2024 have seen the releases of a wealth of jaw-droppingly incredible games. It’s an amazing, inspiring time to be a gamer. But the industry overall does not reflect the boon you would expect from this caliber of releases.

Recommended Videos

There have been layoffs after layoffs after layoffs in the games industry, with the worst offenders being mega-companies like Microsoft, who buy smaller studios and scrap them for a tax write-off. We’re talking over 10,000 jobs worldwide just this year.

There are a lot of reasons for this: inflation, a sales downturn after the pandemic, increasingly unwilling investors, and bloated CEO salaries, to name a few. And beneath all of that lies AI—technology which some see as a cost-cutting measure. CEOs see the “promise” of exchanging many of these recently scrapped positions for AI.

Nintendo, however, is different. They’ve been the gigantic exception to all the current trends in gaming. While other studios lay off hundreds, Nintendo hired 400 people last month. As Xbox has an identity crisis and the PS5 prematurely enters the end of its life cycle, the most recent Nintendo Direct showed that the seven-year-old Switch is still flourishing. And while the likes of EA and Microsoft show incredible interest in AI, Nintendo’s CEO just said, “No, thank you.”

No generative AI

As reported by TweakTown, Nintendo’s president Shuntaro Furukawa said in a recent Q&A with investors that his company is not interested in using generative AI for their first-party games. He said:

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.

Generative AI, which has been a hot topic in recent years, can be more creative, but we also recognize that it 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.

Nintendo, rather famously, comes down really hard on issues regarding their own intellectual property rights. Arguably too hard. But it’s downright refreshing to see a company’s respect for property rights—especially one involved with an IP smorgasbord like Super Smash Bros.—going the other direction, too. Nintendo takes incredible pride in its own work. Of course they don’t want someone else’s art accidentally ending up in theirs.

Artists have been sounding this bell for years, pointing out that AI art can only exist by stealing from real art. As AI has expanded, we’ve seen this over and over again with literature and, recently, music. As much as their programmers would love to tell you otherwise, AI doesn’t create. It mixes up a bunch of examples, spews out a derivative work, and takes credit for it. It’s like that shitty band from your high school or college that sounded just like [insert band here], except it’s destroying entire industries.

So refreshing

Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa doesn’t shut the door on AI entirely, but his words are firm. He releases Nintendo should focus on “what’s unique to us.” In other words, people buy Nintendo games because they love Nintendo. It’s that simple.

And in looking for what “cannot be achieved through technology alone,” Furukawa recognizes that technology does not equal creativity or even quality. Maybe this isn’t too surprising coming from the company that’s kept releasing highly stylized, even cartoony, games as their main competitors PlayStation and Xbox, go all-in on super-high-budget AAA.

But seeing the realistic pores on Zelda’s face doesn’t make a good Legend of Zelda game. What makes a good Legend of Zelda game is that I get to smack a monster with a table or make a long, long, long bridge. There’s a very vocal minority who disagree, but they can play whatever they want, AI and all, while the rest of us count down the days to Echos of Wisdom.

Incidentally, Nintendo has also shown in the past that it understands a shrunken workforce worried about losing their jobs can’t make the best game they’re capable of. Surely, this announcement about AI helped in that regard, too. And while we’re at it, the top two people at Nintendo make around $2 million a year. When Bobby Kotick was at Activision, his salary topped out at $150 million.

Look, no company is perfect. No company should be sainted. But if an entire industry seems to be getting rocked to its core and there’s one major company that seems to be the only one consistently doing things right, they should be celebrated.

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Kirsten Carey
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.