Retro Talks Developing For Nintendo

During a recent interview with Gamasutra, Retro Studios president Michael Kelbaugh shared insight on what it’s like (and what it takes) to develop for Nintendo.

When asked about what enabled them to become a team that can develop Nintendo franchises like Metroid and Donkey Kong Country, Kelbaugh says, “It’s patience, mentorship — a lot of mentorship, a lot of help from our friends at Nintendo.”

Kelbaugh also touches on the importance of staff, “It’s investing in the right people. It takes time. There’s not a book that I could say, “Read this and you’ll learn how to make Nintendo games.” You learn how to do it by experience, and that’s really, experience and mentorship. That’s really the only way you do it. You have to hire people that are motivated by making quality product, not by how many units they sell.”

Kelbaugh concludes by noting there’s still room for growth within the Retro team, “Ten years, well, 12 years, and we’ve made a lot of progress, but we don’t have it down yet. We still have a lot to learn, you know. It changes. As the industry evolves, so do the demands of the developer, so it’s not easy, and there are not a lot of developers that really get it.”


Analysis: Retro is one of gamings most reclusive developers, and I love it. Like Nintendo, there’s mystery to them. If I’ve learned anything from Retro Studios, it would be that if years go by without a single peep from the company – be excited, because they’re working on something worthy of your patience – and money.

If granting Retro the license to its beloved Metroid series wasn’t enough, Nintendo went ahead and handed over the reigns to another one of their cherished franchises, Donkey Kong Country, in which Retro put its spin on in Donkey Kong Country Returns. It was a win-win for both companies, as DKCR was a critical and commercial success, selling close to 5 million units worldwide. Retro’s track record was cemented, and one thing was apparent: Nintendo trust them.

I admire Retro’s commitment to quality, and I wish more developers were as hardwired to produce titles with as much polish. Retro continues to impress, and under the close watchful eye of Nintendo, how could they not? It’s the perfect depiction of teacher and student. East meets West. Ying and Yang. Team Ninja be damned! Western developers need love too. Ahem.

Furthermore, I’d like to see Retro take on more Nintendo franchises, in addition to developing original titles of their own. I’ve been saying since forever that Retro should take on The Legend of Zelda, but nobody listens to me. Sigh.

Here’s hoping the team makes their glorious return next week at E3. Metroid Prime 4 maybe? Call me the king of wishful thinking.

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