Nintendo Snubs Gen AI, Flaunts Wealth of Game-Creating Expertise: is it a Dig at Industry Giants?

Nintendo Snubs Gen AI, Flaunts Wealth of Game-Creating Expertise: is it a Dig at Industry Giants?

The emergence of generative AI has had a multifaceted impact on various industries, including the video game sector.

An increasing number of publishers and developers are leveraging generative AI for production to reduce costs and explore innovative approaches to software development.

However, some industry veterans adhere to the traditional philosophy of not fixing something if it is not broken.

A case in point is Nintendo, the Japanese gaming titan, which recently shared its stance on the role of generative AI in gaming.

During a recent shareholder meeting, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa fielded questions about AI-based game development and whether Nintendo would embrace such technology.

The company has confirmed that it will not integrate generative AI into its games, citing concerns over intellectual property (IP) rights.

He noted:

“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.”

Furukawa stated that despite the growing popularity of generative AI, Nintendo has no immediate plans to utilise it in its forthcoming titles.

Nintendo Cites Wealth of Game-Creating Expertise: Is it a Dig at Major Players?

Furukawa iterated:

“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.”

One might not see too much into what was said, but the question lies in how it was said.

With Nintendo’s vast repertoire and experience in game creations, it makes sense they do not want to simply jump on the generative AI hype for the sake of it.

Nintendo Taking on Cautious Approach with Gen AI, Focusing More on Tried-and-Tested Methods

Nintendo’s stance reflects a cautious approach, underscoring the importance of safeguarding its creative and legal assets.

Renowned for iconic franchises like Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo is exceptionally vigilant about protecting its IP.

The company has a track record of aggressively defending its IP rights through legal measures, taking action against unauthorised use of its characters, trademark infringement, and piracy.

While Nintendo’s current response indicates a preference for traditional development methods, it does not entirely preclude the future use of AI.

Furukawa’s comments suggest a measured consideration of generative AI, which is reassuring for those concerned about the company’s technological hesitancy.

Presently, Nintendo is concentrating on the successor to its wildly successful Switch console.

The company has confirmed that a full reveal of its new console will occur before April 2025, although no further official details have been disclosed.

Both Sides of AI in Gaming

As Furukawa observes, AI is deeply intertwined with video games, particularly in the realm of non-player character (NPC) behaviour.

It can also enhance elements such as lip-syncing in cutscenes, allowing artists to focus on refining other aspects of the game.

However, there are legitimate concerns about companies using AI to displace human workers, especially within the gaming industry.

Recent controversies include Ubisoft and Nvidia’s tech demos showcasing AI-powered NPCs.

Critics have noted that these characters appear and sound overly robotic, and there are concerns that even the use of generative AI for seemingly minor writing tasks, such as dialogue for NPCs or character “barks,” could deprive entry-level writers of valuable experience.

Furthermore, there are instances of AI misuse, such as the unauthorised appropriation of art or the manipulation of real images, which must be carefully addressed.

These issues raise important questions about the ethical implications of AI in game development and the potential impact on employment and creative opportunities.

Allure of Gen AI is There But Reception is Mixed

AI’s influence on the video game industry is undeniable, yet as CNET’s David Lumb noted after the Game Developers Conference in March, the technology has not been universally adopted in every game.

The reception of generative AI was mixed, with some developers embracing its potential while others were wary of its misuse in an industry already fraught with job and career uncertainties.

Major companies are indeed investigating AI applications, but they appear reluctant to fully integrate it into their strategic plans.

Laine Nooney, an assistant professor at New York University, described the industry as anxious about the impending changes, and while companies behind generative AI make bold claims, many of these may not materialise.

Nooney said:

“These technologies seem poised to expand gamer expectations, even as I think companies underestimate how much additional labor they would require to be functionally productive.”

The creative integrity of video games demands a level of precision that AI-generated hallucinations, acceptable in ChatGPT responses, cannot meet.

Nonetheless, there has been progress.

Microsoft is collaborating with Inworld AI to create AI-driven dialogue and narrative tools for games, while Nvidia and Ubisoft have demonstrated dynamic NPCs at GDC 2024.

Get ready for AI NPCs!

Microsoft has decided to collaborate with Inworld AI to create AI NPCs and stories within games.

This partnership, led by Azure, OpenAI, Xbox, and Microsoft Research centers, will allow characters and dialogues in games to adapt according to the player.

— Dogan Ural (@doganuraldesign) November 12, 2023

Microsoft is also experimenting with an AI chatbot for Xbox customer support, and Electronic Arts Inc. is leveraging AI to assist in content creation, spanning dialogue and environmental design.

Despite existential and legal qualms about generative AI in games, Neil Kirby, a senior lecturer at Ohio State University, suggested that the technology could be utilised in more conventional ways, akin to other production tools, offering a modest productivity boost within the existing pipeline.

Kirby pointed out:

“We’ve seen this before: When PCs invaded the desktop, every office worker in the world became far more efficient when the paper started going down and the electronic stuff came up.”

However, he also expressed concerns about young learners relying on AI advisors instead of mastering programming fundamentals independently, and the risk of AI-induced hallucinations and inaccuracies.


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