If you know me, you know that I love Mario Party. Well, Mario Party 1-8 to be specific. If you’re a fan of the Mario Party series, you probably noticed a staunch difference between the Mario Party games after 8 (9, 10 and Island Tour). While most people freaked out about the “car,” and the change from individual to centralized straightforward movement, there was quite a bit more going on behind the scenes.
Upon booting up any of the Mario Party games prior to Mario Party 9, the player (or players, more likely) will see the logo of a company known as Hudson, or in some cases Hudson Soft (short for Hudson Software). Most people know the name from Hudson’s more notable works like the Bomberman or Adventure Island series, or perhaps some other lesser-known titles like Felix the Cat for the Nintendo Entertainment System or the Bonk! Series for the TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine. Amongst this list of classic titles, in 1998 (and later 1999 in Europe and the United States) Nintendo released the first Mario Party, published and distributed by Nintendo, but developed wholly by Hudson Soft. After the relative success of the first and following Mario Party games, Hudson would continually churn out Mario Party games up until Mario Party 8, released initially in May of 2007. However, after Mario Party 8, the gaming public wouldn’t see another Mario Party game until 2012. So, what the hell happened in the intermediary 5 years?
To begin, a bit of background on all the companies involved. Over the past 16 years, Hudson Soft has had a bit of an interesting relationship with Konami, a much larger and more financially stable video game company. In December of 2000, Hudson was hit very hard financially by the collapse of their primary bank, Hokkaido Takushoku, and was in dire need of funding. Seeking some cash, Hudson sought to go public on the JASDAQ, and upon doing so, Konami was quick to purchase 5.6 Million shares just a few months later. Despite the large stake of Hudson owned by Konami, Hudson would continue to operate as usual, publishing titles just as they had in the years before.
A few years later however, in April of 2005, Konami increased their ownership in Hudson by 3 million shares of stock, making Konami a 53.99% owner of Hudson Soft, and thus making Hudson a subsidiary of Konami. This change was similar to the original purchase, as it didn’t cause much change at Hudson, but as time went on Konami became more directly involved with Hudson and their development of games.
Finally, through a process that lasted about a year, Konami would begin the liquidation and dissolving of Hudson soft and their various individual studios throughout the world for financial reasons. As Hudson would cease to exist, their individual development halted as well.
On the Nintendo side of things, throughout Hudson’s relations with Konami, Nintendo would partner with Japanese advertising firm Dentsu to found Nd Cube, a new studio that would develop games for Nintendo and Dentsu. Upon its inception however, Nintendo owned 78% of the company, with Dentsu owning a measly 13.3% by comparison (with the remainder going to individual shareholders). The company would develop a few games throughout it’s lifespan, with the only notable title amongst the few to be F-Zero Maximum Velocity for the Nintendo Gameboy Advance.
In the beginning of 2010 however, Nintendo purchased Dentsu’s and some individual shares in Nd Cube, raising Nintendo’s ownership of the company to 98%. Later that same year, Nintendo would publish the Nd Cube developed Wii Party. The game did very well, selling over 10,000,000 copies worldwide, despite meeting mixed reviews from critics. Upon the success of Wii Party and the dissolving of Hudson Soft, Nintendo looked to continue the Mario Party series with Nd Cube leading development. It would have been nice if Hudson could continue developing the Mario Party series, but alas, they no longer existed.
A common criticism I’ve heard of Nd Cube developed Mario Party games is that they just feel like Wii Party, but with Mario characters thrown in. Though this isn’t entirely the truth, it’s not entirely false either. Nd Cube’s first real success was with Wii Party, so it makes sense that Nintendo would want them to not only replicate that success with future Wii Party games, but also with the Mario Party series going forward, seeing as the series was in need of someone to sweep in and get it going again.
We’re likely never to see a Mario Party similar to that of old, but unfortunately, the only real answer to the question of why is “just business.” Nothing more, nothing less.