Shigeru Miyamoto is one of the most beloved men in the gaming industry. From his whimsically creative mind, to his wondrously friendly personality, it’s not hard to see why gamers love him. Having provided us with such iconic staples as Donkey Kong, Zelda, and of course, Mario, it’s no stretch to admit we owe a lot of gaming’s huge resurgence in popularity to Miyamoto in particular. But what does the now 60-year-old creator think about Nintendo’s current state? And how will the company continue onward without his guidance when he eventually does decide to hang up his T-shirt and suit jacket? To answer these questions and more, Miyamoto took the time to speak with Gamespot in a recent interview.
What follows is an excerpt of that interview, followed by my brief analysis and takeaway:
“Gamespot: Given that many of the games you’re working on now are new entries in existing series, do you feel creatively satisfied?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I think from the outside, if you look at it, it certainly appears that all we’re doing is making sequels to the main franchises. But in recent years, I’ve worked on projects like Wii Fit, and other smaller projects like the Louvre museum guide that we did for Nintendo 3DS. And so, amongst all of the sequels that we do, certainly I have other projects that I’m working on that I’m having a lot of fun with. So I’m definitely creatively satisfied, but even when it comes to how we approach creating sequels for our mainline franchises, there’s a great deal of research and development that goes into that and we’ve got a team that’s focused on how we can continue to evolve those franchises.
Gamespot: Do you think Nintendo is putting its best foot forward, creatively, with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Pikmin 3? What aspects of those games can you point to and call “uniquely Nintendo.”
Miyamoto: Well, of course, when it comes to what Nintendo does, we create both hardware and software and so the software uniqueness in particular tends to rely on the uniqueness of the hardware. So with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, one thing that’s particularly unique about that game is the way that it relies on the bottom screen–the touchscreen–for the map. And the ability to play with that map and how you use it to explore the mansion adds a lot to the uniqueness to the game, compared to the previous version. In the case of Pikmin 3, we’ve taken an approach with that game where we really want to take what made the original Pikmin game unique and really simply go deeper with that experience.
And so what we’ve done is by taking advantage of the GamePad–the second screen there–and the HD graphics that are capable with Wii U and the higher processor–we’ve really been able to take that original Pikmin experience and do something that is much deeper and more fleshed out this time around. I think the other advantage that we have is the attention that we pay to interface. For example, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, that’s a game that uses really almost all of the buttons on the 3DS.
But the way that we introduce that to people; you start off with just a couple of actions and gradually you learn the different actions of the game over the course of the game. By the end of the game, you feel like you’ve gotten very good and you’re then using all these different actions to battle the ghosts and solve the puzzles. And so it adds a great deal of depth and growth for the player through that experience. Similarly, with Pikmin 3, really where we’ve put the energy is on improving that interface for the player. By taking advantage of the gyro functionality, we feel that we’ve managed to give the player a much easier route to achieving the things they want to achieve in the game through that control interfaces and so what that does is it really lets them get in a take advantage of the strategic elements of that game.
Gamespot: On top of Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin 3, Wind Waker for the Wii U is supplementing that lineup. Is Nintendo considering giving Wii U treatment to any other games, potentially older games like Metroid Prime?
Miyamoto: Of course I can only talk about the titles we’ve announced publicly. We are thinking about the possibilities around that, but there’s nothing I can share today. I guess I can say from my perspective, I’m more interested in creating new titles.
Gamespot: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon was a co-development between Next Level Games here in the West and Nintendo’s studios in Japan. Can you talk about what that relationship was like, working across the world?
Miyamoto: The background for that is we’ve worked with Next Level Games for a number of years now and there’s another producer internally at Nintendo who I’ve also worked with for a long time: Kensuke Tanabe. And he’s been working with Next Level Games and has also worked on the Donkey Kong series. He was able to find Next Level Games and start working with them originally and help build that relationship that allowed us to work with them all these years.
Gamespot: Were there any challenges in the fact that you’re working all the way across the world; logistically, things like that?
Miyamoto: We actually have a lot of experience working with overseas developers. We work with [Nintendo Software Technology] over in the Seattle area, we work with of course Retro Studios in Texas. And back when we worked with Rare, they were of course in the United Kingdom. And so what we’ve found now, particularly with the enhancements like video conferencing and just with the ability to instantly send versions of games back and forth across great distances; we’re used to working in great distances and it’s not very different from how we operate in terms of working with our Tokyo studios. Where we tend to have bigger challenges is just ensuring that the development team has a clear understanding of Nintendo philosophy and how we do things. But because we’ve worked with Next Level Games for so long, we don’t have any issues there.
Gamespot: With regards to the Wii U, conveying the message of the Wii U seems a bit more difficult than the original Wii. With the original Wii you could pick up a Wii Remote and play tennis and you would instantly get it. Do you think this has potentially impacted sales?
Miyamoto: I think it’s very common for Nintendo products to be the type of thing that until you play it, you don’t really understand how fun it is. Wii had an advantage, because watching people play it looked interesting. When you saw other people playing a game that looked interesting. But even then, it was still the type of thing that you had to play it for yourself to confirm. And once you played Wii, people had instantly a lot of fun. And what that did was reinforce for them that what they had seen was in fact true. Certainly, I think that helped Wii.
From that perspective, I think Wii U certainly has a little bit more of a challenge because it doesn’t have that ‘looking-fun’ element to it. But I think that as people bring it into the living room and begin to play it, particularly when you experience with five people, you really do get a sense for how fun Wii U is. And I think that’s the key; to try to get as many people to try it out as possible. Even with Wii, if people played a game, but it wasn’t fun, it wouldn’t have had the result that it did. So I think the key for us is continuing to focus on the fun of our products.
Gamespot: Last year you said it was too soon to retire, but that preparations were underway for your eventual retirement. Given how many projects you’re working on now, is your retirement on your mind now, or not at all, given how many things you’re currently juggling?
Miyamoto: This year I’m past 60; I’m going to be turning 61 this year. So for me to not be thinking about retirement would be strange. But in fact, the number of projects I’m involved in–and the volume of my work–hasn’t changed at all.
Instead, what we’re doing internally is, on the assumption that there may someday be a time when I’m no longer there, and in order for the company to prepare for that, what I’m doing is pretending like I’m not working on half the projects that I would normally be working on to try to get the younger staff to be more involved.
And this actually has nothing to do with any kind of retirement planning or anything of that sort, it’s really more of simply the fact that people have a tendency, certainly when you’re in an organizational structure, they have a tendency to always look to the person that gives them direction. And really, for a long time I’ve been thinking that we need to try to break that structure down so that the individual producers that I’m working with are really taking responsibility for the projects that they’re working on. I think that they are gradually beginning to understand and certainly they’re taking on more of a kind of leadership role or responsibility with their projects.
And as I like to say, I try to duck out of the way, so that instead of them looking at me, they’re looking at the consumer and trying to develop their games with the consumer in mind rather than me in mind. So it’s really more of looking at this as sort of an opportunity to really try to help develop them and bring them up.”
There’s a lot more to this discussion, specifically for those interested in the upcoming sequels to Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin, so be sure to visit Gamespot for the rest of the in-depth interview.
It’s hard to think about the day when Miyamoto is no longer an active part of the industry. He’s become such a source of confidence for Nintendo fans who would follow him to the edge of the earth just to show their loyalty, and deservedly so. It will certainly be the end of an era when he does finally decide to call it quits.
In regards to the interview, I think Miyamoto hit the nail on the head when discussing why the Wii U is having such a hard time taking off. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t yet have the dedicated software support it needs to convince the core gaming crowd to buy in, most non-gamers I know don’t even realize the Wii U is a brand new console. For the most part, folks who bought the Wii and used it mainly for Wii Sports or the occasional fitness game think that the Gamepad is just some tablet accessory add-on that they have no interest in purchasing. Once they do understand that it’s a whole separate console, with a whole new introductory price tag, they don’t see any justification for picking it up. That’s where the aspect up physically playing the games and giving the new features a try come into play. But it’s hard to get casual gamers, especially the older parent/grandparent crowd the Wii so successfully attracted, to go out and try the new console. They’re hardly the crowd that visits conventions like Comic Con or PAX, nor do they have the time to stop into a local GameStop or Best Buy to play for a while on the Kiosks. So, where does that leave Nintendo? With a mostly disinterested group of Wii owners who are unwilling to invest in another console for what they perceive as very little incentive, that’s where. It will be interesting to see what The Big N comes up with to get folks interested in their next-gen offering.
Where do you guys and gals stand on the issue of the Wii U? Have you already purchased the console, or are you waiting for specific software releases/announcements before making the next-gen leap? And how will you feel when Miyamoto finally does announce his retirement? Share your thoughts in the comments below.