Shigeru Miyamoto is a man who needs no introduction. The iconic mind behind nearly every Nintendo classic you’ve ever loved has been in the news a lot lately, talking about the future of the Wii U and Nintendo in general; especially now that the 60-year-old is in the early stages of planning his eventual retirement.
In a lengthy interview with The New York Times, Miyamoto talks in-depth about a number of the issues currently facing the gaming industry in general, as well as Nintendo.
Reflecting on the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, the Times asked about where Miyamoto stands on the issue of violence in games. “That’s a difficult question,” he admitted. “As someone who creates games and understands that children play those games, it’s a subject that I’m very sensitive about. We’ve seen through a variety of media that when people see or experience violence on screen, there is a certain amount of entertainment that people get out of that.
“Mario is a character that, I feel, doesn’t need to use guns,” he continued. “But when it comes to violence, you then have to ask, ‘So, if Mario doesn’t use a gun, is it appropriate for Mario to hit people?’ And, in fact, when we were creating the game Super Smash Bros., we had very long and deep discussions about whether or not we thought it was appropriate for Mario to hit people.”
On the subject of the Wii U specifically, Miyamoto expressed that, despite the consoles lackluster initial unit sales, Nintendo is far from ready to give up on their next-gen offering so early in its life cycle. “I think that the Wii U still has a long future. We really view it as being the ideal device that families are going to want to have connected to that screen in the living room that everyone is going to gather around and watch.” Commenting on the console’s present-day predicament, he added that, “certainly in the short term I would want to see it performing with probably a little more momentum. I think in the long term I’m not at a point where I’m concerned yet.”
No stranger to criticizing Nintendo, industry analyst Michael Pachter has often expressed discontent with Nintendo for their strategies on combating the clear and present threat mobile and casual gaming present to the company’s portable platforms. Additionally, when the Wii’s focus became less about the core gaming crowd and more centered on casual gamers, Nintendo recognized it may have made a mistake. When asked about current competition from tablets and smartphones, and how the industry is shifting, Miyamoto had this to say:
“Entertainment is an unpredictable industry. Entertainment is this thing that moves around from place to place. You have a theme park like Disneyland, and that’s a form of entertainment. And at the same time you have small, downloadable software for your smartphone that you can play, and that’s entertainment. Nintendo’s stance, over all, is that we don’t know where entertainment will take us next.
We look at it in terms of what kinds of experiences do families want in the living room in front of the TV? Because we don’t think that families are going to go away, and we don’t think that TVs are going to go away.
The last couple of years in Japan we’ve seen a huge increase in the adoption of smartphones, to the point where in Japan people are saying, “Maybe I don’t need a console, or I don’t need a portable gaming device.” But this past holiday in Japan we released a game called Animal Crossing: New Leaf that’s coming to the United States this year. And in Japan it has really been a big hit. And what we’re seeing is that the people playing it primarily are adult women. And adult women also happens to be the same group of people that has been rapidly adopting cellphones over the last couple of years.
As long as we’re able to provide an entertainment experience that people want to play, they’re more than happy to purchase another device to carry around with them alongside their smartphone.”
Finally, discussing Nintendo’s plans for the future and the rising significance the next generation of consoles are placing on online play and social integration, Miyamoto explained that, “for a long time at Nintendo we didn’t focus as much on online play because for many years doing so would have limited the size of the audience that could enjoy those features.” Looking ahead, he concluded with, “but certainly now we see that so many people are connected to the Internet. It opens up a tremendous amount of possibilities.”
There’s more to the interview, so be sure to head over to The New York Times and read the legendary creator’s thoughts on preserving games as art, as well as how he handles the mounting pressure of being so successful.
It’s hard not to feel the sincerity in Miyamoto’s words whenever he speaks. As a man who’s dedicated so much of his life to this industry, offering as much of his imagination and creativity as humanly possible, it’s difficult to walk away from an interview like this and not want to bet all your chips on Nintendo. On the subject of the Wii U, and whether or not it is a success or failure, I believe Miyamoto when he says the console still has a long future ahead of it. Nintendo is not new to releasing consoles that have been a bit slow out of the gate; but after they receive some magnificent first-party support and that one party game that folks can’t live without, they always seem to build some momentum and end up turning a profit.
His answer about violence in gaming seemed a bit dodgy, considering Nintendo has built a name for itself catering to more family-oriented experiences that are more than willing to sacrifice blood and gore for whimsical fantasy. I’ve always felt that Nintendo deserves a lot of praise for the company’s dedication to thinking outside the box and creating games that don’t rely on gunplay and senseless violence; instead inventing innovative new game mechanics that inspire creativity as opposed to shooting away your problems. Franchises like Kirby and Mario have always managed to find ways to “cartoonify” violence in a way that still feels age appropriate for young gamers while still providing a satisfying experience for the hardcore crowd. Although I guess it’s understandable that Miyamoto wouldn’t want to get too deep into addressing hot-button political issues like violence in gaming.
But that’s enough out of me, so what do you lot think about this discussion? Do you ever stop and think about the sheer volume of bloodshed during your average Call of Duty or God of War playthrough, or is the violence so commonplace that you see through it and focus only on the gamepay? And what about the Wii U? Have you already given up on the console, or do you feel that Nintendo can still win back the hardcore crowd with enough support? Let us know in the comments below.