http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/games/games_circle.gif Shigeru Miyamoto Interview
By Greg Howson (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/global/greg_howson.html) / NIntendo (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/games/archives/nintendo/) 12:21pm
A developer interview normally goes something like this. Turn up, chat to PR (if available, otherwise receptionist) meet head dev guy, chat about game and marvel at high level of caffeine-inspired dedication on display. But having an interview delayed because the developer is having his photo taken with the preceding journalist? Nah, never happened. Until yesterday that is, but then Shigeru Miyamoto isn't your average game creator. His mightily impressive CV - Mario, Zelda, Pikmin (hey, I liked it) - means he is revered by gamers of a certain age who grew up playing his seminal titles. My only other meeting with him was about five years ago on a roundtable discussion in Japan. The abiding memory is of a swarm of US journalists getting their copies of Ocarina of Time signed. Again, not something that normally happens in an interview. The interview was supposed to be part of the general Animal Crossing promotional push, but Miyamoto was happy to chat about far wider issues. Lovely.
Do you feel that Nintendo has been late in getting involved in online gaming?
I've been involved in looking at online gaming for a while now. We are responsible to the shareholders in the company so everything we do has to make sense financially. Until recently we have felt that we couldn't make money out of online gaming. It has been very difficult for online games to become an authentic business in this industry.
But there has to be an interesting aspect to online gaming to make it worthwhile. I am a game designer myself and what I want to do is make a variety of new games. If we have an online game I would have to spend all my time looking after one game. There are a lot of hurdles to be crossed to run an online game but we have fixed some of these, such as ease of connection and security. Now that the Nintendo wi-fi service has done so well we are ready to develop it further.
How important is it to widen the market behind gaming's core audience?
We need to widen the appeal of gaming to include more of the general public as it is hard to sustain the current audience. There is a big line separating gamers and non-gamers. We are trying to create games that excite everyone. From the hardware side we want to create an easy interface so people can say, "this I can touch". We designed the DS with this concept in mind. When we advertise the DS we never call it an advanced version of the Game Boy Advance but rather a new entertainment gadget. Our mission right now is to find subjects that will appeal to general people and create a new market.
(at this point, Miyamoto asks me what I had for dinner two nights ago. Thrown? You betcha.)
This question is how we advertise Brain Training in Japan and has helped us appeal to more people. Our research on Nintendogs has shown that many players are females in their 20s. What we are seeing is a lot of different people who never used to play games are playing on the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately we are running short of DS to sell!
Was redesign of the DS a belated recognition that how a product looks is as important as what it does? Can you explain the thinking behind the redesign?
The main aim was to make it much more portable. This is the upgraded and more gorgeous version of the DS. We have made it lighter and the screen is adjustable and brighter. Portability was the most important factor.
How different is it creating games now compared to when you started out?
When we started our mission was to create some new entertainment within the limited machinery available. Game and Watch is a good example, with a LCD screen. All you could think about were the tiny dots. Which ones can be displayed, which ones erased. So within those limitations we had to think about how we could entertain people. Today our ability to express ourselves is much bigger and wider. There are so many different functionalities we can chose from now and we can express ourselves easier. But how we are going to express ourselves is going to be more and more important to make the difference between each game.
Sony and Microsoft are focussing on the technical capabilities of their consoles, such as power and graphics. Nintendo's focus seems to be away from this now. Can you explain the thinking behind this?
In the very beginning we were confined by the technology and it restricted how we could express ourselves. That has changed now, but we think that games can't be improved by just focussing on the graphics which is the direction that most of the industry has been heading. Nintendo is very unique, we are an entertainment company. For a long time now we have been concerned by the direction of the industry. Our competitors are talking about beefed-up graphics and better technology. We could fight in that area but we think it is not necessary and we would rather focus on what Nintendo can do uniquely. We want to get a balance between powerful CPU's or beautiful graphics and making the technology comfortable and appealing. We created the DS and Revolution with this philosophy and concept in mind.
2005 was a poor year for game sales generally. Do you think consumers are bored with sequels and the same-old titles?
It's not necessarily that people are getting tired of videogames per se but the problem the industry faces is that it is creating titles that are similar to other ones. Platform holders usually say we have this great number of titles available but what really matters is variety of titles. Customers are more interested in variety and quality then straight quantity. Too many game creators listen to requests from existing gamers who simply want beefed-up versions of existing games. Also, shareholders may be worried about financing games that are different as they are seen as too risky. A lot of creators have lost the ability to create something new. But at Nintendo we are unique as we create new and innovative hardware. You don't always need big budgets. Look at Brain Training, which has been a great success and didn't cost much to create. One of my aims is to let game creators know that they shouldn't feel constricted by budget. If you have a good idea, we have the money.
Do you have any comments on the PlayStation 3 announcement?
Any announcement about PS3 will affect Nintendo. But we don't see it as a competition between the two consoles, although the customers always do. It depends on what expectations people have of the PS3 and Revolution. Sony has taken a long time to create their machine but it is obvious that the direction we (Nintendo) are taking is different to the PS3.
And that was that. I didn't get time to ask some of your more specific questions or more details of the Revolution (all will be revealed at E3). Miyamoto's business card may say Senior Managing Director but I got the impression he still enjoys creating games as much as he ever did. Or maybe he had had too much coffee, either way the industry could do with more like him.