Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo producer and man behind many beloved franchises, demonstrates his new projects at E3.
Nintendo isn’t done with the Wii U, yet. That’s the message we heard repeated from Shigeru Miyamoto, the company’s senior director and creator of many beloved franchises like Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda and Pikmin.
Although the company has seen struggling sales from the Wii U, it spent E3 pushing harder than ever on the console with first-party content, with both new takes on favorite franchises and a couple of new ideas.
Mash sat down with Miyamoto, who now oversees several projects at the company as well as advising teams of younger developers. He shared his insights on the Wii U, the 3DS, and his current thoughts on the games climate.
Mashable:What is the most exciting thing about Nintendo to you coming into this year’s E3?
Shigeru Miyamoto: : For me, I think it’s that we’re here at E3 and we’re able to show off a lot of different games that are really leveraging the Wii U GamePad. And on top of that, we’ve just released a new system update for Wii U that has made Wii U a lot more convenient to use in the living room. So my hope is that people will come away from this E3 with the feeling that Wii U really is the system that is best-suited to have in their living room and to play on their TV.
I definitely noticed with Splatoon [Nintendo’s newly revealed IP] the ability to use the GamePad gyroscopically to move around. It seems like you were designing for the GamePad first.
We’ve been thinking very deeply about how to leverage the GamePad and games that we’ve designed. Maybe there are some people who criticized us and said that we struggled with how to do that but really, what we do is we think deeply about how the GamePad can be used. And so it’s not just about designing game play around the GamePad, but really it’s about designing the complete game play experience and finding the best way that the GamePad fits into that overall experience. We’ve found that we’ve been able to naturally over time come to a point where we’re able to find the best and most natural way for the GamePad to fit into the game play.
And actually, when we first developed the GamePad itself, the reason that we put the gyro controls in there was because, very specifically, we wanted it to be easy to use those types of controls for aiming in those FPS or shooter-styles of games. So that was one of the first things we implemented when we began designing Splatoon.
Splatoon seems like a bigger departure from what we’ve seen from Nintendo in the past. What is it like for you guys to make the decision to bring a new IP in? How did you handle that?
The team that’s designing Splatoon is actually taken from the core Animal Crossing team, so some of the younger staff within the Animal Crossing team, we pulled about 10 of them together and we decided to begin working on Splatoon with that small team.
We’ve also then added the director who did the StarFox 64 3D remake for Nintendo 3DS, and then one of the directors who worked on NintendoLand. They’re all very young team members for us, so they’re very energetic.They’ve been working on music and the design and everything for Splatoon.
It’s allowing me to not be heavily involved in the project — they’re able to work on their own. But the overall design is taking a very Nintendo approach, where it’s very gameplay-focused. We designed the gameplay and the features of the game first, and the characters themselves were born out of those features.
It felt very Nintendo-like because it was easy to pick up, but you could easily see a lot of strategy there.
That makes me happy to hear. We really wanted to make it very easy to pick up and play and easy to understand gameplay. In a typical first-person shooter, because players are shooting bullets, you can’t see where the bullets are coming from. But with Splatoon, because you’re shooting ink, it becomes a lot easier for players to understand the rules and the strategy and where the other players are coming from because you can see the ink flying through the air.
Can you talk about the new projects you are personally working on for the Wii U? I know you are showing some special things tonight. [A few hours after this conversation, Miyamoto revealed he was working on a new Star Fox, which utilizes the Wii U GamePad for motion controls.]
Particularly for people who aren’t regularly playing with the GamePad, it can be at first blush not always easy to immediately understand how to interact across the two screens for gameplay. So what we want to do, by inviting a small number of people to this event, is to give them the time that they need to play these games and truly experience what the two-screen game has to offer, so that they can get a sense for what’s really fun about these games that we’ll be showing tonight that have gameplay that expands both GamePad and the TV.
The other thing that I’ll be talking about is that we view Wii U as the best system for players to have in their living room, and that’s where we expect most people will be playing their games. So of course we designed the games in a way that whoever is playing the game with the GamePad can sit down and have a tremendously fun experience doing that. But we’re also designing these games in a way that other people in the living room, who are just sitting there and watching, can engage in the gameplay by just watching the TV screen and have a good time interacting with the players, as well.
It seems like one of the most exciting parts of the Wii U right now is also the ability to share gameplay out. And now they are really remixing the characters they love, like with the Luigi’s Death Stare meme. How do you feel about fans remixing and reappropriating these characters?
I think that’s probably what’s most fun about connecting games to a network, is giving people those opportunities to share that experience with one another. Even with going back to the original Zelda game, one of the things we tried to do was give players a way to interact with the game content outside of the game, through things like strategy guides and by having them communicate with one another about the content within the game. So what we’re seeing now with tools like YouTube and social media, people are able to do that on a global scale. So I’m just happy to see so many people coming into contact with Nintendo’s IP and engaging with our characters.
To me, it felt like a secondary marketing push for Mario Kart 8 that Nintendo had no control over. It was just fans. I saw it on the local news, even: It was everywhere. How do you feel about social media and having this new way for fans to reach out to Nintendo?
I think it’s really interesting and it’s nice to have that system in place, and I wish we’d had that system to connect people from earlier on. It used to be that only once in a great while I might see a video of a musician who was performing Mario songs with really amazing technique. But now we’re even seeing people who are in live action trying to do Mario-style action and create videos and posting those online. That stuff is very common.
You mentioned that you’re working with a lot of younger people. How it is to work with people who have grown up with Nintendo? A lot of the games you made when you were younger really influenced their development, and they probably have a lot of different ideas about those things.
I don’t know what they think about it, but I’m happy about it. It’s challenging if you bring in people who love Nintendo too much, because they tend to overthink things and have very specific opinions, and they tend to lack a little in objectivity. So we seem to hire a mix of people and some are people who love Nintendo and some are people who kind of think more ironically at Nintendo. It’s partially my job to kind of help them all drift more towards the middle.
It’s interesting because those of us who have been at Nintendo for a long time, we feel a certain level of stress to have to continue to make new games in existing franchises, but at the same time, we have younger staff members who are eager to work on those franchises, to be able to create new installments.
What’s your day-to-day like at Nintendo?
Thirty years ago or so, when I was a director on a game, I would spend all my time focusing on a single game and just developing that. But since that time, generally I’ve been in a position where I’m looking at multiple different titles at the same time, and giving feedback to the teams there. But overall, my day-to-day hasn’t really changed that much. Probably over the past year, the biggest difference has been that I’m actually interacting directly and working directly with individual development teams. So in fact it’s been, for a while now, I’ve been coming into the office a little bit later, but I really haven’t been leaving until 10 p.m. because I’m there every day working directly with the programmers and the designers and working directly on game designs and game development.
In fact, the three games that I’ll be showing tonight are games that I have been right there working directly with development teams from the start.
That seems sometimes stressful to be pulled in so many different directions.
Not for me. For me, it’s fun to have more things to look at. As long as there’s not too many. What you don’t want is to be responsible for so many things that other people are doing. It’s more fun when you’re responsible for a lot of different things that you’re doing.
Is there anything that the technology still can’t do that you’d like to see video games be able to do?
Certainly, what we’re doing is we’re constantly thinking up ideas and thinking about things we want to create. And among the games that we’re going to be showcasing at the event tonight, there are some that were ideas that we had 10 years ago or more that we were just never able to create until we had the interface that we have with Wii U. And certainly, what I think is difficult is that it’s hard to say, ‘I need this particular type of technology in order to do the next thing.’ But part of what my job is to be constantly looking at the technology that’s available and then taking that technology into account and thinking back on the ideas I’ve had in the past that I haven’t had the chance to bring to fruition, and finding ways then to bridge that technology to help those ideas come to life in a way that’s fun and interesting.
What do you think of virtual reality? Obviously it’s now closer than ever to being something consumers can have.
Very early on, I certainly had viewed virtual reality as having a lot of potential, but at the same time, I look at the appearance of people who are playing virtual reality and it’s something that gives me quite a bit of pause. We work on constantly creating things for a broad audience of consumers, but I look at virtual reality and I see something that can be particularly interesting for a short-term, attraction style of uses. But I wonder if it’s really the type of thing that consumers can use long-term and get long-term use out of. But I do think there’s appeal in the technology.
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