Nintendo’s gaming genius | Stuff.co.nz
It might not be a household name, but Shigeru Miyamoto is one of the most successful artists of the last century and, without question, the most respected designer in the video game industry.
Father of Mario and countless other icons of the game, Miyamoto’s genius is etched on every product he touches.
Miyamoto, 56, is the creative force behind many of the world’s most popular video games. Nintendo has sold hundreds of millions of Miyamoto-designed games for billions of dollars.
Its masterpieces Super Mario 64 and The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time are often cited as the best games ever made, and its most recent products have proven essential to the amazing success of Nintendo’s Wii and DS platforms.
Just a few years ago, critics claimed that Miyamoto was out of touch with the industry he helped create. After joining Nintendo in 1977 and designing the arcade game Donkey Kong a few years later, Miyamoto enjoyed a string of successes including Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Star Fox.
But as the designer entered his 50s and Nintendo’s share of the growing interactive entertainment industry began to decline at the expense of Sony’s innovative PlayStation, Miyamoto was often berated for refusing to grow up.
In recent years, the rest of the industry has pursued the holy grail of photo-realism and explored increasingly violent and mature content characterized by the Grand Theft Auto series. But, like a Japanese Peter Pan, Miyamoto refused to follow suit and continued to produce abstract and childish cartoon worlds.
In the last generation of consoles, Nintendo’s GameCube has been largely overtaken by the PlayStation 2 and even the cheeky newcomer, Xbox. Nintendo’s future became increasingly uncertain, and it seemed like Miyamoto and his beloved company were becoming anachronisms in a fast-paced, maturing industry now suddenly more focused on adults than children.
Yet today Nintendo is once again the industry leader. Miyamoto and its president, Satoru Iwata, have orchestrated an astonishing comeback by producing insanely new experiences such as Nintendogs, Brain Training, Wii Fit and Wii Sports, as well as smart updates to more traditional Nintendo dishes such as New Super Mario Bros. ., Mario Kart and Super Mario Galaxy.
Nintendo has now sold over 50 million Wii consoles and over 100 million DS laptops, capturing the public’s attention with their new control schemes and dynamic software.
Above all, Nintendo has managed to capture an extremely large and diverse audience, including those who previously seemed immune to the charms of video games, such as young girls (Nintendogs), middle-aged housewives (Wii Fit) and even the elderly (Brain Training and Wii Sports).
At the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, The Age asked Miyamoto if he felt justified by Nintendo’s recent success after being so regularly criticized for creating “childish” games. But the soft-spoken Miyamoto said through an interpreter, “I think the criticism (that) the things I was creating were childish was really more of a PR strategy than other companies could have. use.
“I don’t think what I was creating was childish at all. I just do very positive and bright things. I think creating something for kids is different from creating something that has a bright, positive attitude.”
Anyone who has tested a Miyamoto game will undoubtedly agree that their visuals and instant accessibility often belies the richness and challenge of its games. Miyamoto says Nintendo’s success isn’t due to a particular focus on a specific audience, like older gamers or women.
“What we’ve always said is that we focus on a very large audience and try to make games that appeal to everyone.”
This is not a strategy Nintendo stumbled upon by chance or out of desperation. In an interview with The Age at E3 2004, Miyamoto made no secret of his disdain for the products his industry typically spits out. “In the entertainment business, you need innovation.
“There’s this habit of seeing a hit and then everyone’s running in that direction trying to replicate their success. Once you do that, the innovation dies and people are no longer entertained.”
As senior general manager of Nintendo and general manager of the company’s entertainment analysis and development division, Miyamoto is now ultimately responsible for every Nintendo game release. But the designer always likes to get involved during the long development process and “knows everything about each title from start to finish.”
“What’s really difficult is when there are a lot of different projects at the same time and you don’t know where they are leading,” Miyamoto adds. Presumably, that’s when he runs into the many junior designers he mentors, resulting in game delays or the entire project being canceled.
No doubt there will be plenty of heated discussion in the coming months as his team reflects on what to do with Nintendo’s latest gadget, a heart rate monitor dubbed the Wii Vitality Sensor. The sensor follows the astonishing success of Wii Fit’s Balance Board, which has already sold over 20 million units.
But despite Nintendo’s marketing efforts that its latest products could help people get in shape or sharpen their minds, Miyamoto bristles at the suggestion that Nintendo is becoming more of a ‘lifestyle’ company than a giant. entertainment.
He says his point of view when considering radical new products is to look at the different activities a family does together in the living room and think about “what could be turned into some kind of video game or experience. interactive “.
“With the Wii Vitality Sensor, it’s not about what you can do to measure or track different parts of the body, it’s more about what a new type of interface can do for you. create a new experience. If that was the case, for example, a way for your feelings to become some kind of input rather than just something that is evaluated or followed, what could be done with that to make it a game video ?
“If you were in an adventure game maybe there was something where you had to tell the truth or lie, maybe it could tell if you were lying who knows?”
Miyamoto has also recently spent some time finishing what is “the essence” of his Zelda adventure game franchise and “what’s the best way to keep Zelda moving forward.”
“My idea is that the player would have such an impactful experience that they would feel like they had traveled to the places that (the game hero) Link visits. I think it’s really important to point out that it’s it is about your individual memories of how you played the game. “
Whichever direction he chooses, Miyamoto says his determination is always to innovate. “It’s something that we cherish. We will always try to do things that no other company can do, that only Nintendo can do: create entertainment that people will continue to come back to and enjoy.”
1980 Donkey Kong (Arcade)
1983 Mario Bros. (Arcade)
1985 Super Mario Bros. (NES)
1986 The Legend of Zelda (NES)
1988 Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
1990 Super Mario World (SNES)
1990 Pilotwings (SNES)
1991 F-Zero (SNES)
1991 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
1992 Super Mario Kart (SNES)
1995 Yoshi Island (SNES)
1996 Super Mario 64 (N64)
1998 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
2001 Pikmin (GameCube)
2002 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GameCube)
2005 Nintendogs (Nintendo DS)
2006 Wii Sports (Wii)
2007 The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS)
2007 Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
2007 Wii Fit (Wii)