Miyamoto on Wii, new side project

Mario creator talks to the Japanese press about his involvement in a museum installation and explains why Nintendo decided to "destroy the paradigm" of the games industry.

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The Japanese site Nintendo Dream is currently running a huge interview with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. In the first part of the interview, Miyamoto discussed his recent work and feelings on the overall direction of the games industry.

Interestingly, some of Miyamoto's recent handiwork can be found not in a new game, but a museum. The gaming luminary was involved in developing interactive exhibits for Shigureden, a high-tech museum in Kyoto Japan devoted to Japanese culture. The museum allows visitors to play a Nintendo DS version of Hyakunin Isshu, a traditional card game based on famous poems. Regarding such nonstandard uses of gaming gear, Miyamoto was enthusiastic: "I'm interested in entertainment in general--I like aquariums and art museums that have interactive exhibits. When the topic of Shigureden came up, I immediately wanted to work on it... I'd always wanted to try using the DS in public spaces, such as museum exhibits... Since Nintendo has no plans to get involved in such attractions, I suggested to [former president Hiroshi] Yamauchi that we try it at Shigureden." Miyamoto also hinted that he will work more on this project, promising "this isn't the end."

The DS popping up in places like museums is perhaps not all that surprising, considering the system's popularity in Japan. Miyamoto attributes this success directly to Nintendo's corporate principles. "We have always done what we think is right," he said. "We're often told that the world doesn't work based on 'what's right' alone, and this is certainly true. Nonetheless, Nintendo has always seriously and steadily done the right thing; we felt this would pay off eventually, and I feel that [the DS's success] has redeemed us."

Miyamoto also emphasized the importance of staying in tune with the outside world, saying, "If you're on top, you get spoiled and surrounded by cheerleaders. A few years ago, people were saying that Nintendo had slipped off top place. But actually the game market itself had lost touch with the real world; this offered opportunities to the one who noticed first."

Regarding the question of what direction the game industry needs to take, Miyamoto said Nintendo's response is summed up by the company's catchphrase, which translates as "providing enjoyment, from five to 95." Miyamoto elaborated. "Of course we're not rejecting current games, but an increasing number of people don't want to play games because they're hard, and a lot of people think games are irrelevant to them."

Miyamoto also expressed some irritation with the industry for not questioning why users have grown indifferent to gaming hardware. "Instead, people in the industry ask, 'Will simulations catch on after the RPG boom?' 'What genre is the game play?' 'Who made it?' We've lost site [sic] of essential enjoyment, which is the basis of gaming. In developing the Wii, we asked ourselves once more, 'What kind of game console do people want in their homes?'"

The result of Nintendo's soul searching was the streamlined design and now famous Wii controller. "It's nonthreatening," Miyamoto said of the system. "Our larger theme was to make something that wouldn't intimidate women and nongamers when we showed it to them."

Attracting nontraditional demographics is not Nintendo's only reason for the radical simplification of the console and in particular its controller. "We think that game designers, including us, have hit a dead end. It's assumed you will develop for a given environment, and [the developers] don't know what they should make. To break out of this stagnation, we first have to radically change the paradigm. We have to try destroying [the paradigm] ourselves, and see what is born out of its destruction. If this cycle isn't repeated, nothing new will be created... We decided to base a product around [this idea] and offer it as a challenge to the game designers of the world. So, although I don't reject today's games, if we don't do this sort of thing, no new forms of gameplay will appear."

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