Miyamoto Talks About the Future

We recently sat down with Shigeru Miyamoto to discuss Nintendo's future: the Game Boy Advance, the Dolphin, Zelda, and even... Seaman.

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At the recent ECTS, hosted in London a couple weeks ago, we caught up with the most famous game designer in the world, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto. As the final interview of the three-day-long tradeshow, Miyamoto-san, and his interpreter Mr. Minagawa, held the fort one last time to field our ruthless barrage of questions, which we now reveal to the gaming public. Without further delay this is what was said:

GameSpot News: We saw you walking around ECTS earlier today - did you see anything you liked?

Miyamoto: Unfortunately, everywhere I went many people surrounded me, so I was unable to spend much time with each game. I do however think that the quality of the software has in general increased.

GSN: We are curious. Previously, you hinted that Mario will be more mature in his future Dolphin incarnation. What do you mean by "mature"?

Miyamoto: This is in regard to how we are going to deal with the design of the next Mario and his surroundings. I am talking about background scenery, and I'm talking about Mario's facial expressions. In the past few years those areas have become much more geared toward children. What we're going to attempt to accomplish with the next Mario game is to allow older gamers to find interest in the title as much as younger ones and not to be ashamed to play it.

GSN: To follow up on that idea, since the level of technology is increasing, and the average sophistication of gamers is on the rise, will Dolphin games be directed less at a younger audience?

Miyamoto: From the very beginning I never intended to make games geared solely for children. When I made Donkey Kong I never intended it to be for kids, and when I made Super Mario Brothers I didn't either. Since those types of games were introduced at the dawn of the games industry, Nintendo has captured the hearts of many players who have grown with these games. This has spread Nintendo's demographic. However, I am now beginning to realize that this may be a problem for Nintendo - that the appearance is that we are too focused on the younger player demographic. We need to focus on a wider variety of players.

We recently had the Nintendo Space World show in Tokyo and it was amazing to see so many parents coming to play games with their children. It means that adults who have been playing these games in the past have become parents and can now enjoy games with their children. Unfortunately, it is true that the readers of the gaming magazines are more avid gamers and are more adults, compared with the Nintendo's main players. They say that the PlayStation is something that they like and that Nintendo is for children. It is wrong to say that children are not Nintendo's main target - the fact of the matter is that the games are for the whole family. That is the target we should be looking to achieve - games for adults and for children. And it is wrong connotation And it is inaccurate to say that Nintendo is only for children. The fact of the matter is that Nintendo is a family-oriented product. In that sense I think that Nintendo has been doing a great job. But at the same time there is something we need to consider. We need to take into account that there will be people who want to graduate from those children-oriented games. And if we are to make a wide variety of software, the same game hardware could be used.

GSN: In regard to classic Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong, in the last few years Rare has handled the majority of the Donkey Kong-related games (aside from the cameo appearances in games like Mario Party and Super Smash Brothers). And at the same time, Mario has remained in your hands. It's been a long time since Mario and Donkey Kong have appeared together in a true Mario/Donkey Kong title. What are the possibilities of the two coming together again? We realize that both have become franchises of their own, and it might not be too advantageous to put one in a poorer light, but does that affect why the two have not been together in so long?

Miyamoto: Oh I have no concern about putting Mario and Donkey Kong together. If they appear at the same time, maybe Donkey Kong can be the bad guy. Or both of them could be the bad guys fighting against each other. But the thing is, it's not important for us to follow the old Donkey Kong vs. Mario format. I mean if there's such an opportunity to do that, great. But that's now how I make games - I don't start by thinking, Why not make a game using Mario against Donkey Kong. I start by thinking about a new form of gameplay and then gradually shape that into a complete form. Now if a game would require the use of the two characters, then, yes, that could prove to be interesting. But again, that's not how I go about creating a game.

GSN: Since we last spoke to you, Nintendo has announced a new Game Boy platform called the Game Boy Advance. Will you be working on a title for this hardware - a Mario game perhaps?

Miyamoto: The name of the system is a bit misleading. It's not the advanced version of the current Game Boy. We are now developing a new hardware that will connect with cell phones. What we are doing now is expanding the form of entertainment. And yes, we've seen several requests for another Mario title for the Game Boy Advance. I wouldn't mind doing one, but I don't just want to do a delux version of the existing Super Mario Delux. For example, in the case of Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64, it may be regarded as simply a 3D version of the existing Mario game. But that's not true - we incorporated a completely new system and many other elements. For the next Mario game I just hope that I can make a new Mario game based on a new system.

GSN: You still have Nintendo 64 projects, Game Boy Color projects, and now projects for the Dolphin and the Game Boy Advance. What are you focusing on primarily, and how is Nintendo delegating the rest of the responsibilities?

Miyamoto: That's the kind of issue I'm always having. You know I'm getting older of course, and I need to give more chances to the younger people. Some of my staff members are now approaching 40, and they have been working with me for so many years. They still haven't had the chance to get in their own games. So now is the time for me to step back and let more game producers be responsible for the game development - especially because this is a time for Nintendo to shift development, and these staff members are already accustomed to the Nintendo 64 hardware.

Also, we already have alliances with other companies. For example, we have made an alliance with Mr. Okamoto's team at Capcom so that we are together working on a trilogy of Zelda titles for the Game Boy. We've also announced our joint venture with Konami to develop software for the Game Boy Advance. And of course, internally, Nintendo is intensifying its development teams. We are now trying to make it so that more people other than myself can make really good Nintendo games.

GSN: So how does the selection process for something like that start? Hudson did Mario Party and now Mario Party 2, and HAL Laboratories did games like Super Smash Brothers. How did it come to pass that Capcom was selected to take on one of Nintendo's most prized franchises? And what's Konami's role with the Game Boy Advance going to be - is it going to do Konami games on the Game Boy Advance or will it handle Nintendo franchises?

Miyamoto: How we started differs from company to company. For example, HAL is virtually a part of Nintendo now and they continue to make great software for us. When it comes to Hudson, the first request was simply that they wanted to make a board game with Mario characters. So we never asked them, they asked us. And in the case of Capcom, it really had nothing to do with the company itself, but rather Mr. Okamoto. He's an ardent fan of Zelda, and he made a very serious request to work on a new Zelda game. So it's really not between Nintendo and Capcom, but rather between Mr. Okamoto and myself. As for the new partnership with Konami, I think they are primarily going to make games solely for Nintendo.

So, when I say that we are intensifying the development power at Nintendo, it doesn't mean that we are increasing the number of people in our development teams. The more important thing to us is that there are people that know how to control the whole development process. So I think it is very wise to work with other companies that have responsible people to oversee big projects.

GSN: We noticed that you are thanked in the credits of Seaman for the Dreamcast. Also, we've heard that you are good friends with the producer of Seaman. Did you have any advice for your friend for the Seaman project, and what do you think of the game?

Miyamoto: The creator of Seaman (Mr. Saito) and I have had a longtime relationship. A while back, Mr. Saito had a plan for a new game that eventually became the Seaman of today. Originally, we spoke about the game and discussed the possibility of having it for Nintendo. We talked very seriously about it for a long time - would a Nintendo platform be the best platform for him to introduce Seaman? We thought at the time that the 64DD would be the best choice for the game. However, he finally decided that the Dreamcast would be the best choice for the game, and I didn't have any objections - it's his project. And as such, I didn't give him any specific ideas or advice, but we just discussed many things during the development process of Seaman. Mr. Saito and I maintain a very good relationship, so it's very likely that he will work on a project for Nintendo. I just don't know right now what sort of response there would be to the title appearing on the Nintendo 64 or DD. What would you think of Seaman on the Nintendo 64?

GSN: Well, we love Seaman. We've published a lot of information on our web site and magazine, and we really pushed Sega to bring the title to the US. We don't know how it's going to do. It's very strange - it's very Japanese (because of the faces and the wild idea), but we think that anything that could help promote the game (by perhaps bringing it to other platforms like the N64 or Dolphin) is good.

Also, for Sega it's very beneficial, especially in America. The company doesn't have anything like Pokemon or any sort of virtual-monster-type game (like Tecmo's Monster Rancher on the PlayStation). Seaman is something that Sega has needed. That's not to say that it's something that should stay on the Sega platform, but I think everybody is realizing that it's a very unique title.

Miyamoto: As you know, I've been working on the project called Cabbage for the N64 DD that is very similar to Seaman. Unfortunately, the Cabbage project has been delayed very drastically. Mr. Saito is aware of that fact. This leaves me in a difficult position - I know about Seaman and I know about Cabbage. Since Cabbage has been delayed it might have been a good idea for Mr. Saito to have released Seaman on the Nintendo 64. And should Cabbage never be released, it will be interesting to see if Seaman will end up on the Nintendo 64 platform - I just don't know. I don't know if it will be Seaman 2, or some other project, but I am keeping a good relationship with Mr. Saito, and he will make something for a Nintendo platform in the future. GSN: With Sakura Wars (traditionally a Sega product) coming to the Game Boy - and we know this sounds like a far out question - has there ever been any thought to Nintendo and Sega working on a title together?

Miyamoto: (Laughing) I know what you are referring to - that Sega's president claims that in order for the game to be released, that the Game Boy will in some way need to connect to the Dreamcast. And we are saying that this is not possible. Well, it's really the producer of the game standing between the president of Red Company, Nintendo, and also Sega. He would like to see Sakura Wars on the Game Boy. There haven't been any specific talks directly between Nintendo and Sega. In the past, though, Sega has licensed its titles to other companies for them to be created on Nintendo's Famicom platform. But very bluntly speaking, we've never dreamt of cooperating with each other. Sega is a direct competitor of Nintendo.

GSN: The last question we wanted to ask you today, it's well documented that your career began when Mr. Yamauchi asked you, as a young artist for Nintendo, to develop a game when the video-game industry was in its early stages. You created Donkey Kong. And ever since, your role has expanded to that of an adviser on multiple projects. Will you ever relinquish some of those responsibilities and just concentrate on a game that you want to do yourself. And would this be something all-new rather than an update to an existing franchise?

Miyamoto: Yes, I really want to make my own game. And to do so I really have to start constructing some very compact game - something to be the core of the game. It's one if the main reasons I'm shifting to the Dolphin. With the system in mind, I am now actually very carefully planning something and taking a long time. What I'm doing is thinking about five years from now - what this industry will be like then. Right now, I am reaching a lot of school kids, but they will all be in high-school soon. That's what I am thinking of.

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