Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata Q&A

We sit down for a face-to-face interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata to talk about past projects and Nintendo's plans for the future.


Super Mario Sunshine

We had the opportunity to sit down today with Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata in Las Vegas at the DICE Summit to discuss Nintendo's plans for this year. Before our conversation began we were treated to video footage of Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Eternal Darkness, and Star Fox Adventures. While the clips of Eternal Darkness and Star Fox Adventures didn't show anything drastically new, other than a nice layer of polish to the games, Mario and Metroid certainly caught our attention. The clip of Mario Sunshine showed everyone's favorite plumber going through a variety of environments, including some of those seen in the clip of the game shown at Space World. We were able to get a better look at Mario's water cannon as he wielded it to clear dark ooze out of his way, though the dark matter was out of place in the brightly colored world, which bore a close resemblance to certain areas in Mario 64. We caught glimpses of gameplay that mixed old and new elements together: Mario climbed on a fence and reached a square that flipped the side he was climbing on, he walked on a tightrope, and he clung to a tightrope and sprayed water from his cannon as he spun on it. We also saw Mario blast a foe with water, which didn't appear to have any effect. We saw a few battles with larger enemies that looked like exaggerated sea life--a shellfish-like creature and an octopus. Overall, the game looked very clean, following the art and style of Super Mario 64 while increasing the detail on the characters.

The Metroid clip showed off incredibly detailed environments from the game's first-person perspective. We saw a sampling of enemies and Samus attacking them with her blaster. In addition, we were treated to clips of classic Metroid elements, such as Samus firing off charged energy blasts from her weapon, using her grappling hook to clear a chasm, and laying bombs while moving in a ball, during which the camera pulled back behind Samus, allowing the ball segment to be played from a third-person perspective. The action was fast, and the frame rate was high, which certainly piqued our interest to see much more of the game.

We were also treated to additional clips of the recently released Animal Leader and the forthcoming Doshin the Giant. While we'd already seen Animal Leader running in the office, Doshin was new to us. It certainly looked cool, sporting gameplay and graphical refinements that expanded on the first Doshin game for the N64.

Following the clips, we sat down and spoke with the two men who will play a huge part in the GameCube's development as the platform matures this year.

GameSpot: What do you think of the industry these days? Do you think that realistic games like GTAIII are a far cry from Mario and Donkey Kong?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Well, Nintendo is ultimately making software for everyone, everyone from kids to adults. But looking at the lineup that we have now to really emphasize the fact that there are Nintendo games for everybody, we do have some games that do tend to skew more toward certain gamers. But, despite that, even when we were making Pikmin, we had a lot of discussions about whether or not we should use terms like dying in relation to the Pikmin and whether we should show scenes like when the Pikmin are drowning and whatnot. And we have a group within Nintendo of Japan that will actually review issues like this, because, when you think about it, what's acceptable in one country is not acceptable in another, and it's a very difficult thing to predict how people will react to certain things given cultural differences and whatnot. So oftentimes I will go to this group that we have at Nintendo that will look at different scenes and try to make decisions as to whether or not we want to have things like that in our games, and I'll have to kind of argue for my own games--for the things that I would like to show in them. So thinking in these terms, really the type of events and actions that you see in games like GTAIII is something that I can't even think about. It's not something that we at Nintendo are looking at creating. From that point of view, I can't really comment on what they're doing or what other software makers are attempting to do.

GS: In terms of the GameCube content, do you still feel that quality is more important than quantity?

SM: Definitely, from a business perspective, I think that quality over quantity is very important and quality software is much more important than just a large number of software titles. However, looking back to the N64 era, I think it is true that perhaps we didn't have as many titles and as much quantity out there as we maybe we could have. So, with that in mind, going forward with the GameCube, I think you can expect to see more titles than maybe there were on the N64. But quality is still our main focus. And, that is really, from a business standpoint, what we want our focus on.

Satoru Iwata: When it comes to game size and the size of different games on the GameCube, the games are not all going to be very small and very short in terms of playtime. As a matter of fact, Star Fox Adventures, which we're going to be releasing in the first half of this year, is actually going to be a very large-scale game, and I think people will look forward to that. And when it comes to numbers, really what we're talking about is looking at not releasing similar types of games that will be competing against one another, but having a number of different styles of games.

The other thing that's interesting about the consoles is that you see a lot of people who really try to compete based on the number of titles that they have for their consoles. And, to me, it's really not about, "How many titles do I have out there?" The real question is, "How many titles do I have that people actually want to buy?" Because, really, the unique thing about the hardware is that, unless there's something for that hardware that you want to buy, the hardware itself does nothing for you. So, even if you have 100 games out there, if nobody's interested in playing them, the hardware doesn't do you any good.

GS: Along the lines of software, how will Nintendo go about managing GameCube content to avoid slow periods? It was a problem during the N64 period, and it seems to be cropping up now.

SM: I'm sorry! [laughs] But actually I think that that problem is going to be resolved within the next six months. When you look at our third-party support for the latter half of this year, there are going to be a lot of games coming out for the GameCube. Almost to the point where one could say there's going to be almost too many. And actually the latter half of this year is also going to be very strong for first- and second-party software--you're going to see a lot of those titles coming out. We did have titles lined up for the first quarter and the first half of this year that, for a variety of reasons, we were not able to launch. Some of them related to the effects of the terror attack on the US, which we could not foresee, and some of them related to simple scheduling problems that arose with games and caused them to slip--and when I say slip I mean by, you know, two or three months. So really, as we get into the second, the third, and particularly the fourth quarter of this year, we're going to see a much stronger line with much less time between launches, and I think everybody's going to have a lot to look forward to.

SI: So, when we talk about a stronger lineup, we're talking about titles that people are going to want to play. We're talking about major titles like Star Fox Adventures, Mario Sunshine, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda--all coming out this year.

GS: This year in the US?

SI: Yes. So, really we're talking about so many titles that it will almost seem like too many, so we're going to be carefully managing their release so that they come out in periods when people are going to be wanting to buy them and at times when people are ready to purchase a new game.

GS: Does the demand for titles put pressure on you when you're developing your games?

SM: There is a certain amount of pressure when people are asking for, you know, this many areas and this many scenarios in the Zelda game, or so many minutes of cinematic sequences in the game. So there is that kind of pressure, but really what we're launching this year is what I've decided we can get done and launch. And we're going to get those games completed and get them out, and then we're going to move on and work on making more games for the coming years.

SI: Of course, Miyamoto and his staff are working very hard to get this done! [laughs]

GS: Yesterday, you mentioned Nintendo's support of third-party developers, such as in the case of Doshin the Giant and Animal Leader. Is that the kind of support that Rare and Retro are getting?

SM: Actually, it's a very different kind of support for those companies, and there are different levels of support, really. I mean, if you look at Rare, Rare is a company that's really independent, and they're able to make games on their own. So we essentially let them develop their games, and we kind of take on a producer-style role of giving input and things like that. Whereas with Retro, it's more of a cooperative development where we're working together on ideas for the game and relying on them for their very skilled technical people and art resources. With Doshin, we assisted them with the programming of the game and also in terms of funding. So, really, if you look at the different companies, there are different levels and different styles of support that we have going on.

SI: The one commonality that you can see in our support of them is that we look at each of these companies and see what we need to provide in order to ensure that the level of quality of their output matches Nintendo's. So we analyze that and base our level of support on what they need. And, of course, each team has its own strengths and weaknesses and its own areas where it needs help.

GS: Did Luigi's Mansion turn out to be the game you wanted it to be?

SM: Actually, games like Luigi's Mansion and Animal Forest, which we've just recently released in Japan, are really being driven more by some of our younger directors at Nintendo. It's not so much my vision of what the game will be--I supervise the overall development of the game. It's true that the director of Luigi's Mansion still feels that if he'd had more time, he could have put a lot more into it and come out with a better game. And so to that extent I think he has some regrets about it.

Though, in the case of Luigi's Mansion, for the European launch, we've added some new elements to the hidden mansion that become accessible after you clear the game and strengthened that mode so that people will probably be interested in playing it a little longer than they did the US version.

GS: What are your goals with Mario Sunshine? How do you go about developing a game to follow in the footsteps of Mario 64, given that game's profound impact on 3D gaming?

SM: Actually, at this time, we're on this media tour showing the game to people, but we're not really talking in too much detail about the contents of the game. [laughs] It's true that Mario 64 really was a very, very innovative game when it came to the execution of action in a 3D world. So really what we see Mario Sunshine as being is kind of a continuation and expansion of Mario 64. So while we're working with this idea of maintaining the same system and style of gameplay as Mario 64, the director is really trying to add new elements. I mean, you see in the video that Mario is now carrying a water cannon, and that's going to play a role in the game. But he has so many ideas and so many things that he wants to implement into the game that it would take a very, very long time to get them all in there, so we're at a point where I've kind of stopped him and said, "You know it's OK if the game is more like Mario 64." But I think you are going to see that there are a lot of other things that have kind of been piled in there to help round out the game, and it's going to be something for everyone to look forward to.

GS: Can you tell me anything else about Mario Sunshine?

SM: I think, for the most part, I've said all the things I can say about it. [laughs]

GS: What can you tell me about Zelda for the GameCube?

SM: [laughs] Um, I'm afraid I'm not going to be living up to your expectations today! What I can say is that we are going to put it on the show floor at E3, and it is going to be playable. And we are going to put it out this year. The graphics haven't changed much from what we showed at Space World. But as I accidentally said in Europe--and has since been spread around the Internet--I have changed design of the eyes a little bit. But you won't see dollar signs on his eyes or anything. [laughs]

GS: Speaking generally about Zelda, will the game be taking the same approach as Mario Sunshine in terms of being an extension of the work started in the Zelda games on the N64?

SM: I'm trying not to comment too much on it today. It is hard to describe, but kind of the idea that I have is that the GameCube Zelda and the Game Boy Zelda will be more similar to one another. And that with the two of those, I think I'd like to try to create one greater Zelda world.

GS: Now that you've worked in both 2D and 3D, which medium do you prefer? Do you think there's still something you could do in a 2D game?

SM: I think we've reached the end of an era with the N64, where creating a game in 3D really made it stand out as a product. Now that we have the GameCube, where it's so easy to create and manipulate these 3D worlds, really what we have now is a choice. Obviously with our experience on the N64, we know how to create 3D games. And, of course, with our past experience, we know how to create 2D games. So now we can look at a series or a title or a specific style of gameplay and decide whether a 3D world or a 2D world is going to be best suited to it. And I think what we're going to see in the end is that finally the game designer is at this stage where he or she is able to create the game that is best suited to the player. And, if you think about it, Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin are really almost more 2D than full 3D.

GS: Will we see a sequel to Pikmin?

SM: I put a lot of time and effort into really developing the Pikmin character as a kind of character franchise that's different from and separate from Mario. Since it has been so well received, I'd really like to try to carry that on and see what else I can do with it. The thing about Pikmin is that you can just rearrange the maps and create some new worlds and create a new game in that way. But there are a lot of other ways you could expand the gameplay as well, whether it's a Game Boy Advance version or something that makes use of the Card-e Reader, which we've launched in Japan and will be launching in the US. Or, who knows? Pikmin Online might be something that is well suited to it. And I hope that tomorrow I don't see all over the Internet that I think I can make a Pikmin Online--it's just one idea! [laughs]

GS: Thanks for your time.

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