Miyamoto talks Vision, Third-Party Support, and Competition in Newsweek’s post-GDC interview

N’Gai Croal’s LevelUp blog published an interview held after the 2007 Game Developer’s Conference with Nintendo’s legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Highlights and commentary from that interview follow:

“I wanted to clear up some misunderstandings that some developers have about what Nintendo is trying to do, and make it really clear that we’re not saying that you need to turn your back on technology. We’re not saying that the game industry is bad and that we don’t like what people are doing.
Obviously one thing that Nintendo does, and we continue to try to do, is to create new interfaces. That’s going to give third party developers the opportunity to come up with new ideas, and we think that there’s going to be a great number of opportunities for people to do that with Wii.
A lot of times it seems that when [third-party developers are] putting games out on Nintendo hardware, those games are being developed by their third-string team or their fourth-string team. Maybe that’s because they see those products as being unique projects or somewhat smaller-scale projects. But when Nintendo puts out a title that is designed to really support and sell its hardware, that title is always developed by one of our number one teams. And so I think that when it comes to the question of trying to compete with our software, I would really like to see the parties try to do that with their number one teams rather than with the third- or fourth-string teams.”

Hard for me to do anything here other than agree. 3rd parties can’t expect to release ‘tester’ products with their throwaway studios and profit off of the venture. Whether this is a departure from reality on the other consoles is an unknown to me, but reason suggests that that wouldn’t be a viable approach for any system, and it’s unreasonable to expect Nintendo’s hardware alone to sell your games. In the full article, Miyamoto goes on to list 3rd parties that have ‘gotten it’, released innovative software that doesn’t just tack on features to existing games, and reaped the rewards of their efforts. Developers, business is about risk. Get used to it.

“One of the biggest points of my speech is that there was a time when Space Invaders and Super Mario came out when videogames were at the center of pop culture. It was huge news. Everybody knew what Space Invaders was. Everybody knew what Super Mario Bros was. The world used to react to games and respond to games in a way that I haven’t seen it doing in a long time. I wanted to try to convey the idea to people that the expanded audience isn’t just about reaching out to new people but in fact it’s about trying to get videogames back to a central position in pop culture and getting the world to pay attention to videogames again.”

The phenomenon of video games falling out of the mainstream eye and into being a subject a ridicule for the uninitiated certainly isn’t difficult to witness in modern times. I work for an electric company during the week, and I’m generally known as ‘the gamer guy’ – Gaming is defined in the present as a lifestyle choice and not a pastime. And while most of the blue-collar workers I work with think gaming lies exclusively in the domain of geeks, almost all of them have owned an NES in the past and could throw down in a game of Super Mario Bros. Some of them have now purchased Wiis. If Nintendo can once again propel their major brands into “household name” status to the point where Mario/Zelda cereal is re-manufactured, I am reasonably certain I could die happy. Deliciously happy.

“With regard to the PlayStation Home, obviously we have seen a lot of people who have been interested in doing that type of thing for a long time, from Little Computer People to what we have done with the Miis to the Sims, so a lot of people have looked at different ways to take that and do something with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we also did something…in terms of taking the Miis and expanding them, that virtual kind of Sim-type experience. It’s something that a lot of people have already done and shown interest in, and we have a lot of people internally who are interested in that type of a project too.”

Now this is interesting news. The possibilities defined by WiiConnect24 and an always-online virtual world populated by Miis all point in directions that I find dangerously engrossing.

“I think the fact that at [Sony’s] keynote this week they focused on some maybe very Nintendo-esque type projects, it makes me happy and I think it’s good for the industry. Because the more that people try to go in these unique and creative directions, the more possibilities that open up for the industry as a whole.”

That Miyamoto’s a class act, let me tell you.