Nintendo Power Magazine Interviews Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata
Mar/05/02 12:00 PST

Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Iwata talk Triforce, 1080, E3 and more.

Nintendo Power Magazine is pleased to present the following interview with Satoru Iwata, Director and General Manager of the Corporate Planning Division of Nintendo Col. Ltd; and Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Pikmin and more. More officially stated, Mr. Miyamoto is General Manager of the entertainment analysis and development division and a director for Nintendo Co., Ltd.

This interview was conducted in Las Vegas at the first annual D.I.C.E. Summit, an interactive design summit hosted by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. The previous evening, Mr. Miyamoto received an Interactive Academy Award for Pikmin, which won in the Innovation in Console Gaming category.

Mr. Iwata and Mr. Miyamoto attended the D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit to participate in a round table discussion which focused on creating games with the power to appeal to a global audience. After the discussion, Mr. Iwata and Mr. Miyamoto kindly took the time to answer the following questions from Nintendo Power Magazine.

Nintendo Power (NP): Mr. Iwata, will we see any changes to Nintendo's global strategy after the global launch of Nintendo GameCube is complete?

Mr. Iwata (I): The basic idea won't change. Really, Nintendo's idea is that our software is made for everyone in the world. We're going to take the software that we've developed in Japan and provide it to the world. Throughout the launch, our message has been that we're different than other companies. We're different because we focus on software and try to include everyone as potential customers. So that basic message remains the same.

NP: You both made some very interesting points in your discussion about developing games for a global market. What factors do you consider when deciding which games to localize for the North American market? It may help us to understand better if you use a specific game as an example, such as Dobutsu Bancho [roughly translated as "Animal Leader" in English, Dobutsu Bancho is a creative game which challenges players to help a cube-shaped creature evolve. This game also features a very unique visual style. It currently does not have a US release date].

Mr. Miyamoto (M): Well obviously, the opinion of Nintendo of America is one of the most important things which determines whether or not we localize a game. We gather input about a game, then make a decision. With a game like Animal Leader, it's hard to understand the content of the game while it's still in Japanese. So, we're at a stage where we have to decide how much English we want to have in the game before we start the process of gathering feedback from users in the United States.

The basic idea is that once you've obtained a certain level of fun in the gameplay, you don't have to spend too much time rearranging the design or redrawing the characters. The core reason that people will want the game is its level of fun. Because the graphics in this game are created by an artist who has a very unique style, it has a certain distinctness. It's the role of designers and artists to bring this unique quality to games. So in the case of Animal Leader, it may be that its strange graphics serve as a barrier to some players. Or, it could actually become very popular because it is so distinct and looks so different than other things.

NP: Do you always trust the opinion of adults in the game industry, or do you ever try to get the opinions of actual American game players?

M: Well, I listen to all opinions that I'm able to listen to. Nintendo of America has done focus tests on games, and actually we also do tests with children in Japan to try to gather opinions. But really, what we look at is whether or not they really understand what's going on in the game. With kids, the only thing that matters is whether or not they think it's fun.

I: When I was working on Pokémon Snap, Smash Bros. and the Kirby games, we would do focus tests with young kids in Japan. But really, we think that there is greater value in watching them, and seeing where they get stuck and have problems. Then we can fix the game based on that information. Just because someone gives an opinion about what they think will make the game more fun, it doesn't necessarily mean that the suggestion will actually make the game more fun. We find that just observing people playing the game is a lot more helpful.

NP: Now we'd like to ask a couple questions about the Triforce [The Triforce is a 3D computer graphics board for next-generation arcade game systems which applies the architecture of the Nintendo GameCube. Namco and Sega have teamed up with Nintendo and plan to use this board to power a new wave of arcade games]. What is it about the Nintendo GameCube hardware that made it so appealing to Namco and Sega, and what advantages do you think this project will bring to Nintendo?

I: Really, the thing about Nintendo GameCube that attracted them was its power, its developer-friendly architecture and its affordable price. Essentially, we had gone to them to talk about developing games for the Nintendo GameCube as third-party developers, and we introduced them to the system at that time. They looked at it as said "Wow. This is really great. We could really use a board and an architecture like this for making arcade games." And so at that point they contacted us about actually using the Nintendo GameCube architecture for this Triforce board.

So, when they came to us with the idea of using this architecture as the basis for an arcade machine, we agreed to cooperated with them on a technological level to help achieve it. Since these games will be created specifically for our hardware, it will be very easy to port successful arcade games directly to Nintendo GameCube. What we'll see is a broader library for the Nintendo GameCube. Also, since these are companies which Nintendo hasn't worked with much in the past, we'll be cooperating together in this and thereby creating content together which won't be overlapping. So we'll see a lot of variety, and it's going to be a big plus for Nintendo.

NP: The Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable is available now. When planning the development of new games like Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda, are you always thinking about ways to use the cable?

M: We don't really know about Zelda yet, but we don't expect to use the cable with Mario Sunshine. We are going to be releasing what we've been calling Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble, which we showed at SpaceWorld. The cartridge for Game Boy Advance which contains the Tilt Sensor technology is going to have a very large amount Flash ROM memory available which will allow the player to download data from the Nintendo GameCube game to the Game Boy Advance game. This is the next generation of interaction that we expect out of the cable and the connection between Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance. With that, you'll see a lot of developers looking at the possibility of downloading data to the Game Boy Advance so players will be able to take that data with them and play it whenever they'd like.

Another example of the connectivity can be found in Animal Forest, which is already out in Japan. Without a Game Pak [for Game Boy Advance], a player can use just the cable and a Game Boy Advance to get additional play out of the Nintendo GameCube game. So those are some of the different ways we envision using it.

NP: Will 1080 Snowboarding 2 feature gameplay similar to the realistic action in the N64 version, or do you plan to take a different approach?

M: Actually, we're trying to keep it as close as possible to the intent of the original 1080 game. But really we're trying to make it feel like you're riding on an actual mountain. The expressive powers of the Nintendo GameCube are going to allow us to do this in a way that we don't think has been done before. This will allow you to feel like you're on a real mountain.

NP: It seems like the Nintendo GameCube could handle dynamic weather effects very well.

M: Yes, those will be very important elements of the game.

NP: Star Fox Adventures is looking great. Have you been working closely with Rare on this game?

M: Yes, we do work very frequently with Rare and cooperate with them on titles. But they are actually a company that is more independent. We can pretty much let them work on a game and they can do it all themselves. We don't have to worry so much about them. On Star Fox we did send a couple of people over there for a brief period last year. As we get closer to completion we may send someone again. We're very happy with Rare.

NP: A lot of people have been comparing Star Fox Adventures with some of the 3D games in the Zelda series. Do you think that this is an accurate comparison?

M: At first, even I thought they were very similar. But we've been working with them in the development process to make sure that it does have its own distinct qualities and characteristics.

I: People expecting the exact same thing are not going to find the exact same thing in it. But at the same time, they're not going to be wondering why the game is not at the same level as the Zelda games, because it will be. People who like that type of game are going to be happy to play Star Fox Adventures and have a game that they can be seriously satisfied with.

NP: Can you give us some hints about what games we'll see at Nintendo's booth this year at E3?

M: In addition to Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Star Fox Adventures and Eternal Darkness, we'll also be showing Zelda at E3. And all of these will be playable, including Zelda.

I: Our main message at E3 this year is going to be that in less than one year after the launch of Nintendo GameCube, people will be able to play Mario Sunshine, Star Fox Adventures, Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda. And we think that's big.

M: And there will be others besides this.

I: There are other things that we will be showing at E3, but we can't disclose them all now of course because when E3 rolls around people won't be surprised.

NP: Finally, we have one more questions specifically for Mr. Miyamoto. When you put your children to bed, what kind of bedtime stories do you tell them?

M: I actually don't do it much anymore, but when they were younger I used to tell them really silly stories when they went to bed that I made up myself. Some of them included word play and things like that to make them funny. I told stories about strange animals and things that would make them laugh. So I'd do a lot of describing these animals from head to toe and they would imagine as I went along. I'd start off with very strange descriptions of the head, and go into even more strange descriptions of the arm and continue down this path of describing even stranger and stranger features. So in their heads they'd get these really strange pictures of animals and creatures that I'd invented for them. They would get a lot of pleasure out of that.

NP: Thank you very much.


While attending the D.I.C.E. Summit Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Iwata also fielded questions from members of the gaming media at an informal breakfast reception hosted by Nintendo. Here are a few of the questions and answers from that event.

Question (Q): Did Pikmin turn out to be the game you hoped it would be?

M: Overall, I'm pretty happy with it. I think it appealed to people who really like games. Due to the tension in the game, I think it was difficult for people unfamiliar with gaming.

Q: Can we expect to see US versions of Doshin the Giant, Animal Leader and
Animal Forest?

M: For Doshin the Giant and Animal Leader, we are looking into whether or not they will be suitable for the United States. In regard to Animal Forest, work is progressing. There is a lot of text in that game. There is dialogue for more than 300 characters.

I: It's about four or five times the amount of text that you'd find in a typical RPG. We might have it ready for the fall.

Q: What is the status of The Legend of Zelda for Nintendo GameCube?

M: We just finished a series of interviews in Europe, and this question comes up a lot. By the end of the year, you'll be able to play it. I don't want to show it off because without playing it you'll just focus on the graphics. There will be a playable version of Zelda at E3.

Q: Mr. Yamauchi has been speaking recently about retirement. Do you know who will replace him?

I: For some time now, he's been saying that he will retire. However, he hasn't said what his plan is. He may have a plan, but he hasn't announced it. I don't know what his plan is.

M: Since all of you made it here so early, I'm sure you're looking for more solid answers. I can tell you that it won't be me. [laughs]

Q: Would Nintendo ever consider selling games to Sony or Microsoft?

I: Making good games is obviously important, but it is not enough. It's really about being different. When you have big companies competing together on the same merits, it basically comes down to money. For Nintendo, it's about defining the difference which makes Nintendo what it is. When you're making a product which is a necessity of life and people need it to survive, then money definitely comes into play. Video games and entertainment in general are not a necessity of life. So for that reason, we need to work to make Nintendo the form of entertainment that people choose. To do this, we have to create games unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.

M: To me, it's not a competition. To me, creativity is not a competition. Really, it's a competition with yourself ... Unlike other companies, Nintendo focuses on the software. These hardware companies create things people have seen already, but they try to make things more beautiful. But people have already seen it. Hardware makers spend a lot of time talking about the future, but really most people can guess what to expect. People here talk a lot about network gaming, but even a child could guess what kinds of games would be produced for that kind of system. Other companies spend a lot of time trying to create franchises like the ones Nintendo has, but we want to create things that people won't expect. Even I don't know what this will be, but it's my job to find out.

I: The media frequently refers to Sony and Microsoft as "Game Industry Giants." To me, you have to look at the software, and then ask, "Who is the giant?" It's our job to bring surprise and excitement to the player. To accomplish that, you need to provide shock and surprise. We're competing on a different level than Microsoft, so we're not worried.

Q: How do you perceive Nintendo's image now, and where do you see it going in the future?

M: During the N64 era, Nintendo was viewed as a company which primarily appealed to kids. Our competitors in particular often try to promote that image. We have always been focused on games for players of all ages. It's important for the whole family to be able to sit down and play.

I: The core issue - which is how we make our games - isn't going to change. In the United States, for a long time there has been a negative connotation about video games. People think of playing video games and imaging someone sitting in a dark room all by themselves. With Nintendo GameCube, we want to bring gaming out of the dark.

Q: With the Triforce project, will Nintendo begin to make coin-op arcade games?

I: SEGA, Namco and Nintendo came together on this project because it would be good for arcade games. This doesn't mean that we're thinking about making arcade games, but it will make it easier for developers to bring arcade games to Nintendo GameCube.

M: This whole idea came from SEGA and Namco. I started out making games for the arcade, so I think it would be nice, but currently there are no plans. The fact that we can all work together is a sign of change.

Q: What do you see as the major differences between the Japanese and United States game markets?

I: I haven't really thought about the distinctions. The question is more about commonalties. You have to focus on what works, not what doesn't work. Things that try to simulate real life will depend more on culture. Pokémon was actually not designed for a global release. You have to find a level of fun intrinsic to human nature.