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More Interviews with Miyamoto and Iwata

The Los Angeles Times saw an opportunity to sit down with Satoru Iwata and Miyamoto for a Q&A. Check it out below:

Question: Can you comment on the state of technology in the video game industry--where it's going and what kinds of games it will allow you to make?

Miyamoto: I think for a long time we've looked at technology and at how we can make use of it in games. In the last five to six years, there's been a lot of focus on what can be done with cutting-edge technology.

Now we're getting to the point where the technology can only do so much. People are focusing too much on what you can do with technology, and not enough on creativity. I'm not certain that a high level of technology will necessarily make games fun and interesting.

Iwata: In the early stages of the video game industry, the technology was quite limiting. In game design, you had to find ways to stretch that technology. Now we've found ourselves with new technology, and that puts us in a much freer environment. That's great, but technology is just a tool. It's not our objective.

Q: What about online gaming?

Miyamoto: I definitely think there are new elements of game play that can be introduced with online games. But I think online is just one method of connecting multiple players.

There are many different ways of playing games. Some games you want to play by yourself and others you want to play with other players. I don't think all games are going to go in that direction in the future. I think it's strange that so many game designers are focusing so much on online.

Iwata: People are always talking about the positive aspects of going online, but few people are talking about the hurdles that people still have to get past, such as the costs of putting a game online, how much people are willing to pay [and] how many people have credit cards.

Look at "The Legend of Zelda," a game that sold 6 million copies. If you take a game like that and make it only online, how many units can a game like that sell? Even with "Zelda," it would be difficult to sell a million copies as an online game.

People are also talking a lot about broadband. But when you look at penetration of broadband worldwide, at best it will be 20% of people in five years.

The other simple fact is that people who are going online are doing so with PCs and not gaming consoles. So then the question is, how do you pull that line that's hooked up from the PC to the living room and get that console online?

Q: You've talked a lot about how there's so little risk-taking in the industry, that so many of the games out there are just serialized. What risks have you yourself taken?

Miyamoto: With the launch of GameCube we could have gone with titles like "Zelda" and "Mario," but instead we challenged ourselves, and we launched with "Pikmin" and "Luigi's Mansion."

Had we tried to launch the GameCube with our standard franchises, people would not have been convinced that Nintendo is doing things differently. But doing it this way and taking risks with new titles, I think it's turned out very well.

Q: You've talked before about how your competitors have tried to pin you down as a kiddie-oriented company with little to offer older, more mature gamers. How are you going to change that image?

Iwata: While Nintendo sells hardware, we are the biggest software publisher. We have the strongest software teams in-house. Those in-house teams have a better understanding of what entertainment is and what it needs to be to attract buyers, given the fact that it's not a necessity in daily life.

People have often attacked us for making games that they consider childish. But with games like "Mario," an adult can pick that game up and have a wonderful time.

For a long time, Nintendo's opinion is that we make games everyone can enjoy and people can judge us based on our games. Now, we've decided to make a more obvious effort to broaden our appeal with games like "Star Fox." People will see that we have software that appeals to all ages.

Q: Will you rely on your lineup to spread the message that Nintendo's not just for kids, or will you also have a broader marketing campaign to trumpet that message?

Iwata: It's not a question of one or the other. You can't just change an image with commercials. Nor can you silently put out games and expect people to just know. So it will be a combination of the two. But the one way in which Nintendo is different from the others is that we're not a company that tries to change image based on hype.

source GameCube Europe

IGNcube: Let's get right to it. We understand Left Field Productions is no longer involved with 1080 2 for GameCube. Who's working on it now and when will it come out?

[Surprise and laughter from Miyamoto and Iwata]

Shigeru Miyamoto: It is true that Left Field is no longer working on 1080. We are now working on it somewhere in Nintendo and it will be released next winter. It will be a game that is based closely on the original intent of 1080.

IGNcube: Is Giles Goddard involved with the project?

Miyamoto: Giles is not involved in that [yet].

IGNcube: We've very pleased with what Giles has contributed toward Doshin the Giant GCN.

Miyamoto: He will also be helping a little bit with 1080 and even when Left Field Productions was working on it he was cooperating with them as well.

IGNcube: Will Mario Kart use the GameCube online network? Will it be one of the first GCN titles to go online?

[Laughter from both Miyamoto and Iwata]

Miyamoto: Online, I think, is something that a lot of people have recently been talking about. And I think when the situation is ready for us to jump into it, we will be able to do it. Mario Kart, as you pointed out, is a game that would be suited for that. It's similar to linking four Game Boy Advances together and playing on a split screen. It's a very similar style of play and something that you could very easily take to online. When online becomes a viable business model, something like that would be very easy to do.

Satoru Iwata:The thing about online is that people are talking about it and bringing it up as this kind of direction for gaming. But the fact of the matter is that many aren't really paying attention to a lot of the hurdles that have to be jumped before online becomes viable. One of the biggest ones, I think is, what's really going to be the penetration for broadband connections around the world? Where is that going to be in a few years? So people are talking about this and seem to focus only on online, but they fail to answer many of the questions surrounding it.

We have a lot of experience in online as I'm sure you're aware. We think very positively about the possibilities. We've done a lot of online experiments in the past. But until these hurdles are met and these problems are solved, I don't think that we should just jump into online because people think there's strength there right now. So we're certainly not in a position where we can say 'there will be an online Mario Kart in 2003.'

We're not negative toward the idea of going online. We're just practical.

IGNcube: Can you tell us a little more about Mario Sunshine. We see the paint falling from the skies. The worlds are morphing. How does this all play into the game?

[Miyamoto reveals a gameplay mechanic detail in Japanese to translator, but then asks that we not print it.]

Miyamoto: Actually, I'm under strict orders not to say. Detailed information only at E3. Obviously we're trying to keep a lot of the details about the game very secret so that we can surprise people with them by the time E3 rolls around. So that's not why we're talking a whole lot about the game at this time.

I wish I could tell you something. So I guess if I had to say anything, I would say that you can see in the video that Mario has some kind of a water gun on his back. I can tell you that this is going to be an important new item and element to the game.

For the most part, it's really kind of a continuation of the style and tradition of Mario 64. This time with the power of the GameCube what we're going to see is a world that really, truly comes to life with a lot of things going on simultaneously.

IGNcube: Is this why the visuals don't seem to be a leap over Mario 64?

Miyamoto: I guess you could say that's one reason. The other thing is that we're trying to create this idea of a really, bright, sunny and tropical world. And when you get into these very bright, vibrant colors it becomes difficult to do some of the graphics that you see in, say Star Fox. If you look at Star Fox, you see each individual hair coming off Fox's face now -- showing off some of the real power of the GameCube. That's great. But with Mario Sunshine we're looking to have all kinds of things going on-screen at once in this incredibly vibrant world.

Iwata: And besides, it's about how the different teams want to use the power of the GameCube. How they want to use it to add their own touch and feel to their specific games. If everybody tries to do the same thing people would get bored very soon.

IGNcube: What has become of Fire Emblem 64? Will it come to GameCube?

Miyamoto: We haven't said anything about it, have we?

Iwata: No. We haven't.

Miyamoto: Wow. I haven't heard about that title in quite a while [laughs]. As you know, Intelligent Systems is a company that we've worked with for many years. Really, we haven't determined what direction some of those parties are going to be moving in on GameCube. But once we do we'll be sure to make some announcements.

Iwata: You look at games like that and of course doing something like bringing it to GameCube would be possible. But there are a lot of possible things we could do with those and we're considering all of the possibilities. Until we make a decision or are in a position to announce something, we cannot unfortunately say anything. We can't say yes or no.

Miyamoto: Of course, Fire Emblem has been an important franchise for Nintendo for a very long time and Intelligent Systems has been working on it the entire time. We're always thinking about possibilities on how we can continue to use that franchise in the future and Mother 3 is something that Iwata and I have always talked about bringing to the users.

IGNcube: Can you explain how Metroid's first- and third-person camera system works. Is it done automatically or does the player do this manually?

Miyamoto: Because what we're doing with Metroid right now is showing you images of the game rather than allow people to play it, obviously the first topic of discussion then becomes the perspective. People kind of have this tendency to call it a first-person shooter because of the perspective, but really we think of Metroid as an exploration game -- particularly Samus exploring really tight tunnels and passageways and whatnot. When you get into really tight places like that, the third-person camera can be difficult and that's why we went with the first-person camera. So I would say that Metroid is not a first-person shooter, but a first-person camera or perspective and that the exploration and adventure aspects of the game are really going to be emphasized and drawn out.

Another thing is, because people are so focused on the perspective at this point, there is a lot of talk about how you will switch between the perspectives. But the fact of the matter is, because the focus of the game is adventure, we really don't want a situation where it's a very complicated system and it takes a lot of button pressing and things like that in order to morph when you need to morph. So, really what it will be is a very simple mechanism of being able to change perspective only when you need to. And this allows you to focus more on the adventure rather than the control of changing form.

IGNcube: What's happening with Perfect Dark 0 and Kameo?

Miyamoto / Iwata: Obviously nothing has happened with these games in terms of any kind of event or anything. They are going along as they would normally go along in game development. When they get to a point where we can see when we'll be launching them, then we'll start talking about them at that point. But they are proceeding. And, you know, they are probably at a point where we could have shown you some quality footage today, but we're just concentrating on proceeding and we will talk more about each as they come closer to launch.

And of course the games that we showed you today are not the only that will be shown at E3 -- there will be others as well.

IGNcube: Speaking of E3. Last year, you had a really big surprise in Pikmin -- nobody saw that coming. Will there be similar surprises at this coming E3?

Iwata: Well, we're always thinking about surprises. But the thing about surprises is that when you say there are surprises then people are no longer surprised [laughs].

Miyamoto: Look at Metroid. Because we showed screenshots of that from so early on, it's kind of loss some of its surprise.

IGNcube: We don't mind.


IGNcube: Will Metroid have a multiplayer mode?

Miyamoto: [Considers for several moments] Ooh. We can't answer that. Please wait until E3.

IGNcube: Fair enough. On to Zelda. You said at Space World 2001 that cel-shading technique used in Zelda was very important to doing new things. Does this mean that the cel-shading style will play a role in the gameplay mechanics?

Miyamoto: Zelda, as you know, we're not showing here. That's because we want people to play the game, rather than looking at the graphics and deciding whether or not they like it based on what they see. But the fact of the matter is that it was the artists working on Zelda, who had also worked on the N64 versions, who decided that they wanted to go in the direction of cel-shading. Including the Zelda series on the Game Boy as well, I'd like to try and solidify the look and feel of the Zelda world.

IGNcube: Grand Theft Auto 3 outsold every GameCube title by at least a million units in the US. With that, and the evident popularity of adult-oriented software, has Nintendo ever considered making first-party titles aimed primarily to the older gamer?

Miyamoto: First of all, I think that the question of making games for older audiences and the question of making a Grand Theft Auto-type game are two very different questions [laughs].

As I'm sure you're aware, we're gaining much more third-party support for GameCube. But even Nintendo itself has always been focused on games that everyone can enjoy, and with that in mind you can see from some of the games that we've shown today that we have software coming that older audiences will be thrilled to see.

We never really ask the question of whether or not a game is marketed toward a child or an adult. We are looking at providing software that people are interested in playing regardless of their age.

Iwata: Our approach is not to look at the successes of other people and try to repeat those successes. We don't like at the success of Grand Theft Auto 3 and think that maybe if we create games for older audiences will see a similar success. Rather, we think about, how can we find ways to shock and surprise people in ways that they have never been surprised before. That's our real approach. And if that's not your approach, then you cannot do new things -- like Pikmin, for example.

IGNcube: What is HAL working on now?

Iwata: HAL is working on some preliminary ideas and as soon as they begin to take shape we'll be sure to talk about it.

Miyamoto: Mr. Sakura [President of HAL] and I spent some time eating some very delicious dinner in Kyoto.

[Laughter from Miyamoto and Iwata]

Iwata: With me too. The three of us went out to a very, very delicious dinner in Kyoto in celebration of Super Smash Bros.' success in Japan and had a very interesting conversation about what the future holds. Once we are more sure about where this is going we'll probably be making some announcements.

IGNcube: With recent GameCube releases such as Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin, gameplay length has not seemed to be as long as past Nintendo offerings. What can we look forward to in the future? Will Zelda be very long or will Mario Sunshine be very long? Miyamto: I would have to say that there is plenty of gameplay in Super Smash Bros. Melee and even Pikmin, I think that the more times you played it the more fun it is. Did you only play through it once?

IGNcube: No, we played through it more than once. But we still wanted it to go longer.

[Laughter from Miyamoto and Iwata]

Miyamoto: Yeah, but say it was a 60-day period before your life ran out, wouldn't that be too long?

IGNcube: Well, what we liked was that during the final stages of Pikmin, the difficulty of puzzles was much more challenging and intelligent. We wanted more of that.

Miyamoto: As the graphics in games become more detailed and the worlds grow, it becomes more and more expensive to produce games and it takes a lot more time to develop them. And yet at the same time, the consumers are demanding games are regular intervals. And so there is kind of a tendency to create more compact games, but the designers aren't responsible for creating a product, but for creating new things. And that's really what our focus is.

But, on the other hand, there are still games like Star Fox Adventures, which is going to take many tens of hours to complete, and games like Animal Forest +, which is so big that the localization on that will take half a year.

Even in Mario Sunshine, if suppose there were going to be stars to collect in that game, it would be very easy to expand the game from say 120 stars to 240 stars. But it's the role of the game designer to decide what scale is appropriate for the title they are trying to create.

Iwata: I think players will be a lot more happy than when the games are so big that they can't get to the end of them. Or, on the other hand, when the games don't have replay value and they just have to sell them. That will lead to more unhappiness with players than games that are rather short, but are more interesting to play.

IGNcube: Can you bring us up to date on the status of the Camelot RPG for GameCube, and when we will be able to see and play it for the first time?

Miyamoto / Iwata: Camelot has talked about creating a role-playing game for GameCube as something they've wanted to do, but actually we haven't really heard about what stages they might be in. However, as you are aware, that the relationship between Nintendo and Camelot is very good and they are continuing to create software for Nintendo systems.

IGN Cube

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