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2007 GDC report - Shigeru Miyamoto

Creative Vision: the Essence of Design

2007 GDC session by Nintendo GameDev Legend Shigeru Miyamoto

Reported by Neil Melville

 

The reason I even decided to go to GDC this year was singular: to hear what video game industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto had to say. My desire to see this much respected man give this presentation was shared by over 2000 other people. Carlos and I arrived in line about fifteen minutes before the scheduled 10:30 start time. The line was already wrapped around the block of the Moscone Center South Hall and had doubled halfway back to street corner. It was at least another half hour before we got inside the building, and we were very fortunate to find two seats together in what ended up as a standing room only event.

The Stage is Set

It has been 8 years since Miyamoto addressed us at GDC. He was introduced by Jamil Moledina, and other than his opening and closing statements, the address was delivered in Japanese, and translated by Bill Trinen, of Nintendo of America. The large screens behind him display the Wii photo-channel he uses for the presentation.

 

He starts by reminiscing video game’s early years: 25 years ago, Pac-Man was all everybody was talking about. It was an age of innocence. As we look at the top selling games of the last few years, we can detect a trend:

 

Top 5 games of 1998

  • GoldenEye
  • Gran Tourismo
  • Ocarina of Time
  • Banjo Kazooie
  • Super Mario 64

Top 5 games of 2004

  • GTA:San Andreas
  • Madden 2005
  • NFL2K5
  • Halo
  • Halo 2

Sales have gone up, but games now have a reputation for adverse effects on gamers: fostering a desire for violence. Would Miyamoto’s style of gaming survive in this market? This leads Nintendo to question our path and our vision. Can we continue in our historical path, and deliver the Nintendo Difference?

Corporate Vision

1. Expanded Audience

We know there are a lot of gamers out there. And soon there will be more. How can we reach these people? They could be ages 5 to 95. What activities interest people who are not playing games? We already gather user feedback from people who do play games.

 

The most important tool Miyamoto uses in determining if a game will appeal to an expanded audience is what Miyamoto calls the “Wife-o-meter.” It measures one variable: how interested his wife is in a game. Games like Tetris that he thought were exciting had no effect on her. But she did watch her daughter play Ocarina of Time. She agreed to pick up a controller to try Animal Crossing. She really liked that there was no fighting and she could write notes to the other players.

 

Miyamoto has a dog named Pick, and after training with it, he developed Nintendogs. This game resonated with his wife, even though she is more of a cat person. But he still had not converted her to a gamer. It took Brain Age to do that. Now she brags that she is better than him at his own game. And he admits that it is true.

 

After the release of the Wii, he came home late Valentine’s night, and finds that his wife is still up. He was hoping she was going to give him chocolates, but she is casting votes on Everybody Votes channels. She downloaded this content on her own, and she is making Mii characters. He says now she is not only a gamer, but becoming a developer. “When she comes up with that great idea, I can retire.” It is Nintendo’s goal is to train gamers and future developers.

2. Balance

Miyamoto is an industrial design major and he helped to create controllers from the NES forward. But no one person is responsible for designing any controller. That’s not how it works at Nintendo. It’s a group effort. With collaboration, du