e spoke to Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto yesterday after the company’s press briefing to get his take on our cover story topic for the week. How does his work inform the future? And is the direction the medium is growing necessarily represent the best possible future for gaming?
1UP: This year, 1UP is really interested in looking to the future of the medium and asking how the games we see this year speak to where video games are going in the future, where the industry and the medium both are traveling. Let me put the question to you: Where do you personally see games going? In what direction do you think the medium should go?
SM: I think, actually, that the future of gaming machines and games themselves is going to change from what it has been in the past. In the past, you created games for a game system, and sometimes we created a game system to be able to create a specific game. But now, what we’re starting to see is, we’re seeing elements from video games working their way into other media. So for example, you have broadcast television, where simultaneously you may have an ability to vote on what’s happening in relation to that TV, or to have an impact on it.
What I look at, with something like Wii U in particular, is that now we have a system that isn’t reliant upon the TV screen any longer. Because it has its own dedicated screen. In the future, what I think is going to happen is, people will go to that screen first. That’s where they will begin their experience, and it will become a gateway for a lot of different things that they can do, whether it’s socializing or whether it’s playing games or whether it’s going here first and then going to watch television from there. That’s where I see the future of game machines going.
In terms of games themselves, and more specifically game designers, as elements of gaming continue to permeate other media, just as I’m now doing work that is finding its way into an art museum, I think game designers are soon going to start finding themselves applying what they know about designing games and bringing that to other media in the future.
1UP: You were talking about people going to something besides the television screen first. I don’t know if you saw Microsoft’s press conference, but they introduced something called SmartGlass. I saw a lot of criticism in response to that. I know your stage presentation mentioned something about tablets and phones and pulling all of these experiences together for Wii U. What differentiates Wii U from SmartGlass?
SM: I think that obviously, perhaps we’re thinking along similar lines. And obviously, maybe consumers think that that’s something, some functionality, that they want, or that they’re already trying to use. So perhaps it’s that the two companies are moving in a similar direction. But where I think Nintendo’s true strength is that when we take an idea like this, the first thing that we think about is, how can we bring this together in a form that is affordable to everyone, and is simple for everyone to use from the moment that you start it up? It’s a very natural flow. I think that we have the greatest chance of realizing this idea in a way that amass audience can really enjoy.
1UP: The criticism I’ve seen most in response to SmartGlass was that there were all these other screens around the television that didn’t really have anything to do with what was going on on that screen. So you see a movie, and then you get this database information, you can browse Wikipedia and see information about that movie… But that takes your attention away from the movie. The Wii U strikes me as an evolution of the Connectivity concept that you put forward a decade ago. But when you start bringing in all these non-game elements, as you say, other media… Do you worry about that diluting the video game experience and distracting people? You have all these different screens showing different things that are not necessarily directly related to the game. How does that impact the game experience?
SM: That’s a challenge that we’ve actually come into direct contact with in the past. Both in the creation of the original Nintendo DS, and of course, as you mentioned, in the work that we did with connectivity many years back. How do you make that information relevant and useful? With what we’ve seen in what Microsoft is doing, obviously in concept they have some ideas, but how does that all work together? There’s information that’s useful and usable, but if those screens are providing information that doesn’t have any meaning or that you can’t take advantage of, or if the response time between what’s happening on the TV and when you’re getting that information isn’t good, then ultimately what happens is it becomes something that’s very difficult to use.
That’s where I come back to Nintendo’s strength, which is that we look at how we can bring these ideas together in a way that actually makes it a tool that’s very easy to use, and that brings meaning to the experience. That’s where we’ll draw on the experience we have from the past to make that a reality.
And this maybe isn’t really a good example for your question, it’s probably an example better suited to a Japanese audience, but obviously in Japan we’re very fond of karaoke. You always have somebody who’s singing off of the television, but then you also always have the next person who’s waiting to sing. When you have a small screen like this, it then becomes much easier for somebody to sit down and be choosing their song and select it and send it to the system while the previous person is finishing up their song. It makes for a smoother experience. That’s just one kind of small example, but it shows how having that ability to have two independent things going on simultaneously, at one time, can often give a different way of looking at situations we’ve seen up until now for a group of people.
1UP: You made mention, on stage, of some sort of integration between Wii U and 3DS, but you didn’t really go into a lot of details. Where do you see that going in the future? For example, you have two new Super Mario Bros. games coming out very close together. Will there be any connection between those games? And if not, why not?
SM: As to the last part of your question about the two Mario games, there’s an “Iwata Asks” video with Mr. Tezuka that’s being released this week. So you can take a look at that, and that’ll give you an idea of what the difference is between the 3DS Mario game and the Wii U Mario game.
But as far as the idea of connectivity, there are a number of different examples that we could think of. So for example, if you think about Nintendogs as a game that you play on Nintendo 3DS, and having that similar two-screen structure, it would be very easy to create a Nintendogs that perhaps would allow you to take your Nintendogs data for the dog that you have on your Nintendo 3DS and bring that into the living room on a larger screen where the entire family could enjoy seeing you play with your dog on the bigger screen.
On stage, I talked a little bit more about how some of the uses of this screen, independent of the television, can allow for some of those unique experiences that cross between these two screens, rather than talking specifically about connectivity. But of course, given the long experience that we have trying out different things in that connectivity space, we’ll certainly build on that as we continue to think about what the possibilities might be. And of coruse we have, taking the example of something like the Miis, which originated on the Wii hardware, and have now migrated over towards the 3DS hardware, and as you can see they’re also taking a prominent role in the Wii U hardware…
What this does is it creates a sort of unique dynamic, where on the Nintendo 3DS, you have the StreetPass data that you get by walking past people in real life and connecting with them, and on the Wii U, you have a similar type of connection with people, but it happens over the internet. So I think that can also create some interesting dynamics in terms of what we can do with that type of experience.
1UP: I think the Miiverse concept looks really interesting, but I’m wondering, will you still be incorporating safeguards and restrictions, things like friend codes, to kind of keep people separate and help them regulate their connections? Or will Miiverse actually open up to a broader audience?
SM: I actually can’t directly answer the question, but what I can say is that we are looking at how we can have people connect with as many people as possible in the safest way possible.
1UP: The Miiverse Mario example you presented reminded me a bit of the games Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with those, by From Software, but those games have a very interesting kind of similar connection: When you die you can leave a note and offer advice to other players. But it’s all anonymous, you don’t know who’s left the advice, you don’t know if it’s helpful or harmful, but it adds this extra dynamic, this extra layer. I think that the openness of it is what makes that effective.
SM: It’s a little bit different with the Miiverse, because the comments do come with an image of that person’s Mii, so you do have some indication of who they might be. But the basic idea is, as you’re playing through the game, to give you an opportunity to see what that shared experience that you may be having with others who play the game could be. The goal is to try to make that as broad as we possibly can, and at the same time try to maintain some of those safeguards that you were talking about. Of course, I’m somebody who loves to draw little doodles and share those, but those also become very difficult to monitor as well. So we’ll obviously pay special attention and have a lot of ideas for how we can work on some of those elements.
1UP: Speaking of that, if I’m not mistaken, before you began working at Nintendo, you wanted to become a manga creator, is that right?
1UP: That’s a very story-based medium, but at the same time I feel like most of the games you create tend not to have a strong focus on story. Do you see the Wii U as opening new avenues for presenting stories in video games? Do you see new possibilities there when you look at the system?
SM: Well… I don’t know if it will open up new possibilities for me to create stories or not, but we’ve been doing a lot of different things with… It’s not creating comics, but doing things with AR or drawing or things like that. Sketchbooks, or picture books, I should say. It’s not really an answer to your question, but maybe some time in the next year I’ll be able to share something with you that shows how I’ve been working in some different areas.
1UP: I’ll look forward to it, then. Thank you.