Global Game Industry News Blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

Miyamoto Talks, People Listen, Sorta...


Miyamoto's talk at GDC was quite good. It ran long, only in part because it took nearly 45 minutes to get the gathered crowd into the building. It also just ran long, and folks started running out the keynote somewhere roughly 30 minutes into the talk. I must say that if I'd been doing a presentation after the keynote, I'd have been pissed. I guess my IDGDA talk was right before the keynote, which I understandably affected to some extent attendance... but I digress.

His talk was very interesting, but I wonder if some of the points were really driven home? Based off of what I've been hearing from informants in the last couple of weeks in their dealings with publishers, not much.

Miyamoto was really getting at several things, and I think they're both pretty darn important.
  1. This whole public perception of games as violent/anti-social/etc. regardless of how right or wrong you think it is, is every game developers problem. This is the biggest one that I wonder if people really got it. In many ways he was talking about how in 1998 Nintendo was at the top of their game, and in 2004 they're a bit of an underdog. But it's also about the kind of games that are getting made and offered up to players. We're just not using enough imagination I think is what he's saying. We're going to need more genres and more different things rather than fewer to grow the industry.
  2. Changing it or making it otherwise isn't going to be easy, or popular for that matter. This is where I wonder if developments like the formation of the Gamecock Media Group, Man!festo Games, or other alternative publishers are going to be necessary. For the most part the game industry has managed to cement itself into a model that creates the kinds of games he's talking about. This also makes for an interesting opportunity for Nintendo, though they're going to have to make good on new kinds of agreements, that I'm not entirely sure they're ready for. Look at Ian Bogost's comments on Water Cooler Games about independent developers (those probably most able and willing to take on Miyamoto's challenge) having difficulty getting development kits.
  3. By choosing this other path, you actually have an opportunity to make games differently. Rather than pushing to but more and more and more content into a game, you can focus on getting the game itself right. This I think is at the core of precisely why Nintendo's refusal of NextGen is so interesting. In many respects they've said, make do with this for now, but be original with this new piece of the puzzle (the Wii-mote for those of you that are just tuning in).
All in all it was a nice talk, though I wish he had driven home a couple of these points a bit more directly, because as it stood, it felt like a nice fire-side chat rather than the throwing down of a gauntlet, which is really what it was.

GDC: Miyamoto Shares His Unique Vision
...He said that he observed an important shift. In 1998, the top five selling games were Goldeneye 007, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Gran Turismo, Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64. In 2004, however, the top games were GTA: San Andreas, Madden 2005, Halo 2, Halo 2 Limited Ed., and ESPN NFL 2K5. All of a sudden, people were worried about the effect of games on people, turning them into zombies, he said. The reputation of the games industry was at stake.
The second core element of Nintendo's vision, devotion to entertainment, means that every employee is able to focus on providing entertainment. Miyamoto said that Nintendo has a very good balance of engineers and developers, and there's a chance for collaboration all day long, "even in the bathroom." And it's all about collaboration. Even though Miyamoto has worked on every controller Nintendo has made, he stressed that it's all been a group effort.
The third element, risk, is at the core of Nintendo's philosophy for the Wii. Miyamoto said that the bigger the challenge is, the bigger the risk. Nintendo took on the challenge of asking what a video game is. He said that Nintendo has taken a number of risks over the years but that none was bigger than the Wii. He acted as an evangelist within Nintendo, telling others not to think about what they might lose by abandoning the traditional controller in favor of the remote, but to think of what they will gain.
Next, Miyamoto talked about prioritization. He said that in this industry, game designers are always complaining about "not enough," whether it's budget, time, etc. He said designers feel obligated to put in more and more and make the best graphics, but they need to prioritize.
Ultimately, Miyamoto told the developers in attendance that "your vision does not have to be my vision." He added that the future of the industry depends on how today's designers apply their vision. But, he's been "given a lot of faith about the future of the industry" after observing some of the games at the Independent Games Festival, he said. Miyamoto said that we cannot forget about the human touch. He concluded, "If we can convert my wife, I believe we can convert anyone."

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