Top Nintendo Designer Shigeru Miyamoto Talks ‘Wii Fit’ And Appealing To Unhealthy Americans

He also reveals who he really makes his games for.

NEW YORK — Over the past few years, we’ve talked to Nintendo’s legendary video game creator Shigeru Miyamoto about a number of his creations, from “Super Mario Bros.” and “Donkey Kong,” to the recent innovations of the Wii .

But we never talked to him about exercise before, and certainly never about an exercise video game.

An exercise game, however, is just what Miyamoto was in NYC last week to demonstrate and discuss. He was showing “Wii Fit,” a game that emerged from his recent obsession with weighing himself and that has sold, he says, close to 2 million copies in Japan.

It releases for the red-hot Nintendo Wii, which just sold 720,000 units in March, according to the NPD group, on May 19. The game will come with the Balance Board, a small exercise board that contains sensors that detect the player’s balance. The sensors enable the game to not just weigh the player, but to control several dozen yoga, strength-training and aerobic activities — as well as play mini-game activities, such as ski jumping and soccer goalie.

Our interview with Miyamoto runs in two parts, the first below and the rest at our Multiplayer gaming blog.

MTV: Since you’ve been at Nintendo so long, I was curious if “Wii Fit” is at all a game you pictured making when you were making things like “Donkey Kong.”

Shigeru Miyamoto: When I was making “Donkey Kong,” I was just thinking about making fun and unique experiences. I wasn’t really thinking about what else I would be making next or further down the road. But I guess it would be safe to say that early on when I was making video games, I probably wasn’t thinking of what a broader meaning would come to be applied to video games and certainly didn’t think I’d be making something like this.

MTV: Americans are famous for not being in the best of shape. And they like to exercise but often don’t stick to things. When you were working on “Wii Fit,” were you at all thinking about Americans and their level of fitness and commitment to fitness and how “Wii Fit” could help them in a way other things could not?

Miyamoto: When I’m working on any game, I’m never thinking about, say, an American audience or a Japanese audience. In fact, usually when I’m developing a game, I’m focused primarily on myself. [Laughs.] But as you say of where you’re from, I think a lot of people do indeed have a hard time continuing with exercise regiments. And so that was an area of focus and development for “Wii Fit” in trying to develop an interface and a system that would make it easy for people to continue to use it on a regular basis.

I think what’s more important, though, is that rather than trying to have people try to exercise on “Wii Fit” every day, is the role that “Wii Fit” plays in trying to make people simply more aware of their own weight, their own health and their overall wellness. In that sense, I think “Wii Fit” does play a very important role and that even just by simply checking your body-mass index or your weight, even if you’re not checking on a daily basis, it really does help improve that awareness.

MTV: To any of our audience who have been playing the Wii primarily as a system for “Super Mario Galaxy” or “Super Smash Bros.,” why would you tell them “Wii Fit” is something they should be interested in?

Miyamoto: I think there are two things that “Wii Fit” offers. One is if you’re living with your family, “Wii Fit” really starts to get very interesting when you’re tracking your own data and compiling your graphs and saving your data as you play and other people in your house are as well. It becomes a common theme for discussion. In all honesty, it’s actually quite fun and some interesting discussions come out of that.

I think the other thing that “Wii Fit” offers is that you can also enjoy it as sort of a party game. Take the ski jumping or some of the other balance activities where you can take turns and have multiple people there competing to see who can get the best score.

What I find out about that that’s really interesting — of course it’s fun to play games like that anyway — is the fact that you’re using your body is an experience that I think not many people have had up until now.

MTV: When the Wii came out, people started talking about how they lost the Wii remote or it flew through their TV screen. Did you ever worry that people were going to fall off their board?

Miyamoto: “Wii Fit” has launched in Japan, and we have sold close to 2 million at this point. A very large number of people are using “Wii Fit.” We did pay very close attention to trying to design the board in a way that would be easy for everyone to use. So I am happy to say that with so many out there, we have had relatively few incidents.

MTV: And you have no “Wii Fit” injuries, right?

Miyamoto: Of course I have no “Wii Fit” injuries myself. And as you play the game, you’ll notice that we offer people plenty of direction and advice in making sure they have enough space around them. And if their balance isn’t that good, they can lean on somebody else for support.

MTV: What can you tell the MTV audience about the music in “Wii Fit”?

Miyamoto: What I can say is that the music in step aerobics wasn’t very popular with our Nintendo of America employees originally. It’s a silly song. But at the same time it’s a song that’s very easy to get into the rhythm to, so I hope people will try it out. And as you step on the board, it adds percussion to the music, which has a nice, fresh feel.

Head over to MTV Multiplayer for part two of this interview, in which Shigeru Miyamoto discusses why Super Mario didn’t make it into “Wii Fit,” whether he thinks the Balance Board is Nintendo’s next great character, what he has to say to Internet fans who call the release of “Wii Fit” “the end of gaming” and more.