Miyamoto To MTV: Why ‘Wii Fit’ Is Not ‘Mario Fit’ — Also Talks The Pleasure Of Goals, Hardcore Gamer Complaints And New Characters

Last week I interviewed Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto about “Wii Fit.” The interview will be used for an upcoming MTV News piece on the game.

But we can’t fit everything on air and I wanted to give Nintendo fans and all Wii owners access to the full conversation before the game comes out on May 19.

Miyamoto talked to me about everything “Wii Fit” — the Balance Board, the challenge of making an exercise game in a world of un-fit people, the connections between this game and things like “Brain Age,” “Donkey Kong” and the Power Pad

He even addressed how this game relates to “Smash Bros.” designer Masahiro Sakurai’s recent comment that it’s become hard to make new character-based games.

And he took, head-on, the challenge from hardcore gamers who say “Wii Fit” is a bad thing.

An excerpt about Super Mario’s connection to this game, or lack thereof:

MTV News: Would it have been going too far to put Mario in it and make it “Mario Fit“? Would that have ruined the feel you were trying to evoke with the game?

Miyamoto: We wanted to create it so that people of all ages could look at it and feel it was for them. I think doing that might have limited its ability.

Part One of this interview appears at MTV News.com. Part Two appears below. You can read them in either order.

Enjoy.

MTV News: Why is it important to make a game like “Wii Fit“?

Shigeru Miyamoto: Up until now, whenever we’ve been creating video games or consoles, we’ve always been focused on creating new experiences. But I think this is the first time, with the Wii hardware, that we were focused on the importance of that hardware being in the living room and being at the center of the living room and the family. And in that sense I think Wii Fit as a product plays a very important role in achieving the goal that we had of making the Wii a more central part of the living room experience.

MTV News: I was thinking about “Wii Fit” and, to me, it seems similar to “Brain Age” in that both pieces of software seem designed to make you feel better — or to make you feel that playing makes you better. I wondered if that’s something that is important to you. Do you feel that that’s a new idea that maybe games weren’t doing before and that you think the new games you’re working on should do?

Miyamoto: When I’m working on games I don’t think necessarily about what the end benefit of the game is going to be. Typically I’m trying to think of: “What can I do that is going to find new ways to entertain and surprise people.” Using the two examples you gave of “Brain Age” and “Wii Fit,” I think that the “Brain Age” game is really about you understanding the joy of seeing your own development and your own progress, of how you improve at those brain-training games.

“Our focus has been on being able to draw out in other people the kind of fun and excitement you feel when you set your own goal.”

With “Wii Fit,” our focus has been on being able to draw out in other people the kind of fun and excitement you feel when you set your own goal. That is an important part of “Wii Fit.” You see your progress and work your way toward that goal.

So rather than trying to focus on a specific benefit when we’re developing the game, we’re really trying to figure out: How can we find fun elements in sometimes everyday activities and portray those through a way in a video game that can help others experience that same joy?

MTV News: I was curious what your personal experiences have been with this. I read Mr. Iwata’s interview on the website. He talked to you a lot about your ideas for Wii Fit and how you’d been weighing yourself a lot. And [Nintendo designer] Mr. [Takashi] Tezuka had been taking pictures of his food a lot. I guess you guys were thinking about fitness. As “Wii Fit” was being made — and now that it’s been out in Japan for a while — what have your experiences been using “Wii Fit”? Have you been getting fitter?

Miyamoto: When we were still in development and working on it on a daily basis I was seeing my BMI improve dramatically. What I’m doing now with “Wii Fit” is I am doing my best to maintain the improvements I gained while I was working on it on a daily basis. The ideal is to weigh yourself with “Wii Fit” everyday. I try to, whenever I get a chance with “Wii Fit.” I’m also very sensitive to the changes in my graph. So by using “Wii Fit” as regularly as possible I’m just trying to make sure the graph doesn’t start going up.

MTV News: I want to talk about the Wii Balance Board. I was wondering if you always thought “Wii Fit” was going to require a peripheral. When you realized that it would, did you see that as an opportunity or did you worry about that as a disadvantage because people would have to make room for something else in their house?

Miyamoto: When creating “Wii Fit” our goal wasn’t to create a new peripheral. But at the same time the driving force was to create software that had you weighing yourself on a daily basis. While we weren’t striving to create a new peripheral, there was no way to create the software without one.

“In our mind, in creating the balance board, the competition wasn’t really other gaming devices, but scales.”

Once we made that decision to create the Balance Board our goal was to make it the least intrusive peripheral that we could. And what we found was that, through that process and the process of implementing the different functions of the balance board, we felt we created something that was truly a new and unique interface. And with that interface we had something that was a strong selling point as well.

So, really, in our mind, in creating the balance board, the competition wasn’t really other gaming devices, but scales. In trying to create the Balance Board itself we wanted to create a scale that had better functionality than anything else out there.

MTV News: When the Wii Zapper was shown last year I immediately thought of the Nintendo Entertainment System Zapper. And when the Wii Balance Board was shown I was thinking of the Power Pad. I was curious if anything that’s in “Wii Fit” and what’s been done with the Balance Board was a carry over from what was done with the Power Pad years ago.

Miyamoto: In designing the Balance Board we didn’t take any of the previous types of peripherals into account. And the reason is because we weren’t trying to design a new peripheral. We were focusing on creating a scale. Because of that, we were looking more towards scales. So while those other devices existed in my mind I don’t think there’s a connection between them and the Balance Board.

What we did find is that, once we finalized the Balance Board, we found that with the Balance Board ultimately what you’re able to do is take the same kind of analog control input that people used to do with a standard controller and you can now do that with your body. And, in fact, I have always seen a great deal of appeal with games we’ve seen in the past like “Samba De Amigo” or “Taiko Drum Master” that was in the arcades in Japan — the types of gameplay in which you use your whole body as part of the gaming experience. I think “Wii Fit” achieves that as well.

MTV News: I was interested in talking to you about the Wii Balance Board as a character. When I saw the game about a month ago, the Board, I noticed, appeared on the screen. And I was thinking about that when I was reading Mr. [Mashahiro] Sakurai’s Smash Brothers Dojo blog. And he made a comment recently where he said he was looking at all the characters that went into “Smash Brothers Brawl” and he noticed that other than Pikmin, there hadn’t been many new characters for him to incorporate. He said he felt that this was a sign that it’s been harder for any company — Nintendo included — to create new characters. But then I was thinking: maybe the new Nintendo characters are things like the Balance Board. I was wondering if you agree with that, that something like the Balance Board is the new Nintendo character.

Miyamoto: Actually, when we created that character and were creating “Wii Fit,” our ultimate goal wasn’t to create a new character for “Wii Fit.” I do like the idea of trying to introduce new characters periodically. But really, with “Wii Fit,” what we were trying to do is if you look at fitness DVDs or other sports training type products, they have a very predefined atmosphere to them. They’re very health and sports-oriented. Our feeling was that, if we are going to create Wii Fit and have Nintendo put this out and sell this as a Nintendo product, it needs to feel like a Nintendo product. And creating an interface and trying to design how the gameplay work, we felt it needs to feel fun and fresh and maybe feel a bit silly too. That’s ultimately how the Balance Board came to be [as a character] in Wii Fit.

MTV News: Would it have been going too far to put Mario in it and make it “Mario Fit“? Would that have ruined the feel you were trying to evoke with the game?

“From my perspective, I would say that the latest character from Nintendo would probably be the Miis.”

Miyamoto: We wanted to create it so that people of all ages could look at it and feel it was for them. I think doing that might have limited its ability. But from my perspective I would say that the latest character from Nintendo would probably be the Miis.

MTV News: When “Wii Fit” was debuted at E3 last year, I was intrigued. But I wasn’t sold on it right away. Then I got to play it later at E3 and I enjoyed it a lot. A lot of other gaming reporters I talked to were concerned. They felt this was Nintendo making games for someone other than us. Then Nintendo put out “Super Mario Galaxy,” “Super Smash Bros.” and they showed they were still making games for the hardcore. I noticed earlier this week, when I was on an Internet message board, that there were people talking about “Wii Fit” coming out. These were hardcore gaming fans. Some of them were referring to Wii Fit as — and these were their words — “the end of gaming as we know it.” And I was curious if you were familiar with that concern among a certain set of gamers and what you feel about that reaction?

Miyamoto: The first thing that I would want those individuals to understand is that they do not need to worry.

Really, what Wii Fit represents and what Nintendo is trying to do with “Wii Fit” is expand the gaming population. And the reason that is important for them is because as more and more people of different ages start playing — even if it’s just games like “Wii Fit” — their understanding of what video games are and the fact that they’re even playing games is going to better their understanding of what gamers are.

“In a sense what we’re doing by increasing the gaming population is strengthening their right to continue to game.”

So in a sense what we’re doing by increasing the gaming population is strengthening their right to continue to game. I hope they’ll keep that in mind.

The other thing, as you mentioned, I think they should also pay attention to is that we did in fact create “Super Mario Galaxy,” which a lot of hardcore gamers love. And we are releasing “Mario Kart” this month in America. And while the focus of “Mario Kart” is of course on the Wii Wheel, we haven’t forgotten the core gaming audience and we are giving them the core gaming control that many of them are going to want to play with.

***

After the interview Miyamoto gave me and the MTV News camera crew a personal demonstration of “Wii Fit.” The game looks like a lot of fun. Look for more coverage in the coming weeks here on the blog and on MTV.

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