I’m now presenting my hour-long interview with Nintendo’s chief game designer Shigeru Miyamoto from last week in three parts instead of two, since the final third of our interview went in a very unexpected direction. It would have been too distracting to run today. (Trust me!)
Yesterday, in Part 1, we dove deep on Miyamoto’s development process for the unabashedly radical “Wii Music.”
Today, here’s the middle part, in which we discuss the possibility of “Wii Music” DLC and IGN’s Matt Casamassina reaches a new level of Nintendo relevance as Miyamoto name-checks him while discussing his harsh review of the game. And more good stuff…
The following interview was conducted in person at Nintendo’s Redwood City offices. Miyamoto’s answered were translated by Nintendo’s Bill Trinen. Most of my questions, however, required no translation. Miyamoto responded to most of them without consulting Trinen but replied only in Japanese. I’ve lightly copy-edited it for readability.
Multiplayer: I read that initially the development team was going to have 10 songs in “Wii Music” — classical songs. You asked them to have as many as 100 songs and encouraged them to use different genres. The game ships with about 50 songs. Other music games support the ability for people to download extra songs. I know people can trade their compositions over Wii Connect 24, but is this game also set up so that people will be able to download new songs that Nintendo offers in the future?
“Creating a [’Wii Music’ DLC] system like that is obviously something that’s do-able.”
Miyamoto: It’s not something that’s possible with this particular version of the game. But creating a system like that is obviously something that’s do-able. And, of course, to do that, Nintendo itself would have to create the servers and the system for purchasing and downloading music, for example. So it’s not something that would happen, for example, next month. But it would be possible for us to do something in the future like that.
For now, what we would really like is for people to be able to get a look at “Wii Music” and kind of see the joy of creating music as well. [We also want people to see that] you can have competition between people in terms of how good of an arrangement you can create, creating different arrangements of all the songs. And then we’ll see where we go from there.
Multiplayer: How do you feel about the look of “Wii Music” and the graphics of the Wii games that Nintendo has been creating over the last couple of years? You guys don’t talk about the graphics that much, but what do you think of the visual style of this game? What do you like about what you’ve accomplished, or what do you see is still possible for you guys to accomplish with the visuals of the games that we’re playing from Nintendo on the Wii?
Miyamoto: The graphics for “Wii Music” were done by some of our very talented graphic designers, some of whom have worked on the “Zelda” series and things like that. They were the ones who chose the overall direction for the graphics and art style for “Wii Music.” What I think is very important for “Wii Music” and maybe you don’t get a very good flavor for it here on this particular Wii [gesturing to Wii next to him], that you would get on the Wii you use at home or the Wii that you use most regularly that has a lot of Miis in it, is the implementation of Miis in the game. It really changes the flavor of the game and the experience you get when, not only are you using your own Mii to perform the songs, but you’re seeing all of the Miis that are on your system appear in your audience and seeing all of the ways those Miis interact with one another. And so, because of the integral nature of Miis within “Wii Music,” it was very important for us to find a graphical style that would be able to balance the Miis with the other elements of the game. I feel like the design team has done a very good job of balancing that and coming up with a very smooth and clean and attractive graphical style for this game.
Multiplayer: I wanted to ask you about the reception that “Wii Music” has had. And you alluded, before, to the fact that this is a bit of a different kind of game to present to people. You said you mention to the [public relations] team to describe this as a musical instrument. Obviously, there’s a challenge in presenting “Wii Music.” If you don’t get to play it yourself, it can be confusing as to what it is. It’s reached a point where, coming out of E3, talking to other gamers who were there, and talking to other gaming reporters who were there, that I got the sense there are people who used to love everything that you made. And some of those people now have a tough time getting excited about a “Wii Music.” IGN, which is a hugely popular website in the United States, they’ve seemingly loved every game that you’ve been involved in. Very high review scores. And on their 10-point scale, they gave “Wii Music” a five.
I’m wondering to what extent you are aware that there do seem to be some Miyamoto fans who are having this trouble getting as excited about your work as they used to? And how does that affect you and the work that you’re doing?
“The ideas behind ’Wii Music’ simply didn’t resonate with that individual.”
Miyamoto: There’s two ways I can talk about that. One is, I think — you point out the IGN review in particular. And my guess is that rather than it being an instance that the individual who wrote that — I’m not sure if it was Matt [Casamassina, IGN’s Wii editor] or not — but whoever wrote that review, I think that the perception is because they’re a core gamer they don’t like “Wii Music.” And, in fact, what I think is that the ideas behind “Wii Music” simply didn’t resonate with that individual. [Note from Stephen: Casamassina did indeed write the review.] I don’t think it was a case of: because they like games, they don’t like “Wii Music.” That person simply didn’t like what we presented in “Wii Music.”
I think the other thing to us that’s very important is there’s two things. Number one is that we continue to work on the same types of games that we have made for many, many years. Beyond that, we have branched out and we are creating additional products aside from those that, like “Wii Music” and like “Wii Fit” are very different in tyle and have a very broad appeal. The way that our teams work, as I mentioned earlier, is that a lot of the team members, let’s say for example from a “Mario” or a “Zelda” team, will swap in and out among different teams. And so I think internally for us, the ability to have people who have been working on the same game for many, many years and to be able to take a break from it and work on a product like “Wii Music,” where they’re able to look at design from a different perspective and broaden their own perspective in terms of the types of things that you can do in interactive entertainment [is good.]. Then, I think, when they go back and take that experience with them back to the other teams, back to, say the “Zelda” team or the “Mario” team, when they’re working on those franchises, they’re going to be able to draw on that experience to create experiences that not only are broader-appealing for those franchises but also are bringing in new ideas that are going to appeal to people who have been very familiar with those franchises for a long time.