On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.
Today I'd like to speak to you from my heart about jobs and about our industry. I remember the first videogame I ever played. It was Pong - and I loved it! By the time I was in high school, I was the first person in my class to buy an early Hewlett Packard Pocket Calculator. I think I was one of the original early adopters. But where most people used their calculators for higher mathematics, I used mine to program videogames. My first creation was a baseball game. I don't think anyone can say it had bad graphics because it had no graphics. Gameplay was represented only by numbers. But when I saw my friends playing that game and having fun, it made me feel proud. To me, this was a source of energy and passion. As that passion for games began to blossom, I think my life course was set.
Perhaps the biggest moment in the history of HAL came when we heard the rumor that Nintendo was developing a machine capable of incredible new graphics: The Famicom, or NES, as it was called here in the States. We knew that this machine was for us. So we used every contact we could to get a meeting with Nintendo, sure that one of our ideas would become an instant hit. Yes, Nintendo did hire us, but not to amaze the world with one of our projects. Instead, they told us to fix on of their projects, a game that had fallen seriously behind schedule. Instead of creating a game, we repaired a game, and it was eventually release as NES Pinball. That experience taught us that even artists must know the business side of game development. After all, if a game never comes to market, there is very little chance of it making any money.
Working in those days was also instructive in another way. Because graphics were so primitive by today's standards, we asked ourselves how we could spur the players' imaginations as a substitute for what we couldn't display on the screen. Think about this: someday our games won't look any better. What will we do then?
Well, our work was satisfactory enough that we formed a close association with Nintendo. And as HAL invented a couple of early franchises, we also learned other lessons. Our first Kirby game taught us the value of teamwork. Since not everybody can be a Miyamoto, we discovered that ideas can come from several team members, building on each other, to make something superior to what one person could invent. Then we worked with the Famous Japanese creator Shigesato Itoi, who was already an avid gamer himself, to develop his first idea for a game. That series, called Mother in Japan and released in America as Earthbound, proved to us that ideas take on a special appeal when they become interactive.
Many years and many projects later I went to work for Nintendo full time, and then one day, about three years ago, Mr. Yamauchi appointed me to succeed him as company president. Of course, this was a great honor, but it was also a great challenge. I knew this would require committing much more time and assuming much more responsibility. But unfortunately, game developers are familiar with such things.
So I'd like to move on this morning and answer two questions that I'm often asked, now that I've had two decades of experience in the videogame world. First, over the last 20 years as a developer, what things have changed? And second, what things have stayed the same?
One thing that has not changed - and will not change - is our nature as a form of entertainment. Like any other entertainment medium, we must create an emotional response in order to succeed. Laughter, fear, joy, affection, surprise, and - most of all - accomplishment. In the end, triggering these feelings from our players is the true judgment of our work. This is the bottom line measurement of success.
Fourth - and this never changes - software sells hardware. People buy games to play the games they love. I agree with Steve Jobs, the head of Apple, when he says, "Software is the user experience. Software is the driving technology not just of computers, but of all consumer electronics."
Now I don't think any of this is news - bigger budgets, bigger staffs and bigger companies. It's there for all of us to see. Big is obvious.
On the other hand, what's more prominent in my thinking these days is how our industry is getting smaller. We are smaller in the amount of risk we're willing to accept. We are also smaller in how we define videogames. The list of genres seems fixed - shooters, sports, platformers, puzzles, and so on. When is the last time we invented a new genre? But as importantly, even within these genres, we have reduced the environments we use. The racing tracks, the sound tracks, the bosses, the heroes, are starting to look more and more alike. Consider Tiger Woods Golf and Mario Golf - each a successful franchise, but using two different looks for this game genre. Such variety is becoming harder and harder to find.
We are even getting smaller in how we define progress. Making games look more photorealistic is not the only means of improving the game experience. I know, on this point I risk being misunderstood, so remember, I am a man who once programmed a baseball game with no baseball players. If anyone appreciates graphics, it's me! But my point is that this is just one path to improved games. We need to find others. Improvement has more than one definition.
Finally, I am most concerned with what we think of as a gamer. As we spend more time and money chasing exactly the same players, who are we leaving behind? Are we creating games just for each other? Do you have friends and family members who do not play videogames? Well, why don't they? And, I would ask this: how often have you challenged yourself to create a game that you might not play? I think these questions for an important challenge for all of us.
the standards we set for all software we develop. We call these standards the Four Is. First, is it truly innovative - something different from what has come before? Second, is it intuitive? Do the control of the game and the direction of gameplay seem natural? Third, is it inviting? Do you want to spend time in this world? And finally, how does it measure up in terms of interface? Can the player connect in new ways?
But I would like to spend the rest of my time today on what is perhaps the next logical question: where does Nintendo go from here? Let me try to explain it first with an image. In the universe of interactive entertainment, there is a planet we call videogames. It is the one we know best. But it is only one. Also in our inverse are other planets which entertain, but in different ways from current games. It is this part of the universe that we are anxious to explore.
This idea creates the dual passions of Nintendo. On one hand, we work every day to make what we describe as videogames better. We want to give players what they want. But at the same time, we are intent on finding out what else we can use to entertain. Our second goal is to show players something new, something they may not even know they want. You already are familiar with a good example of this philosophy. It's called Pokemon. At its core, Pokemon is a wonderful role-playing game. But it's also much more. Players will collect and trade Pokemon, maybe the same way you once collected and traded bottle caps or baseball cards. Pokemon expanded RPGs to places they hadn't gone before.
Another example was our decision to put Pictochat into the DS. It's not a game, not a competition, but a way for us to better understand how communicating wireless might also entertain. And Pictochat, as a wireless function, also represents just the latest step in something much larger for Nintendo.
So this is Nintendo's plan. Make our existing game world much better. Better Zeldas, better Marios, better partnerships creating games like Resident Evil 4. But also, exploring other worlds in interactive entertainment. For us, this is a passion. This is a mission of adventure. And most importantly, we want you - the creative heart for our entire industry - to take that journey with us.
If you don't mind, I will finish today with memories from one more franchise in my development career - Super Smash Bros. At the time it was being developed for Nintendo GameCube, I was already working full time for Nintendo. But my heart told me I was still a developer. So, as president, I assigned myself to HAL to rejoin the team finishing the game. Once again, I was living on the developer's diet of chips, pizza and rice balls, and working through the night. From their offices, it was possible to see Mt. Fuji, which many say is most impressive if you're willing to wake up and see it at dawn. But during this period, just as years before with our Kirby Games, we at HAL would see the sun shining on the mountain before we ever went to bed. May say the sight of first light on Mt. Fuji inspires them. But for me, I hope I never see it again! [Laughs]
I also remember the first version of Smash Bros. developed for Nintendo 64. The concept for this game, as you know, was to take the classic, friendly Nintendo franchise characters and have them - as you say in America - beat the heck out of each other. The ideas not brand new - there certainly have been a lot of fighting games. And the characters looked pretty much the same way they always had. So when we brought the idea to Nintendo, the concept did not sound hip or cool or revolutionary. And because of all this, there were people both inside and outside Nintendo who did not strongly favor the idea. And this was the environment that we worked under.
That attitude remained until the moment of truth -- the moment when testers began picking up the controllers and actually playing the game. This is what happened. People smiled. They laughed. Then began shouting at each other. That was the moment when everything for Smash Bros. changed. And I must tell you, this was also one of the proudest moments in my development career. Yes, the Smash Bros. series has become a great worldwide success because it's sold more than 10 million copies. But the memory of that first moment when the testers began to play stays with me always. That is the moment I call success.
We at HAL found a way to bring our idea to life. Our team believed deeply in the concept and we did not waver in our approach. So in this important sense, we at HAL - we're just like every one of you. Even if we come from different sides of the world, speak different languages, even if we eat too many chips or rice balls, even if we have different tastes in games, every one of us here today is identical in the most important way: each one of us has the heart of a gamer.
Thank you for your attention.
Seattlepi Interview '05
Question: All three consolemakers, yourself included, have unveiled their plans for the next console generation. How do you feel about Nintendo's prospects with Revolution at this point?
Iwata: In the first place, Sony and Microsoft are taking about the same approach for the future by making machines with powerful and sophisticated technology. Nintendo is taking a little bit different approach, and I think this is an interesting contrast.
Of course, we are applying advances in technology. But when you use those advances just to boost the processing power, the trade-off is that you increase power consumption, make the machine more expensive and make developing games more expensive. When I look at the balance of that trade-off - what you gain and what you lose - I don't think it's good. Nintendo is applying the benefits of advanced technology, but we're using it to make our machines more power-efficient, quieter and faster to start. And we're making a brand-new user interface. I think that way of thinking is the biggest difference.
Q: Bill Gates said recently that he thinks Nintendo will be more of a niche player in the future, with Sony and Microsoft battling for the number one spot. What do you think of that characterization?
Iwata: Talking about the definition of the niche, or niche market, I really have the completely opposite opinion. The people the other companies are targeting are very limited to those who are high-tech oriented, and core game players. They cannot expand beyond that population. We are trying to capture the widest possible audience all around the world. (He cited the example of Nintendogs, a new virtual pet game for the Nintendo DS handheld machine that has taken off in Japan.) In other words, we are trying to capture the people who are even beyond the gaming population. So for that kind of company, we don't think the term "niche" is appropriate.
Q: Microsoft will be the first to market, releasing the Xbox 360 later this year. Revolution comes sometime next year. How does that affect the ultimate outcome in terms of market share?
Iwata: If the first entrant always wins the market, the Dreamcast must have won the race against the PS2, for example. (Sony's Playstation 2 came to market after Sega's Dreamcast and was extremely successful, while Dreamcast fizzled.) There are many precedents like that in the past. The first to market is not necessarily the winner in the race.
Q: The general perception is that Nintendo appeals to a younger audience. Will you try to embrace that, expand upon it, or move away from it in the next console generation?
Iwata: First of all, I've never once been embarrassed that children have supported Nintendo. I'm proud of it. That's because children judge products based on instinct. Everyone wants to appeal to people's instincts, but it's not easy. That doesn't mean we're making products just for children. We believe that there's interactive entertainment that people in their 60s, 70s and 80s can enjoy, so we're doing various things.
Once upon a time, way back in the 1980s, a company became number one because its products meant fun to young people. Then, in the 1990s, a bigger company with a bigger brand name and bigger budgets took away the number one spot.
Fortunately, that first company also had another line of products that let it remain popular and profitable. This company used that threat to reconsider its strategy, and think how it could regain overall leadership. And this is what it decided. It would redefine its own business, and expand its market beyond current core users. Could this strategy work?
Well, we already know the answer. The answer is yes.
Because that first company, Pepsi, has returned to number one in its industry, displacing Coke. Pepsi stopped asking, how can we sell more cola? Instead, it started asking, what else do people want to drink?
Today, Pepsi is number one in bottled water. It is number one in sports drinks. It is number one in health drinks. And, of course, it remains number one in the snacks business that it used to maintain profitability while they executed their disruptive strategy. (As every game developer understands, the three basic food groups are Fritos, Cheetos and Doritos.)
I am here today to share some stories about Nintendo. But, I begin with a story about Pepsi because it demonstrates how thinking differently, and holding strongly to your strategy, can disrupt an entire industry and in a good way.
For some time, we have believed the game industry is ready for disruption. Not just from Nintendo, but from all game developers. It is what we all need to expand our audience. It is what we all need to expand our imaginations.
Several years ago, when I began talking about reaching out to casual gamers and non-gamers, few people listened. Today, Nintendo DS is succeeding in disrupting the handheld market. In fact, you could attribute most industry growth last year to just this one product line. Now, people are listening more closely.
I have been asked many times how we decided to develop these games so I thought maybe this is the first story I should share with you today. Where did this idea come from? I m sure you can guess it started where all great creative ideas begin, from a board of directors!
When Atsushi Asada was a member of our Executive Committee, he complained that he knew no one his age who played video games. Because Japan is an aging society, he thought a game designed just for seniors might work.
I agreed it was a good start, but I said it might be a mistake to target only seniors. Instead, maybe something that would appeal to other users, as well.
This meeting occurred just after the E3 show two years ago, a very busy time for us. We were finalizing the Nintendo DS hardware, as well as preparing DS launch games. Even so, I asked each of our four main development groups to nominate a few people to serve on a task force.
Some of them did not have much experience making games, so I got to play the role of professor, talking to them not just about games, but about overall product planning. The goal of the task force was to invent a game whose appeal would include everyone from youngsters to baby boomers to seniors.
Our early meetings were just brainstorms and didn't produce any solid ideas. But at that time, people in Japan were beginning to read a new book and do its brain exercises. I noticed this and thought it might be a good game idea. Even Mr. Mori, our chief financial officer, was doing the exercises himself and convinced me to go forward. Then I consulted with Mr. Miyamoto, and when he got excited, too, I asked the task force to tackle the job.
When we talk about expanding the market to new players, many times this means new kinds of software, but certainly not always. I hope that Metroid Prime Hunters shows we re not turning our backs on the kind of games that current core players already love. We will serve all tastes.
The third story I have to share is the answer to a question people ask me all the time: how did we get the idea for the Revolution free-hand controller?
Well, we started out with a very simple question: why is it that anyone feels comfortable picking up a remote control for a TV, but many people are afraid to even touch the controller for a video game system? This was our starting point.
Our first controller meetings began early in 2004, and from that initial thought we added two other requirements. First, the controller must be wireless. We need to give players freedom to move. And second, the look of the controller had to be simple and non-threatening. But of course, at the same time, it had to be sophisticated enough to serve the needs of complex games.
And yes, we also wanted it to be revolutionary.
Many of you know that we have been experimenting with networks since the 1980s. Back then, you could use your NES in Japan to trade stocks. We kept working, but never thought the time was right to introduce a game network until Nintendo DS. In 2004, we began considering Wi-Fi gaming.
In the end, it is the freedom of choice, I believe, that has made the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection so successful. To date, we have surpassed 1 million unique players, totaling more than 29 million play sessions and, this in only 18 weeks of availability.
We reached 1 million players almost five times as fast as the Xbox Live service, which also offered free connections when it began. It took them 20 months to reach 1 million different users. Of course, this has made our Wi-Fi development team very happy as you can see.
Some people put their money on the screen, but we decided to spend ours on the game experience. It is an investment in actual market disruption. Not simply to improve the market but disrupt it. We believe a truly new kind of game entertainment will not be realized unless there is a new way to connect a player to his game.
New is good, but there also is an appetite for old. For young players, classic games are brand new. For others, they are a way to feel young again. After we announced the virtual console concept for revolution last year, many people asked me if only games for Nintendo systems would be available. Today, I have a better answer. I can announce that games specifically developed for both the Sega Genesis and the NEC TurboGrafx system will also be available for Nintendo Revolution via the Virtual Console.
Thank you for listening to my stories this morning. However, the most important story of all is still to be told. I hope all of you, the creative force of our industry, will help us write it. It is the story of how disruption will help every one of us overcome the growing barriers to game development.
We know what the main barrier is cost. There is one dominant business model for our industry. Publishers work backwards from a console game at retail that sells for $50 or now, even $60. To compete at that level, games must be longer, larger and more complex, which requires bigger development teams. Success is more likely if a strong license is acquired, but even then, huge amounts of money are needed to market that game to a mass audience.
It's understandable that many publishers, in order to reduce risk, feel most comfortable relying on sequels to already successful, high budget games. As a result, our business is beginning to resemble a bookstore where you can only buy expensive, full sets of encyclopedias. No romance novels. No paperbacks. No magazines.
In our business, too often people with a fresh idea don t have a chance. I believe if Tetris were presented today, here is what the producer would be told: Go back give me more levels give me better graphics give me cinematics and you re probably going to need a movie license to sell that idea to the public. The producer would go away dejected. Today, Tetris might never be made.
Nintendo understands the dominant business model. We work with it every day. And future Zeldas and Marios and Metroids are going to be bigger masterpieces than ever before. But, this does not have to be the only business model. We want to help you create a new one. One where your simple Tetris will be made.
With Nintendo Revolution, we offer a combination of opportunities that simply can't be matched. Our controller allows for every existing form of game to take on a new character. It allows for game creation that is not dependent on just the size of the development budget. I consider our virtual console concept the video game version of Apple's iTunes music store.
Since I first announced the virtual console concept last year at E3, other people have become very interested in digital downloads. Others will offer such a service, but it will not be the same. Because for us, this is not just a new business opportunity, for us, this is true innovation true disruption. It is part of our DNA. The digital download process will bring new games to the widest possible audience of new players. Young people, older people, even those who never played video games before. When I think of what faces all of us right now, I imagine what it must have been like for the explorers who first set foot on a new continent. For them, it was impossible to imagine all the adventure that lay ahead.
Our adventure is still ahead of us. Nintendo is committed to creating an environment where all of your work can prosper. I began today saying that disruption is not just a strategy for Nintendo.
Yes, we have already disrupted handheld and it worked. Yes, we have already disrupted Wi-Fi and it worked. We disrupted the very definition of a game and that is working, too. In a few weeks, you will better understand how to disrupt console gaming. You will play, and you will see.
At Nintendo, we do not run from risk. We run to it. We are taking the risk to move beyond current boundaries. It should be our goal, each of us, to reach the new players as well as the current players. Our goal is to show them surprise. Our reward is to convince them that above all video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun for everyone.
Thank you again so much for inviting me.
Level Up Interview
Now, however with Phantom Hourglass, we were successfully able to convey to the market that this is a Zelda that everyone can play and we've seen the results in the increased number of younger female gamers. We've also seen the return of previous players of the Zelda franchise who maybe played ten years ago or fifteen years ago on whichever system they once played and they sort of drifted away--we're seeing a resurgence of interest in the return of those players to the franchise.
And the pattern for games like Zelda in Japan is in that first week, there's a huge sales number and then that drops off immediately in the second week sales. However, with Zelda, we're not seeing that drop-off, and if it continues to sell as we have seen now, we definitely think that this could be a million seller. And the great thing about it is the buzz around the game: we are picking up new players who are then telling their friends and telling other friends. That's working very well in our favor.
I believe that currently, the number of publishers who--or the feeling amongst publishers who want to put their best teams on Nintendo platforms and who want to make software for Nintendo platforms is the highest it's been in, say, the last ten years. However, six months ago, you know, I don't think the people out there were saying that Nintendo is done, they're going to roll over and vanish, but at the same time, I don't believe that there are too many people who thought we wouldn't be where we're at today. So I believe that a lot of people out there thought, "Okay, this is a fad. It's not something that's going to continue."
That attitude is not something that's going to change quickly. That, in addition to the fact that Nintendo was doing something that really kind of flew in the face of common industry practice and common industry knowledge. If you look at the common practices and the common way that games have gone in the industry in the past, it's "Okay, we focus on the high teen market, that core market, and then we let them disseminate game knowledge or game popularity. The better-looking the game is, the higher quality the graphics, the more we're going to sell." That sort of pattern is something that Wii was not following, and again, because we took that different approach, it caught a lot of people by surprise.
I believe that the job of first party software is to drive hardware. If you don't have a quick impact and quick dissemination amongst the audience, you lose momentum. If you don't have momentum, the third parties don't want to jump on your platform. So that's not a good situation to be in.
Actually, the same thing that happened to Wii, a lot of the same conversations took place when the DS was launched. And that's because Nintendo was really the only one that was very focused on that user expansion goal we've talked about so often and because we are creating unique software that no one else is creating, the phenomenon of Nintendo software selling was insane. So we had a very, very strong position and again, Nintendo was the only one really selling a lot of software. If you look at the beginning of this year, Nintendo-published software sales for the DS have slightly declined, and that's because third party has increased.
There were doubts, of course, when we first began this whole approach. Once we were able to show success with what we were doing, that's what brought about that initial change that you're speaking of. Being part of the entertainment industry, part of our job is to surprise our audiences. So actually, if you look at this pattern where we came out with these ideas, everyone said you're not going to succeed, and yet we overcome all these obstacles and we do succeed, there's sort of a drama in there that is very fitting for us being part of the entertainment industry. [Laughs.]
On the other hand, if we now say "Oh yeah, that's probably going to work out okay," there's no drama involved in that. And there's a danger that comes with that. Because if you're introducing these new things and everyone's saying, "Oh yeah, this is great," "We'll take that," "That's a great idea," it's very difficult to maintain within the company the energy it takes to be always looking forward. That's probably Nintendo's next obstacle is to not lose its internal energy and internal momentum. I believe my most important role right now is to prevent Nintendo from being in a company where people say, "Oh, Nintendo is arrogant," "Nintendo has let its guard down," or "Nintendo has lost its challenging spirit." We want to avoid all of the pitfalls that can come from losing one's momentum.
Gamespot Interview '08
GS: Were you confident you could pull it off?
SI: I would sound so cool if I could say, "Oh, I knew it all along," but it is not necessarily so. [Laughs] It was more of a conviction that somebody needed to go there and push things in this new direction.
We knew that if games appealed to fewer people, the future was going to be bleak. And with video games being demonized by the public, it was hard to see how games could flourish in all that. So we knew we had to change it. We knew that to change that, we'd be playing to and reinforcing Nintendo's strengths.
It's not that the opinion of those with different perspectives weren't convincing for us. With each suggestion, we thought through many things, but with each step along the way, we could feel the market changing bit by bit, and that is why we were able to keep going. Hearing stories about customers who seemed like they'd never touch a game scouring store shelves for a copy of Brain Age is what encouraged us.
Little reactions like that show up before the actual sales numbers start rolling in. Still, we didn't know whether a major shift in those numbers would take months or years to achieve. I worked under the assumption that if five years went by and the world didn't change, I could kiss my job good-bye. [Chuckles.]
At the same time, Nintendo has teams working on meeting the needs of more hardcore gamers. The big complaint from them now may be that we're not pouring all of our resources into that sector exclusively, but I feel that it's Nintendo's mission to make both kinds of games. Every experienced gamer today was a beginner at some point, who encountered an experience that made them fall in love with games.
I think it's absolutely critical to keep that entryway open for new people. I think it's really important to strike that balance between the two extremes. While it's possible to create a game like Brain Age in an extremely short period of time with a great idea and the right people, a game like Zelda contains content that physically and inevitably demands more time to create.
I feel that the current imbalance between the time a person spends enjoying a game and the time it takes to create it is a real problem, and something that we as developers need to work on resolving.
GS: What do you mean, specifically?
SI: No matter how fun a game is when you first pick it up and play it, people eventually get bored. Our task is to come out with the next big thing before that boredom sets in and to go beyond just releasing an extension of the current titles every three months.
Not only that--coming out with the next Mario or Zelda game means coming up with a ton of innovative ideas. Otherwise people will say, "Yeah, this used to be fun." Keeping up an existing franchise alone requires much creativity, but in addition you have to come up with something fresh and new that people have never seen before. That's where ideas like Wii Fit came from.
We're constantly working on a variety of ideas for new, different games, but it's only after the specifics have been nailed down and they're ready to be announced that we can talk about them. So while I can tell you all about a project that we can have out within two months' time, games that still need six months or a year's work really have to be kept under wraps.
Touting the slogan of expanding the gaming population is our way of declaring to our internal development staff, other software makers, distributors, the media, and ultimately to the customer our intent, which is that we as a company are standing on ground that will crumble away underneath us the minute we stop moving forward, and that this knowledge is driving us to keep working.
If we just stand there, our customers will get bored and leave. Our survival depends upon our ability to create a situation where new people are entering, and established gamers aren't leaving.
SI: The first question I would ask is whether the service is fun if you're 5 or 95, if you're tech-savvy and if you're computer illiterate. If that's not a hurdle we can get past, it's not something Nintendo is going to pursue.
Take the Miis, for example. Sure, we could go crazy with the interface until it was so customizable that you could make an avatar that looked like anyone you could imagine. But it's because the interface is the way that it is now that the average person can pick it up and create a family member's portrait and feel a personal connection to games unlike anything available in the past. Mii is the answer we came up with after a long process of questioning just how low we could keep that entrance threshold.
In that respect, the virtual-world services out there now still aren't at a place where we'd like to join in--and certainly not to the point that we'd want to jump into competition with everybody else. We'd rather focus on doing things that nobody else would do.
Our job is to constantly look into what people find fun and interesting. I mean, nobody else wants to develop a video game where you get on the scale and see how much you weigh. [Laughs] That's how we're able to keep offering people surprises and entertainment, so even if we were to make a virtual-world-like product, we'd be sure to make it something that nobody would call it a product similar to another company's offering.
Iwata Asks Series
Iwata Do you think they are worried that in the future we won't give priority to making the kind of games they have come to expect?
- Yes, those kinds of concerns. As a gamer, there is a side of me that likes to stay up at night, playing alone, silently, head-to-head with the game. Of course, Zelda and Mario will come out, and listening to your speeches, I understand that you don't intend to neglect your core fans. I understand all that, but even so...
Iwata Although we're putting a huge amount of energy into Mario and Zelda, since those games don't feature that much at the Wii Preview events, they don't seem to be the main pillar of Nintendo's strategy. Is that what people are saying?
-Yes, it seems so. How can I put this? I understand it on an intellectual level. When I hear you say that there is no future in simply continuing in the same way, I think you're right. But even though I can see that, the more a gamer understands that reasoning, the more they feel excluded by it. It's not that they don't understand what you are doing, it's simply how they feel on an emotional level. (laughs)
Iwata It does seem that there is a level of misunderstanding among some people. I am concerned about this. It's true that Nintendo is reaching out to non-gamers, but this does not mean that we are ignoring game fans. I believe that if we don't make moves to get people who don't play games to understand them, then the position of video games in society will never improve. Society's image of games will remain largely negative, including that stuff about playing games all the time badly damaging you or rotting your brain or whatever. If that happens, then even people who enjoy games will start to feel a strange guilt when they play them. If people who haven't played games up til now start playing them, and appreciate how enjoyable they are, it is highly likely this situation will change. Society will be more accommodating towards people who play games, and it will become even easier to produce "traditional" games. In reality, while Nintendo is looking to reach out to people who don't play games, it's not as if we've become less committed to Zelda. On the contrary, we've invested four years and a huge amount of effort into developing the new Zelda. There's no question that we are passionate about it. For the people who are willing to wait for them we will absolutely continue to produce games like that. But I think if we don't also develop things for non-gamers, the future for game fans will become bleak.
- I see what you're saying.
Iwata Now going back to that "but..." you mentioned... (laughs) Of course, I know exactly the sort of emotion you're describing...
Iwata But having said that, we don't develop games with two categories in our mind: "This one's just for people who don't play games..." or "This one's just for gamers..." Take Wii Sports, for instance. I think gamers will enjoy the Target Practice mode more than anyone else. Even with something like Brain Training, which generally isn't seen as being a game, lots of users recognised that there was the same excitement in trying to beat the clock, as there is in a racing game, to put it in very basic terms.
- Ah, yes. It's the same feeling of enjoyment. On the calculation problems, searching for numbers on the edge of your field of vision...that thrill when your hand movements have become almost robotic...it's very much like that of a puzzle game.
Iwata It's exactly the same. I think the place in your brain where this feeling comes from is the same in both cases. That's why, even in Touch! Generations software, the core elements have all the original fun of a game.
- You've simply expanded the scope of what a game can be. That is to say, ever since the DS came out, everything you have done has ultimately boiled down to broadening the dynamic range of video games. You are not trying to replace, or reject, the games that have come before.
Iwata You're exactly right.
Well, everyone is busy...! (laughs) People have a certain amount of potential within them. Ensuring that this potential is used as productively as possible greatly helps an organisation. To put it another way, there is a vast amount of energy which disappears inside organisations, or is expended going in directions which don't end up leading anywhere. If all that energy is properly directed, it can add up to a huge amount of power that can be used to produce visible results. That's why I think that over the last three years, as the level of awareness shared by the staff has increased, each individual's understanding has also developed. I believe this has meant that the total amount of energy in the company has increased more than it would have by simply increasing the number of staff. That is to say, the overall potential within the company has become more fully realised.
I really believe that we've come this far because of our vision. If you simply repeat the process of building up the hardware specs, then you just end up with higher costs and a larger console. I think a better approach is to have a clear vision, decide what you want to accomplish, and then work towards your goal.