Miyamoto Scales Back, Nintendo Spins

By  |  Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s legendary game designer behind Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, said he’s stepping down from large-scale projects.

Speaking to Wired’s Chris Kohler, Miyamoto said he wants to work on smaller games and leave the major blockbusters to younger developers. He is not retiring, but sometimes says otherwise to his co-workers.

“What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself,” Miyamoto told Wired. “Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small.”

It sounds to me like Miyamoto has the indie bug–that itch some veteran game developers feel to work on smaller games, in which they can worry more about design and less about production values. This story of developers scaling back comes up time and time again in the gaming industry.

Only in this case, Miyamoto is sticking with Nintendo. The move makes me wonder if Miyamoto will work on downloadable games, which have been a weak point for Nintendo. I imagine there’d be a lot of interest in small, downloadable games with Miyamoto’s name on them. But he doesn’t seem to be thinking too small. He plans to start working on a project in 2012, and possibly show it off publically within a year.

Nintendo’s PR team, meanwhile, has been trying to spin Miyamoto’s words into something less significant. Here’s the full statement, given to Kotaku:

“Video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s role at Nintendo is not changing. He will continue to be a driving force in Nintendo’s development efforts. In discussing his priorities at Nintendo in a media interview, Mr. Miyamoto explained how he is encouraging the younger developers at the company to take more initiative and responsibility for developing software. He attempted to convey his priorities moving forward, inclusive of overseeing all video game development and ensuring the quality of all products. Mr. Miyamoto also discussed his desire to pursue fresh ideas and experiences of the kind that sparked his initial interest in video games.”

Seems to me that Miyamoto’s role is changing, just as he told Wired, despite the first sentence in Nintendo’s statement. He’ll oversee development efforts, but wants younger developers to take on a bigger responsibility in creating the company’s megafranchises. That’ll give Miyamoto some freedom to work on newer ideas on a smaller scale.

I can understand why Nintendo wants to re-frame the story; it doesn’t sound good to investors if the company’s creative genius wants to step back from guaranteed moneymakers. But I relish the possibility of Miyamoto working on new ideas instead of figuring out how to rehash Mario one more time.

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