Nintendo is trying to make what people want, not art - Iwata

Wii U maker's president says creators need to change their ideas if they aren't resonating with the audience

Nintendo may have a reputation for marching to the beat of its own drum, but company president Satoru Iwata said the company's creative mindset depends on being completely adaptable to what works for the audience. In an interview with Toyo Keizai Online translated by Kotaku, Iwata said whatever clicks with the audience trumps the developer's original plans.

"Nintendo developers are extremely insatiable when it comes to whether what they make resonates with customers or not." Iwata said. "They'll do anything to achieve it. Both (Shigeru) Miyamoto and I repeatedly say, 'It's not like we are making pieces of art, the point is to make a product that resonates with and is accepted by customers.'"

He added, "Creating is like an expression of egoism. People with a strong energy to create something have a 'this is the strength I believe is right' sort of confidence to start from. Their standpoint is that this is the right thing to do, so this must be what's good for the customer as well. But the final goal of a product is to resonate with and be accepted by people. You can't just force your way through. By saying, 'The point is to be accepted,' I mean, if you go to a customer with your idea and you realize they don't understand it, it's more important that they do and you should shift your idea."

Iwata acknowledged that the Wii U has struggled of late and customers haven't quite understood it, but the company isn't about to shift that particular idea just yet.

"It's difficult to say, 'The Wii U is a system that does such-and-such,' in a simple manner, and understanding it takes time." Iwata said. "While we unfortunately had a period in the first half of 2013 where releases were sparse and hardware sales have lulled, I don't think that the concept and potential of the Wii U have been rejected."

Analysts would seem to agree with Iwata. Colin Sebastian and Doug Creutz have both told investors recently that while Wii U sales have been sluggish, the true test for the system will be its performance this holiday season, when it is expected to have a much stronger lineup of available software.

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Latest comments (7)

Steve Goldman Journalist. 6 years ago
I believe in the wii u's future
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Shane Sweeney Academic 6 years ago
Nintendo has created more genres then any other developer I can think of.
Nintendo has existed in there current form constantly inventing the wheel polishing the experience until an entirely new beast exists and works then adding the new genre into it's own pantheon of IP's. I can appreciate the Nintendo mentality that this is not art as it is not about expression as much as inventing ideas that mesh with audiences.

I definitely see Nintendo primarily as engineers of game play just as I consider Carmack/Sweeney as the engineers of technology. But I agree neither are pure artists.

Despite this though Shigeru Miyamoto is a creative genius though and he clearly can't help but infuse his work with art. Wii Music might of been Miyamoto's most personal title he has ever worked. So I don't think Nintendo give themselves enough credit in this regard.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 6 years ago
I dont know about this, I like Nintendo's style. Ive always liked what they do. They can do as much art as they want and I'll buy it. And sometimes its not good to go with what other people want. I think its just a matter of striking a balance between what you wanna do and how to best satisfy other peoples needs. What makes Nintendo's games so great is there own style of making games. Honestly I just want more of it. I think the only thing they have done wrong is not deliver more, Ive been waiting for a new F-Zero and Waverace. I want to see a new Starfox, a new console kid icarus and new IP.
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Matthew Sainsbury Journalist 6 years ago
Given that Miyamoto was given an honorary lifetime artist award when I was in Japan at a digital art exhibition a few years back, I find it a little disappointing that Iwata seems to think that games can't both be entertaining and engaging, and artistic.

In fact I find this philosophy in daily backwards and indicative of the issues that Nintendo faces in the market. Art and Entertainment need not me mutually exclusive terms and Nintendo needs to understand that the modern gamer is capable of understanding deeper themes while being entertained by a game at they same time.

There is no harm in giving people something to think about while they play.
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David Serrano Freelancer 6 years ago
@Matthew Sainsbury

He's talking about designers and developers learning to put the needs and desires of the audience ahead of their personal preferences and aesthetics. When audiences consistently fail to respond to games intended to be both entertaining / engaging and artistic... designers and developers shouldn't have the luxury of ignoring this under the pretense of subjectivity. They must learn to clearly identify and define the actual needs and desires of the majority of their audience and deliver the artistic vision for future games within those clearly defined parameters.

And this philosophy is not backwards because it is based on the core concepts of statistical process control systems.
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Michael Figueroa Acosta Studying Game Design, Full Sail University6 years ago
I believe in Nintendo's console, and I believe it is a great concept. However, the idea of putting the audience's vision before the designer's is quite disturbing at best. If that were the case, why not "let the audience design these games"?

Personally, the idea behind game making is putting your vision and passion in it, while giving something to the audience that's appealing to them or something they want (one or a few mechanics/details), not everything they would expect from the game. The reason why Nintendo hasn't sold as much as other consoles like Sony's Playstation and Microsoft's Xbox is that the audience believes that the console is a failure due to "it's past with the Wii" and "lack of appearance and games". Gamers will be gamers, and not even giving them a piece of reality will change their views. They say they know what's best and we all know that some of these people are just trying to stand out of the crowd.

The road to success does not lie by giving them what they want. They don't know what they want. In the end, if we did give them what they want, they will EXACTLY be disappointed for not coming up with something new or that the industry caved in and lose respect. You have to spike their curiosity in order to get them surprised and interested. The whole deal of giving them what they want is like saying "your vision means nothing, just let the audience shape the mold of the game and you do the rest". That's not how I want to see the industry. If Iwata wants more Wii U's sold, Nintendo and the developers have to come up with something that will spike their curiosity. And the industry has been doing this for long, but I think it hasn't been doing strong enough lately.

All I'm saying is that I wouldn't throw in my pencil for them to give me "their vision". Then what am I studying for? Give the industry to them! That's what Iwata is saying with those words. There will always be those customers that will bash at our games. But I'm not going to be a second "Phil Fish" and let the "abuse" get to me and make me pass the torch. All we need is new ways to get the consumer's interested rather than demos, novels, interactive online stories/games or commercials. We just need to find that "thing" to get them interested.

And this isn't to say that you can still make your idea while working around with the audience's idea, but there should be surprises, not expectations/demands/etc from them. Otherwise, my future job in the industry would seem pointless.

PS: Before telling developers & designers what should be done and that we must make and give the audience what they want, he first needs to make sure the console is what the audience wants first. "Make sure your house is in order first before criticising ours first."

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Michael Figueroa Acosta on 4th August 2013 1:50pm

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David Thornhill Studying Journalism, University of South Australia6 years ago
Sure its nice to have some intelligent, artistic or emotionally mature content in games, not every needs to attempt it. The average cinema going audience is vastly more capable of understanding complex themes than 50 or 60 years ago, however we still have films like Battleship or Grown Ups 2 being produced. They are both financially successful, but when considered on their artistic merits they are idiotic. They share many similarities with artistic pieces like Good Will Hunting or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but no one expects them to fill both the role of entertainment and art. We should not be expecting the same from Nintendo. If they don't feel their products have to fill both roles, why should we judge them?
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