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Iwata: Nintendo develops games in a "different way"

Company president cites "Death Spiral" of financial pressure as reason for poor sales

Satoru Iwata has blamed financial pressure for the failure of some companies to make successful videogames, underlining his belief that Nintendo's success in the past few years is because of visionaries such as Shigeru Miyamoto's ability to see game ideas in everyday life.

In his GDC keynote Iwata explained that all too often developers become trapped in a "Death Spiral", the result of financial pressure, which in turn leads to less development time, poorer quality games and therefore less sales: "Once you enter the Death Spiral, it is difficult to escape," he said.

By contrast he pointed to the source of many of the company's biggest-selling titles, as being rooted in the simple hobbies of Miyamoto.

"His concepts almost always begin in the same place - by simply observing other human beings," said Iwata. "He loves doing this. He's curious, and when he sees something people enjoy he'll consider over and over what part of that activity people think is fun.

"By now, you know how his personal hobbies have turned into games. When he started gardening, pretty soon there was a game called Pikmin. When he got a new puppy, his development team was not surprised to find they would be working on a new project called Nintendogs."

Iwata explained that Miyamoto scorns long-winded design documents in favour of simple ideas, and favours early prototyping - in his "Upward Spiral" ideas are everywhere, so that "even as one project starts, he's observing other people having fun in other ways."

"You may have heard Miyamoto is some kind of perfectionist," he added. "This is true in many areas. But in each phase of development, he can clearly distinguish which details must be perfectly finished, and separate them from parts which can be tentatively considered.

"Sometimes, no matter how hard they work, those small teams struggle to meet their objective. The prototype phase lasts for more than two years, and sometimes we have to stop work and set the project aside."

Miyamoto is largely responsible for most of Nintendo's key DS and Wii software successes in the past few years, and is credited in part for creating the social gaming boom.

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Phil Elliott avatar

Phil Elliott