Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had an interview with Toyo Keizai Online discussing all things Wii U, Nintendo, and the games industry in general. While reading the English version of the interview translated by Kotaku, I came across a quote that greatly piqued my interest. Iwata said, “Both Miyamoto (Shigeru) 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.’”
Iwata elaborated on his point of view. “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.”
Personally, I think Nintendo adopting this mindset is utterly and completely disappointing.
“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs
The above quote perfectly describes my feelings on the way Iwata is conveying Nintendo’s development process. Trying to conform your original ideas to match the current tastes of the public is a surefire way to remain stagnant and lifeless. If Nintendo asked consumers what games they want to see, then I’m sure that most of them would blurt out concepts that they already know and are familiar with (i.e. Mario and Zelda). But by only trying to cater to consumers and their perceived tastes, Nintendo takes the risk of failing to push the boundaries and not experimenting with something truly unique.
Game developers are some of the most creative people in the world. And I feel this is being proven now more than ever. Rich worlds with multi-faceted characters are the reasons why I love the medium now more than ever. Games that have captivating stories accompanied by fleshed out universes are the ones I love most. Bioshock: Infinite and The Last of Us are two of my favorites this year, and they both have incredibly detailed fictions that make a definitive case that games are indeed an art form.
But if the developers for these games are being stifled creatively by those higher up in the business ladder, then there’s a chance that these fantastic games wouldn’t even exist. From the outside looking in, Nintendo’s perspective on game development gives me the fear that the amazingly imaginative people working at Nintendo (of which I’m sure there are plenty) might be getting shut down because their ideas might be too radical, and that the consumers won’t be “used” to it.
It’s important to remember that the relationship between a creator and a consumer is a complex one. When should a creator exert his or hers authoritative control, and when should a creator be mindful of what the consumer wants? I’m of the opinion that authors should by and large do whatever they deem necessary, and try to tune out the consumer. Look at Hideo Kojima for example. I’m positive that guy is crafting exactly the kinds of games he wants to make, and could give a rat’s ass about how the public thinks his games should be made. I’m sure he’s exercising his total and complete creative control over the game, and that’s why he is consistently lauded for the ingenuity (and lunacy) his games exhibit.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Nintendo is an immensely talented company. Games like Super Mario Galaxy are evidence of that. But if this is the attitude that Nintendo is undertaking, then I’m hugely saddened and disappointed. I sincerely hope Nintendo’s creativity doesn’t suffocate under this sort of perspective because when Nintendo is at its creative apex, there’s no one better in the business.