Donkey Kong's daddy
Nintendo's Miyamoto follows his own path into the future
February 27, 2002: 3:09 p.m. ET

graphic NEW YORK (CNNmoney) - As the world's most celebrated game developer, Shigeru Miyamoto knows millions of people are keeping a close eye on what he does next. But he's not paying a lot of attention to them.

In his 25-year career, Miyamoto has created some of the world's most recognizable characters, including Donkey Kong, Mario and Zelda. He has repeatedly been called the Steven Spielberg of the video gaming world. And without his creative abilities, Nintendo - much less the entire gaming industry - probably wouldn't be the force it is today.

graphic graphic
His titles are instant bestsellers (the Super Mario series has sold more than 140 million copies). And just the whisper that he's working on a new game can whip gaming fanboys into a frenzy, resulting in reams of message board and newsgroup posts that simultaneously celebrate his genius and tell him what he should do differently. He knows you're out there. And he occasionally reads the comments, but they don't factor into his decisions.

Miyamoto and some of his characters (Source: Nintendo)
"We don't pay a whole lot of attention to the Internet until people have played the game - then we pay a lot of attention to whether people liked it," said Miyamoto. "We read through it and see it, but we don't take it into consideration. ... [The Internet] is not going to dictate the direction of where the game goes."

While Internet feedback might not have a direct impact on Miyamoto's work, he acknowledges that many developers do pay rapt attention to the demands of the gaming public - and that, he said, is one of the reasons innovation is such a rare thing in the gaming world.

"While it is very important to create your own games, you do have a lot of demand from users - they want 50 hours of gameplay or many cinematics," he said. "These demands put pressure on the developers and they may spend all their time meeting the demands and not focusing on their own ideas."

Of course, the scarcity of innovation isn't directly tied to the gaming public. Miyamoto also points out that most developers are fairly young - and their love of past games can sometimes push aside their own ideas.

"This is a very young industry and many developers grew up playing Mario or whatnot," he said. "Those developers enter the industry with a fondness for games in the past. Many of them are not making their own games, but remaking games they've seen in the past. ... What's important is for the developer to translate their emotions and feelings into a game."

Though best known for games most consider to be aimed at children, Miyamoto's branching out these days. He's working hard to correct the impression that the GameCube is just for younger audiences. And while Miyamoto's certainly involved in the system's first Mario game ("Mario Sunshine"), he's also working very closely on one of the most anticipated action titles, "Metroid Prime." (Both games should have playable versions at E3 in May.)

"I'm very involved in 'Metroid' now," he said with a smile. "I'm always showing up in meetings and contributing ideas."

That should translate into a game that's a visual frenzy. Miyamoto's a big believer in having plenty of objects on screen. ("There's no localization or language to that and it can appeal to everyone," he said.)

"Pikmin" showcased Miyamoto's game development style. (Source: Nintendo)
A good example of that style can be found in "Pikmin," the original title Miyamoto launched with the GameCube. Radish-like creatures dash about the screen, combating garden insects and following your orders. It sounds odd, but it's actually a truly charming title, and that charm is Miyamoto's signature. In fact, when asked which of his creations is his favorite, he points to "Pikmin" first.

"I like that at my age, I can work alongside a team as hard and as late as they do," he chuckled. "So I'm proud of that one. ... I think we have a lot of new things and new ideas to come to the GameCube, but I liked that we were able to launch with something new and not just the latest installment in a series."

Don't misunderstand, though. Miyamoto's a big fan of continuing series - both as a player and a developer.

"Working on a series or a franchise can be a lot more fun because you have the basic elements of gameplay established, so you can have a lot more fun," he said. "Creating a new game is a lot more hard. But I can say that when I'm working on a new idea, I'm very anxious to see it up and running."

The recent resignation of Nintendo's president Hiroshi Yamauchi might seem to open up new opportunities for Miyamoto, but he says he has no interest in getting out of the development field.

"A lot of film directors keep making movies until they die, so I think I'll keep making games for a long time," he said.

Next week: Miyamoto talks about taking the GameCube online.

Chris Morris is director of content development for CNN/Money

Click here to send an email to Chris Morris graphic


Read previous Game Over columns