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Nintendo: Innovation is dying
Mario creator Miyamoto discusses what's wrong with the video game industry today
June 3, 2005: 8:11 AM EDT
Game Over is a weekly column by Chris Morris
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) This might come as something of a shock to the gaming world, but Shigeru Miyamoto the man who created Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda really doesn't feel like playing games these days.

"There's not a lot I want to play now," he told me recently. "A lot of the games out there are just too long. Of course, there are games, such as 'Halo' or 'Grand Theft Auto,' that are big and expansive. But if you're not interested in spending that time with them, you're not going to play."

What he misses, he said, are games you can pick up and play something the company hopes to accomplish with its next generation home console, currently code-named "Revolution".

Nintendo deliberately avoided giving too many details about the Revolution at the E3 conference this year, frustrating some fans who felt the company did not fight back against the PR onslaught of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Miyamoto didn't offer any firm details either, though he did offer a few more vague hints about how the system would be different.

"The Revolution will use cutting edge technology, but it's ultimately about how that technology is used," he said. "We asked ourselves 'why would a family need or want to have a gaming console?' The answer is what's driving development of the Revolution."

While Miyamoto insists the Revolution will have advanced graphics and features, he doesn't want that to be the focus of the machine.

Instead, he's trying to encourage developers to think outside of the genres that have become so well known in the industry. In other words, there's more to gaming than role playing, simulation, strategy and action.

"Rather than thinking we have a new console, let's make epic games, I want [developers] to make more unique products," he said.

That's the school of thought behind some of the upcoming games for the Nintendo DS. "Nintendogs," a Tamigachi-like canine simulator lets you experience the joy of raising a pup with none of the house-training. Whether U.S. audiences will embrace it is a mystery, but Japan has gone crazy for the game, buying more than 400,000 copies, according to Nintendo. "ElectroPlankton," meanwhile, blends music and art, letting owners mix their own tunes.

Less likely to make it to Western shores is "Touch Dic". (Really, that's the name.) This dictionary application for the DS is a bit different than standard electronic dictionaries, turning learning a new language into a game. For example, one person, using the DS' stylus, can draw Kanji characters onto their Picto-chat screen while others try to guess their meaning.

There have even been whispers of a PDA application for the DS in the works, though Nintendo declined to comment on that.

Of course, the Revolution and the DS will continue to primarily be game machines. (Nintendo's not straying that far from its roots.) And company president Satoru Iwata has indicated established franchises, such as "Super Smash Bros." and "Metroid" will be ready at or near launch.

How much support Nintendo will get from third-party publishers remains to be seen. Though they used a lot of smoke and mirrors, Sony and Microsoft both turned heads at E3. Nintendo's next-gen device was barely an afterthought for most developers.

If Miyamoto is concerned, though, he didn't show it. He said he wasn't overly impressed with what he saw from Sony (Research) and Microsoft (Research) at the show particularly in their pre-show press conferences.

"Most of what you're seeing are not even the first projections of games," he said. "They're just shiny computer graphics. They're things anyone using a computer can do. ... It's how we're going to use the technology that separates us. What we want to do is different and we're happy with the road we're taking. When you have a Revolution, you're not going to have the same experience as you would with the other home consoles."


Morris is Director of Content Development at CNN/Money. Click here to send him an email.  Top of page


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