News Article

Translated 1997 Interview with Miyamoto and Itoi Reveals Nintendo 64 Insights

Posted by Martin Watts

Details on their professional relationship, the 64DD and N64 advertising

Japanese translation blog Yomuka! has produced a full English transcript of an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Shigesato Itoi (MOTHER series) that originally appeared in Japanese gaming magazine, The 64 Dream.

The extensive interview from December 1997 provides a great insight into a number of things happening at the time; Miyamoto and Itoi discuss the history of their professional relationship, their views on the performance of the N64 and its marketing campaign, and their hopes and plans for the ill-fated 64DD system add-on. Both of the legends were also interviewed individually, where they talk more specifically about their own projects.

The first part of the interview focuses on how the two legends first met each other in the late '80s. Funnily enough, their recollections of this moment contradict one another, with Miyamoto suggesting that they met sooner than Itoi suggests. It's very clear from the dialogue between the two that a great friendship exists, and that when they meet it's like "hijinks in a high school after-school club room”.

The second part of the interview takes a closer look at the N64, which was Nintendo's current home system at the time. The interviewer makes an interesting observation regarding the advertising of the system, and one which is eerily similar to Nintendo's current efforts with marketing the Wii U.

I think the N64 hasn’t caught on as well as we hoped despite how incredible it is because the console itself isn’t entirely understood. In particular, we’ve received messages from our readers talking about how the commercials don’t do a good job of getting its more amazing features across.

Itoi's response to this question again feels remarkably similar to the challenges that Nintendo is currently facing:

I’m sure people will understand once the games emerge from under the surface of the water, where they’re hiding. I hope so, anyway. We’ve got the seeds planted, but I want to plant even more of them.

The N64 was renowned for its incredibly limited software releases throughout its lifespan; during the six years that it was on the market, only 387 games were released. Moreover, third-party support was minuscule in comparison to that of the PlayStation, namely as a result of Nintendo's decision to opt for ROM cartridges over CDs for its games (cartridges were considerably more expensive).

Interestingly, during the third section of the interview which focuses on the 64DD, Miyamoto makes a notable remark with regards to the format.

When it comes to the future of gaming media, Nintendo will continue to make cartridges, but we concluded that DD was a better option than CD for expanding the range of gameplay.

Miyamoto is technically right about the latter point, as the magneto-optical discs that the 64DD uses are rewritable and can store data. But it's strange to think that Miyamoto would have truly thought that cartridges would remain the primary format to deliver games. It's important to note that this was 1997 and that the N64 was still relatively new, but CD-ROM technology was constantly improving and offered considerable storage and cost advantages over cartridges, even if it came with the risk of increased piracy. Whether Miyamoto actually believed this to be the case or whether it was just a corporate line to reinforce Nintendo's decision for choosing cartridges is anyone's guess.

This whole section of the interview is quite saddening in many ways; reading Miyamoto and Itoi talk about the 64DD with such ambition seems strange given the system's eventual fate. As Miyamoto states in the interview, the idea of having a disc of data that works across multiple games, as well as expansion packs for titles seems like such a missed opportunity in hindsight (F-Zero X was the only title lucky enough to receive its own expansion).

When the 64DD did finally release in 1999 in Japan after numerous delays, it was a rather low-key affair that certainly didn't carry the excitement that comes across in the interview. By this point, Nintendo knew that the system was destined to commercial failure, and virtually all of the projects that were originally planned to use it were either moved to standard cartridge or scrapped altogether. Ironically, Itoi's MOTHER 3 was one of the casualties until it was eventually reworked into a Game Boy Advance game that released in 2006 in Japan. In the end, only nine games were released for the 64DD, and a paltry 12,000 units were sold.

You can find the full interview here.

Do you think the 64DD could have been a commercial success? Is it possible that it could have changed the playing field for Nintendo? Let us know your thoughts on the system add-on — and the interview — in the comments section below.

[via yomuka.wordpress.com]

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User Comments (39)

NintyMan

#2

NintyMan said:

That was an interesting interview. It's strange looking back now at how they seemed to be so concerned with "cool" or "uncool" commercials and marketing. Even though I was too young to remember, I guess the N64 did have similar challenges to Wii U, and it was somewhat like that for Gamecube. It comes to show that today's situation is nothing new for Nintendo.

Here's a cool fun fact; the Mario Artist series on the 64DD had extremely short minigames that involved doing a simple task. These minigames were to become the inspiration for the microgames in WarioWare, Inc. Mega Microgames.

Shiryu

#3

Shiryu said:

Indeed "F-Zero X" was the only game to get an expansion, but man oh man, what an expansion! Id buy one just to have the complete F-Zero X experience. It would be really neat to have it all on the 3DS (hint Nintedo, Hint).

RandomNerds

#5

RandomNerds said:

I think the N64 is my favorite console of all time. Every few months I check eBay for a DD, but I just can't pull the trigger on a $800+ artifact. Maybe if I win the loto one of these days I'll pic one up. It would be such a cool conversation piece to have sitting underneath my TV.

HawkeyeWii

#6

HawkeyeWii said:

N64 was soo awesome when it came out! I wish we would go back to carts
Oh how I miss fast load times :(

Stark_Nebula

#7

Stark_Nebula said:

The article itself is amazingly insightful. I'd die ten-fold for access to all the crazy stuff Nintendo has never release, from hardware to games unreleased or simple prototypes. I love the mention of Mario 64-2 for DD. I'm curious to know what happened to it. It's also fun to think what might have happened if the DD was a part of the N64 from the start. I wish Nintendo would reveal it's secret vault to us. That would make for the best documentary(ies?) ever.

Neram

#8

Neram said:

I think the 64DD format was a step in the right direction. It seems to me like it was a middle ground between cartridges and CD's, in terms of cost vs. durability. I think it's unfortunate that CD's had to become the standard, and only did because of corporations wanting to cut as many costs as possible. If you think about it, we as consumers don't benefit much from CD's, considering how fragile the discs themselves are, never mind how clunky and precious the drives are too. CD's are obsolete garbage in my opinion, and it's a wonder we still use them today.

PopeReal

#9

PopeReal said:

I was going to buy the 64DD back in the day just for the F-Zero X Expansion. I was pretty bummed when it was canceled.

Capt_N

#12

Capt_N said:

There's a lot of tech I wish Nintendo would have given us in the past, the BSX games for one, although that peripheral depended on a service we didn't have here in NA, so that made sense back then. However, any games that didn't make it to other forms of media, & weren't scrapped should get their 2cd chance via legal emulation. Nintendo, if your employees are reading these comments, The Legend of Zelda BSX games, please.

Pichuka97

#13

Pichuka97 said:

I really wanted Nintendo to release this. Also, what happened to the SNES CD? Nintendo needs to shed light on its little mysteries like these.

wiggy

#16

wiggy said:

I own one and it has been worth it to me for no other reason than to be able to make my own F-Zero circuits. It's such a huge shame that it never lived up to its potential and was never released outside of Japan.

TheRavingTimes

#17

TheRavingTimes said:

The Nintendo 64DD should have been included with the original N64. Sqaure-Soft begged Nintendo to develop a CD based console but Nintendo ignored their request and allowed Sony to get a crisp breath of fresh air.

KingMike

#18

KingMike said:

Well, I'd imagine that part of the reason the 64DD failed is that it was only released in the 64's worst-performing territory.
(I hear the N64 was slightly more popular in Europe and sold A LOT better in North America.)
Supposedly it was also only sold online, and I remember reading at the time most Japanese weren't interested in doing online business (as strange as that seems :D ).

Also, they reportedly made 100k DDs but most of them were destroyed after the console was discontinued.

Trikeboy

#19

Trikeboy said:

I was so bummed that the 64DD was cancelled. I really wanted the track creator for F-Zero X. Nintendo, please bring F-Zero back with track creator that can be shared over the internet.

@Pichuka97 The SNES CD was a joint plan with Sony. After learning how to make a game system, Sony broke off the deal and made the Playstation. It is sad that Nintendo was instrumental in it's fall from grace after the SNES era. They did more to contribute to that of course.

bigbadwolfe911

#20

bigbadwolfe911 said:

I just want Mother 3 ;( Really hoping to see a revival of Mother aka Earthbound on both the Wii U or 3DS virtual Consoles and new games would be a dream come true. As for the rest of this article, it is an interesting comparison and just goes to show we can't count the Wii U out yet!

Gridatttack

#21

Gridatttack said:

I would prefer cartridges, since most of my old gamecube games ended up scratched somehow (even if I didnt used them).

Also, some of the canned 64DD game would be cool on the Wii U (like the mario artist series)

Capt_N

#22

Capt_N said:

I think a lot of gems, & even (some) mediocre titles from some of Nintendo's history could easily help out the WU, even if ppl can play those games via emulation. One of Nintendo's biggest, & best tools in the competitive game industry are their ips, their (storied) properties/franchises.

Also, I'm picking up from this translation that Nintendo has a history of failure to properly iterate their console's to their intended audiences. Not completely sure if they (originally) 100% intended to concentrate on marketing the Wii to newer gamers, as well as those who had never gamed before, but I do seem to recall their own Wii pre-launch website w/ the tagline of something to the effect of, "for those who have never gamed, for those that once gamed, & for those that do game"(not necessarily accurate, but along those lines). So, it's debatable if the Wii's originally supposed main/intended audience was hit on accident, or purpose. Why am I pointing this out? To say that it really could be said that Nintendo does have issues when it comes to connecting to their intended audiences on occasions. & that, of course, that is something the co., as a whole needs to have fixed about it.

As for Miyamoto, & Itoi not having the same "first meeting" story, I'd say that's just b/c their meeting was from almost 30 years ago, so that makes sense.

Good article, NLife! :)

OL_G

#23

OL_G said:

It had the same problem the move and kinect have if you ask me.
It's not mandatory you have to buy it seperate and that kills a product like that same with ps4 vita combo it's not gonna sell like people hope

Big_L91

#25

Big_L91 said:

hey if the wii u has the quality of games the 64 had i wont even mind that theres only ten of them.

Shworange

#26

Shworange said:

Yikes! The stuff miyamoto was saying sound awfully familiar to what they have continually said about WiiU... "Don't worry, we'll get around to making games and it'll take off" or "Our consumers have been saying we're not doing a good enough job of advertising and promoting its great features"... 16 years later, please learn.

NES_64

#27

NES_64 said:

This part sounds very familiar reguarding Wii U today. "I think the N64 hasn’t caught on as well as we hoped despite how incredible it is because the console itself isn’t entirely understood. In particular, we’ve received messages from our readers talking about how the commercials don’t do a good job of getting its more amazing features across."

Now off to play some N64!

GreenDream

#28

GreenDream said:

If anything, Miyamoto did not make a strange comment at all for his prediction about the continuation of cartridges- in fact, his sentiment was ahead of it's time. It's only now that we see the fruition of this, through the now modern day cartridges- flash drives, solid state drives, and storage data cards like SD.

It is a huge boon to not need to search for data physically on a disc; solid state drives operate exponentially, even astronomically faster than disc drives, and the previous limitations of data storage have been overcome. If taken good care of, their physical lifespan is also longer.

The only limiting factor now is artificially inflated marketing prices... you can bet that those who hold the most interest in disk technology (Microsoft and Sony) are influencing the market to make sure the hard disk drive dies as slowly as possible. The Blu-ray disc, and it's contemporaries, will be the last iteration of their kind.

GreenDream

#29

GreenDream said:

As for the 64DD, it was just another example of Nintendo ignoring Sega's mistakes- in this case, for the Sega CD. The Sega CD actually did have a few amazing games created for it, like The Snatcher, Popful Mail, and the Lunar series. The problems were accessibility and planning.

It's only been within the past few years that people are finding out some of these old classics even existed; the definitions of sleeper hits. If those attachments were ever to sell, they would have needed to be put into bundles without much extra cost to the consumer.

Sega would have needed to do more than just market Sonic CD- they would have needed to never create the 32X, delay the Saturn to be more developer friendly, and make sure the Saturn was backwards compatible with both Mega Drive and Sega CD titles, from it's cartridge port and disc drive. But that's not all- Sega of America's executives screwed the whole company over, then they left for greener pastures. So harmony within a company is also a necessity.

Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all did a good job of finally learning how to integrate attachments into their core consoles during the past generation. By historical pattern, things like the Kinect and PS Move/Arc should have flopped. Yet, they didn't.... instead, they were nearly abandoned... so those two things are anomalies in the history of add-ons. Only Nintendo future-proofed their add-on, with the Motion Plus attachment/ controller.

That's the key lesson here: focus on integration, not addition.

Deathgaze

#30

Deathgaze said:

The 64 should have had a disc drive straight from factory. IMO, it's a horrible system which dwelled behind it's competition, the PS1 the entire gen. Even though the PS1 is 2 years older technology.

Funny how back in the day Nintendo's SNES stood up better against the PS1 than the N64 did.

Blue-Thunder

#31

Blue-Thunder said:

I still don't know what Nintendo were trying to achieve withe the 64DD. The reason Nintendo refused to use CD discs was they couldn't stop piracy if they used CD's. It was a bold move to stick with cartridge for the N64 and it probably cost them because N64 was a far better console than PS1.

sketchturner

#33

sketchturner said:

The N64 had a relatively small library but IMO the largest number of unmissable titles on any one system.

ouroborous

#35

ouroborous said:

Add-ons for systems were always a bad idea. It always felt cheap and slapdash. What always was needed was a brand new system, or at the very least, a complete re-design of the existing hardware. which wouldnt have sold well though because who wants to buy basically the same system again just to play a handful of games supported buy the add-on. even the expanded memory packs for the regular N64 were a bad idea and seldom used. there should never be a dividing line on a single system as to what games you can play or not. either a system plays the same games for everybody or it doesnt.
another major problem with the add-ons was that none of them were ever significantly supported, so regardless of popularity or not, they proved to be basically pointless.

SKTTR

#36

SKTTR said:

I have Gamecube versions of two 64DD games: Doshin the Giant, a pretty obscure godsim I liked. I naively hoped the even more abstract sequel would be hidden in there somewhere as well but it wasn't, at least it didn't unlock after completing the main game...
And of course the cancelled Ocarina of Time Master Quest.
I always wanted Nintendo to add F-Zero X Expansion Kit into the F-Zero X Virtual Console release, but that somehow didn't work out...
Now with Wii U having all the benefits of the 64DD I wonder if Nintendo would ever go back to ideas like the Mario Artist series.

Stark_Nebula

#37

Stark_Nebula said:

@Trikeboy Actually, Nintendo broke the deal with Sony. Yamauchi re-read the contract they had signed for the partnership; it turns out a portion of that contract gave Sony control over what games could be released for the SNES-CD. Seeing that Sony could deny any Nintendo game to not be released on the add-on, they cut the deal off. Ken Kutaragi looked at what had been done, and seing it's current state, decide to make it a fully fledged console.

WhiteTrashGuy

#38

WhiteTrashGuy said:

Imagine if the DD disks were the proprietary format for the N64? Not the same as CDs, but a good middle ground. Yamauchi-san was convinced that video games were toys, and that CDs could not provide the durability that a cartridge afforded.

AtomicToaster

#39

AtomicToaster said:

N64 did keep it's quality over quantity promise. The PS1 had so many terrible games, not that it didn't have tons of good games as well, but people kind of forget that PS1 had so many unplayable games come out for it at the time! Quality was a real issue, much like on the Wii later! I think Nintendo hardware tends to age really well too. I'm totally considering picking up a Gamecube and N64 again because there were tons of games from studios your never going to get again!

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