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.