Super Mario Run launches on iOS this week, an event which not so long ago would have been totally inconceivable to the average Nintendo fan. Nintendo's slow but steady embrace of mobile has certainly generated column inches in the gaming world, and to push the release the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto has been doing plenty of publicity - including a new interview with Glixel in which he covers a wide range of topics.
Naturally, working with Apple is one of the big subjects covered. Many see Apple as the company which has gatecrashed Nintendo's portable party; prior to the success of the iPhone and iPad, gaming on the go was almost exclusively done on handhelds like the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, and Nintendo has seen its share of the portable gaming market diminish alarmingly over the past few years.
However, rather than feeling bitter about the whole thing, Miyamoto seems incredibly excited about getting the chance to work with the famous firm, and feels that Nintendo and Apple share a common philosophy:
Glixel: What's it been like working with Apple? How did the partnership for Super Mario Run come about? They're supporting it a lot more than they usually do with individual games.
Miyamoto: The timing was really fortunate for both of us. On the Nintendo side we'd been talking a lot about going into the mobile space but we hadn't decided that we were going to make a Mario game for smartphones. As we were talking about what we were going to create we started asking ourselves about what a Mario game would need to be. So we were experimenting with some things and we came up with the base idea, and that's what we eventually showed to Apple.
Part of the reason we took it to Apple was that in order for us to have the performance we wanted we needed some development support to ensure that the game would run the way we expected.
Because Nintendo is always trying to do something unique we also wanted to try and do something different on the business side too. We really didn't want to do something in the free to play space, but in order to make sure we had the opportunity to do what we wanted [offer a taste of the game for free, and charge $9.99 to unlock the whole thing], we had to talk to the people who are actually running the shop. Naturally the people on the App Store initially told us that the free-to-play approach is a good one, but I've always had this image that Apple and Nintendo have very similar philosophies. As we started working together, I found that to be true and they became very welcoming of trying something new.
It's always seemed like Nintendo and Apple have some similarities in terms of the way they look at product and audiences. What do you see as that common ground?
Probably the that easiest thing to point to is the fact that Apple, like Nintendo, is a company that thinks about how people will use their products. We design things to be usable by a very broad range of people. They put a lot of effort into the interface and making the product simple to use, and that's very consistent with Nintendo. I think Apple also likes to do things differently and take a different approach. In the early days when computers were very complicated things, computer companies were purposely presenting them in ways that made them seem very complicated. Then you had Apple who came along with their very simple and colorful logo and it all had more of a fun feel to it.
Actually, this reminds me that with the Super NES controller we put the multicolored buttons on the face of the controller, and then the US office decided not to keep that. I told that story to Apple, and how I liked the use of color in their old logo. That was like a bridge that had been built between us.
Their focus is always on simplicity. Their focus is always on really taking the user into account, making it easy to use and then having an environment that's safe and secure that people can work and play in. They're the areas where Nintendo and Apple really see eye to eye.
For Nintendo, we have a lot of kids that play our products. It was important for us to be able to offer Super Mario Run in a way that parents would feel assured that they could buy the game and give it to their kids without having to worry about future transactions. From early on, I thought that Apple would be a good partner so we could work on this new approach.
Given that Mario is his most famous creation, it's fair to ask if Miyamoto is tired of the character yet. However, that doesn't seem to be the case:
I kinda of look at it as if I'm running a talent agency, and I have all these different people that when there's new technology and we're doing something new with it, I always choose Mario to be the one to represent it. Then, if we have something else that's maybe not quite the right fit then we choose one of the other characters. That's usually how I approach things with him. Also, we've always evolved Mario's look – so we try and keep him fresh.
Finally, there's that thorny topic of retirement. Despite muddled reports a while back, Miyamoto insists that he has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet:
There was a misunderstanding around my supposed retirement. Really at the time what we were talking about was giving more opportunity and more leadership opportunity to younger people in the company. So rather than me leading everything we were really expanding that role out to others that had come up within the company. Somehow that got misinterpreted as the fact that I was retiring.
We have these younger people in the company who are taking the lead on Switch development and it's really been them that have put this forward and designed this system. They're the ones that have really shepherded it through the process. Because of that, what it's allowed me to do is focus on other projects like Super Mario Run or the Universal theme park. I'm going to keep looking for these kinds of opportunities where I can do something new and fun.
The full interview is well worth a read. Let us know what you think about Miyamoto's comments by posting one of your own below.