Arguably, one of the greatest features of modern Nintendo games is how the difficulty almost always manages to cater to both advanced players and beginners. For those who need it, there's usually a power-up or handout that will make a challenge significantly easier to overcome. On the other hand, the end game content is usually significantly more difficult to overcome and requires a lot more skill to unlock. It's a very fine line to be walked, however, and failure to strike the right balance results in one end of the spectrum complaining about the game's difficulty or lack thereof.
In a recent interview with gaming magazine, GamesTM, Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka mused over this problem. The two were asked if they'd made any choices in development that they feared would be controversial and Miyamoto responded with this:
For me one of the things was maybe the gap between the really advanced players and the first-time players. The difficulty balance is always something that I hear frustrations about from the public, whichever way we decide to go. We always have the testing team test our game, but whatever they say is really fun, the first-time players might consider to be very difficult. One of the things I do sometimes at the later phases of development is go in and hear the testing team's requests and actually pull that away and lower the barrier or change what it is they want. Sometimes I even hear from the testing team, 'You're destroying the fun', but on the other hand, the flipside is you hear the first-time players saying 'If I can't clear a level it's not fun for me. If I can't complete a game it's not fun for me'. The more years that have passed, the gap between advanced and first-time players has become wider.
Tezuka then added:
Even though we put a lot of time and effort into trying to balance the difficulty, when we actually release there are a good group of people who can't complete the whole game, and so we always have that internal struggle of the gap between the advanced and first-time players. That's why one of the things we're trying with Yoshi's Woolly World is to have two different versions of events for the advanced and the beginner players. We changed the performance of it, but then even in the beginner mode we did put a lot of stuff in there so that advanced players can still have fun. We put a lot of time and effort into trying to balance that out.
What do you think? Does Nintendo do a good job of striking this balance? How do you think they could improve in this regard? Share your thoughts in the comments below.