Posted by: seanmalstrom | October 16, 2009

It is time for Shigeru Miyamoto to retire

He’s becoming a greater liability than an asset to Nintendo.

On User Generated Content:

“This is an area that I have a lot of interest in, and I think that the side-scrolling Mario games in particular are well suited to that idea,” Miyamoto said (as translated by Bill Trinnen).

Miyamoto then pointed to previous Nintendo works in an attempt to prove his openness towards the idea. “Of course the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series is one that’s made in North America by NST, but it’s one that I’ve been involved in and from early on. We did have a lot of discussions about how to enable that kind of level creation in that series. And of course, more recently on Nintendo DSi, we have released Flipnote Studio, which is another kind of utility or tool-type of software that’s really about letting users let their creation out and share it with others.”

Neither examples have the depth or scope of what we wanted Miyamoto to do: Confirm a LBP-esque community-driven Mario platformer. As implausible as that may sound, Miyamoto reiterated his interest, and admitted that the future will see more of these kinds of games. “And I think those types of interactive experiences are going to continue to broaden and we’ll see a lot more user-generated content going forward. I’ve always had an interest in those kinds of creative tools, so I will definitely be open to ideas like that in the future.”

And people wonder why I don’t stop harping on ‘User Generated Content’. Nintendo never abandoned it.

There has been no success stories of User Generated Content in any form on any medium. Any “success” is something that is given away free and has users but not customers such as Wikipedia or Youtube (and Youtube still loses money!).

Just look at all those people rushing to buy PS3s for LittleBigPlanet for its ‘user generated content’. Despite its massive hype, the game never struck any lightning. It is liked more as a 2d platformer (which there is demand for) than anything with ‘user generated content’.

Look at Blast Works. Look at Spore, who had massive hype. Look at all these user content games coming out and not succeeding.

I look at other entertainment industries than gaming. From top entertainers, the message is always clear: never give away control of your content. You don’t see radio shows where callers are allowed to dominate the discussion and dictate what should be talked about. You don’t see movie directors giving away control of their content to movie viewers where the movie viewers direct the movie. You don’t see writers give control of readers to determine the rest of the story. You don’t see ringleaders at the circus allow the crowd to direct the lions and elephants.

The crisis in gaming is very much related to the crisis of quality and interesting content. All games have been recycling the same old content for years and years. It is no wonder Nintendo sees no problem with ‘user generated content’ as Nintendo has been recycling the same old content for decades with Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. Instead of new content propositions, we’ve been seeing recycles for decades. The reason why I cite the 8-bit generation and even 16-bit generation so often is not because I am some crusty old gamer who dreams of a nostalgic fantasy past, but because it was at that time period where there were new content propositions. Nintendo made Super Mario Brothers, not Super Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda, not Legend of Popeye. The company has lost its creativity for content. It is not just that they seem incapable of producing it, they seem to think it doesn’t matter at all which is what ‘user generated content’ is about.

Nintendo is in big trouble as they seem obsessed about the process of gaming but not its content. It is like a writer obsessed over his writing style and not about the story that is within the novel.

On Wii Music:

During the Q&A that followed, when asked if he was particularly surprised by the reception of any of his games, Miyamoto responded that while he wasn’t “truly surprised” by the reaction it got, he thinks “there may still be some possibility with … Wii Music,” the Big N’s poorly received music title.

“The development team members, the directors of Wii Music were I think, maybe a little bit shocked by the reaction and had hoped it wold get a better response than it did,” Miyamoto explained, through a translator. “So I think if we were to do anything, it would be a matter of getting back together with them and trying to understand what their expectations were and where the gap was between their expectations and what the resulting product was.”

That doesn’t mean Miyamoto doesn’t have any insight into the game’s failure to connect with gamers. He explained that the “gap between the positives and the negatives seems to be pretty big,” referring to the games reception. “The thing that’s interesting about Wii Music is there are people who are very versed in music and play the game and their evaluation of it is very high but at the same time there are a lot of people who play it and don’t have a very good opinion of it.”

What an arrogant old man.

I play (well, played) three instruments. People understand Wii Music just fine. The problem is that it is a very bad video game. Why is it a bad video game? It is because there is no content in it. Why is there no content? It is because some lame lord at Nintendo (likely Miyamoto himself) believes that the player will intoxicate himself with his creativity and imagination. But that is not the way how imagination works in entertainment.

Instead of admitting that Wii Music wasn’t that great, he just blames the consumers! “They just didn’t get it.” No, they did get it. Perhaps it is Miyamoto who doesn’t get it.

Reader, understand that my very vocal opposition to user generated content or as “player as creator” stems from very well understood and accepted rules of entertainment adopted by every successful entertainment person I know or seen. Nintendo believes it wasn’t successful only due to the process of the game, not the game itself, its execution, not its content (or lack of it).

I will put up my take on this against the wizards at NCL. And in the end, I will be right on this subject. Gaming is in the content business. Going user-generated content is suicide.

But it is time for Miyamoto to retire. I remember his interview in Nintendo Power about the creation of Super Mario Brothers 3. He said the game was about further exploration of the Mushroom Kingdom. And when you think back on that game, you do not think of SMB 3 as about flying or about the map screen. Everyone thinks about the fleshed out content of the worlds, of how different everything seemed from stage to stage, and how the game (of old 2d Mario in general) to absorb you into a fantastical world.

But now we are going to get ‘User Generated Content’ Mario which would ultimately destroy Mario.

Someone needs to ask Miyamoto this question: why weren’t the editors that games like ExciteBike or Wrecking Crew enough? People could play with the editors, but there was professional content there to play. People don’t want to play a ‘kit’. They don’t want to play unprofessional content, or they wouldn’t be buying games in the first place.

Miyamoto is contradicting himself in a major way. On one hand, he says that when making games that he wants to add more than just new power-ups and levels. But on the other hand, he wants user-generated content (which is nothing more than adding new levels). If he wants to let consumers have access to the code so they could program a better game while using the Mario art and sound assets, then this might work (as this is why PC game mods work). But Nintendo has no intention of that ever happening. Serious mod makers, the ones who would make quality content, dislike the confines of GUI or user easy editors. They want access to the code.

You know what User Generated Content Mario would be? It would be like this:

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