With Wii Fit's U.S. release finally pinned down, Nintendo revealed the price for its health-awareness game a few days ago; the Wii Fit media blitz has begun in earnest. The $90 game and peripheral package has been a surprising hit in Japan, with sales closing steadily on the two million mark, yet that's no guarantee of success overseas. We sat down with Wii Fit producer Shigeru Miyamoto to talk about where this unconventional game falls in Nintendo's grand scheme... and whether or not hardcore gamers should see the company's latest creation as a threat to their hobby.
1UP: As the creator of classic franchises like Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong, Miyamoto's involvement with Wii Fit is significant. Much has been made of the fact that the game evolved from his personal interest in fitness, just as Pikmin grew out of his love for gardening, but he admits that his high-profile role in the game's creation was borne somewhat of necessity.
Shigeru Miyamoto: In recent years, I've taken on more of a producer role with our games. But with both Wii Fit and Wii Sports, the work that I was doing was more that of a designer. With younger game directors and designers, there's a tendency to look at the types of games that have come in the past -- how they can build on those experiences and enhance them. With Wii, we've felt a need to start from zero in a lot of places and create something entirely new. Of course, when you try to do that there tends to be a lot of uneasiness, and it's a different way of designing than people are accustomed to. So in order to resolve a lot of that uneasiness and help the team feel more confident, I unfortunately needed to take a lead role and stand at the forefront of that process and help them realize that it really is OK to start from scratch and build from there.
1UP: A while rethinking the fundamentals of gaming has been good to Nintendo's bottom line, not everyone is thrilled by the company's new direction. Gamer blogs and forums across the Internet have been lamenting Wii Fit as the herald of "true" gaming's end times since it was first revealed at last year's E3.
Shigeru Miyamoto: These fears are unfounded. Smash Bros, Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart: These are all recent releases! I think it's safe to say that Nintendo is continuing to make enhanced versions of the kinds of games that core gamers want. What I want core gamers to understand is that these new types of games are giving them a chance to experience something new, too. Obviously, something like Wii Fit is great for the mass market, but for the core gamer as well. As the people around you who haven't been playing video games start to try them, that's going to change people's impressions of what video gaming means. Rather than the core gamer being concerned that we're abandoning them, I hope they'll realize that really what we're trying to do is to create a better environment for their hobby.
1UP: Still, the term "enhanced versions" is telling; while fans have eagerly devoured Nintendo's high-profile releases in recent years, one need not look hard to find a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the fact that Nintendo's most original ideas have been invested in what many gamers sneeringly called "non-games." Meanwhile, they complain, long-running franchises like Mario Kart and Smash Bros. are short on innovation and heavy on the familiar.
Shigeru Miyamoto: I think it's easy to take an existing game or style, make it more fun, and sell it, but I think it's better to think of new ideas, new styles of games that people aren't expecting, and find a way to bring that to them. Rather than focusing on the fact that there's one audience or another, I simply want to make games that everyone can enjoy. I don't really look at it in [terms of casual versus hardcore] when we're creating software. I think we'd gotten to a point where videogames were something that everyone could no longer enjoy. As a designer, I'm always focusing on what is fun -- ideas that people can enjoy. For me, I'm trying to entertain as many people as I can, creating games that the widest number of people can enjoy. Of course, that being said, we do have the existing teams at Nintendo working on the kinds of products we've always made over the years. The Zelda team is forming again to work on new games! But to me, it's about finding these new interactive experiences and bringing them to people.
1UP: While those may not be the words disenfranchised gamers have hoped to hear, perhaps they should take heart in Nintendo's plans for the Wii Zapper, due to be launched soon in Japan. If Miyamoto has his way, this simple peripheral will become an example of the company's love for disruptive technology being used in reverse: To sell decidedly hardcore games to a new audience.
Shigeru Miyamoto: The first-person shooter market in Japan -- for whatever reason, people just don't like them! My hope is that we can convince Japanese gamers who until now haven't played first-person shooters to play those games in a way that they can enjoy them. We're preparing to release the Wii Zapper in Japan. Our hope is that by releasing it with Link's Crossbow Training, the Zapper can give gamers an easier way to appreciate shooters, and at the same time open the door for all the really high-quality shooters being developed in the U.S. to make their way to Japan.