Why Nintendo Says it Doesn't Make Art

Nintendo has been fighting an uphill battle with the Wii U. To say sales have not been good is a bit of an understatement. But the news is not all doom and gloom, and Nintendo's dandy helmsman, Satoru Iwata is ever optimistic.

In a 3-part interview with Toyo Keizai Online, Iwata talked about the gaming industry and game development with almost meticulous gusto. “It's difficult to say 'the Wii U is a system that does such-and-such' in a simple manner, and understanding it takes time.' Iwata explained. 'While we unfortunately had a period in the first half of 2013 where releases were sparse and hardware sales have lulled, I don't think that the concept and potential of the Wii U have been rejected.'

While Iwata openly admitted that there weren't an overwhelming number of Wii U users, many of those who do own the console have expressed satisfaction in the system. While they aren't the majority, Iwata expressed that for the latter half of 2013, he wanted to help spread such opinions.

Iwata emphasized throughout the interview that one of the core principles in creating a successful game or console is making a product that resonates with customers. "Nintendo developers are extremely insatiable when it comes to whether what they make resonates with customers or not. They'll do anything to achieve it." Iwata explained. "Both Miyamoto (Shigeru) and I repeatedly say, 'It's not like we are making pieces of art, the point is to make a product that resonates with and is accepted by customers.'"

私も、作り手の責任者である宮本(茂・専務)も、「僕らは芸術作品を作っているわけではない」「お客様に共感してもらって受け入れてもらってなんぼ」という商品を作っているんだと、繰り返し言っています。

Iwata went on to explain his stance on development. "Creating is like an expression of egoism. People with a strong energy to create something have a 'this is the strength I believe is right' sort of confidence to start from. Their standpoint is that 'this is the right thing to do, so this must be what's good for the customer as well.' But the final goal of a product is to resonate with and be accepted by people. You can't just force your way through. By saying 'the point is to be accepted' I mean, if you go to a customer with your idea and you realize they don't understand it, it's more important that they do and you should shift your idea."

ある意味、クリエーションというのはエゴイズムの表現。モノを作るエネルギーが強い人ほど自分が信じる何か、“これがいいと俺が信じる力”からスタートする。自分の思いも強くて、こうするのが正しいはずだ、こうするのがお客様にとってもいいはずなんだ、というところから始まる。

だけど、モノをつくる最終的な目的は、人に共感してもらって受け入れてもらうこと。自分の初志を貫き通すだけではだめなんです。お客様に受けてなんぼということは、自分が仮説を持って提案しても、それがお客様に理解してもらえないとわかったら、理解してもらうことのほうが重要なので、発想を転換すべきなんです。

Throughout the interview, Iwata showed himself as both a sharp leader and an earnest creator. He noted that he could no longer enjoy games as a customer and has a tendency to look at things from the eyes of a developer. "To take an extreme example, if I go to Disneyland and look at the rides, I think about what the people who made them must have been thinking." Iwata said with a laugh. "I can't be a normal customer." It's this self-awareness that seems to give Iwata the air of someone who is earnestly trying to produce things that people enjoy.

Iwata understands that Nintendo is, at its core, an entertainment company. Their goal is to make not art, but products that sell widely. And if some of those wide-selling product just happen to be art, well, that's just an added bonus.

任天堂社長が説く、ヒットゲームの新法則 [東洋経済オンライン]

「WiiUはゲームをテレビから解放する」 [東洋経済オンライン]

任天堂は、変えることをどんどん変える [東洋経済オンライン]

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To contact the author of this post, write to cogitoergonihilATgmail.com or find him on Twitter @tnakamura8.