Miyamoto: A New Nintendo IP Will Spring From Gameplay Ideas, Not Characters or Story

When most people think of a new IP, they think of a new world, a new story, and new characters. That’s not really the important part for Nintendo, Shigeru Miyamoto told Polygon in a recent interview. What’s really important is getting to the heart of a new experience: what it has to offer in terms of play. So rather than starting from a new world idea or a new character, Nintendo builds around the possibilities for gameplay.

It’s because of this that Nintendo often uses existing franchises and characters for new gameplay ideas. It’s not that developing new IP isn’t important for Nintendo – they obviously struck gold with Wii Sports – but it’s not always the case that a new gameplay idea necessarily inspires those new characters and stories.

Click below to see his full quote.

From my perspective, we approach it not from, ‘What is the next character?’ But really, ‘What is there within this structure of video games or this sphere of video games, from which we can create new play structures?’ and ‘How can we develop these new types of play structures and new types of games and deliver those to consumers in a way that will be satisfying for them?’ In some cases it may be that those new structures will use existing franchises. So we’re focused more on the play and the interaction rather than necessarily on a specific character as the IP.

There are, within the room in which I work, a number of people who are very passionate about wanting to do new things and do different things. In fact, we do have a small team that’s been formed and is working on new ideas. Hopefully we will be able to share those with you at a time when those ideas have taken more concrete form.

I find that Nintendo Land and Wii Sports best exemplify the “not about the world and characters, but about gameplay” approach. Both use Mii characters instead of focusing mostly on original characters, and borrow content inspired by previous games – various Nintendo franchises in the case of Nintendo Land, and the NES sports line in the case of Wii Sports.

What makes these games stand out is that they don’t really feel like you’re playing the same games again, as often is the case with sequels that don’t offer new content. Instead, they feel like something new that is packaged in a way that’s familiar and accessible to fans of those older titles.

Compare that to the Spirit Tracks approach, which mixes ideas that maybe probably shouldn’t be combined – like a traditional fantasy universe with a world based on trains – and I think it’s easy to see that sometimes developing new gameplay in pre-existing worlds makes sense, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that when Nintendo stumbles upon an idea that might not make sense with their existing lineup, they should either develop a new story or take the Wii Sports route and dissociate it from their franchise catalog entirely.

What do you think about Nintendo’s approach to developing new gameplay ideas? Would you like to see more original content in the form of new IP, or do you like the unique mixes of new gameplay and older series?

Source: Polygon

  • CChaplin

    Why does everybody have such a hard time swallowing the idea of trains in Zelda…? Do people not realize that if you move hundreds and hundreds of years into the future from medieval times, you’re eventually going to run into the industrial revolution? Do people really have so little imagination that they can’t accept something so simple? Zelda’s story is stretched over countless generations, it just wouldn’t make sense to stay locked to one period of history forever… They came up with a creative new world that made perfect sense to occur a hundred years after PH, deal with it.

    • Gabriel Gomez


    • Ghoti

      PH had steamboats, which were invented AFTER trains… Does no one seem to realize it?

      I personally would actually love a Steampunk Zelda just once, and as long as they don’t make the game a shooter, I wouldn’t mind guns being present in the world.

      • Alex Plant

        Ships fit in the Zelda mythos, though.

        Trains don’t.

        • Ghoti

          Um… why?

          • Alex Plant

            Because when they appeared in a Zelda game, that Zelda game saw a massive sales drop compared to its predecessor.

            That seems to suggest that people didn’t accept their addition, and since “the customer is always right”…

            Even Nintendo’s marketing team anticipated this. When the game was announced, Bill Trinen said “stay away from sharp knives and tall ledges, Zelda fans.”

            • Ghoti

              That was just the common people being stupid. If gameplay is more important than story, stuff like that shouldn’t matter too much. I personally think that story is the second best thing about a game, and that trains make perfect sense because this game is hundreds of years after OoT, and why did no one seem to complain about phones or cameras in Zelda?

              • CChaplin

                Exactly! Zelda is so full of anachronisms like that, why is it that fans complain once they introduce a modernism that actually makes sense? It’s such a shame that the consumer is putting such a ridiculous constraint on Nintendo’s creativity as not accepting a time period that strays too far from stereotypical fantasy. Fantasy can be made more interesting when cast upon a time period where it is not typically seen. Sadly I doubt that Nintendo will be brave enough to explore farther into the future of that timeline since it is unlikely to be well-received…

                • Ghoti

                  Does this mean no Steampunk Zelda?

                  • CChaplin

                    Yeah, I’m pretty sure Spirit Tracks is as close to steam punk as the series is likely to get (outside of fan-made games of course).

  • Mr. Nidoking

    That’s the best way to develop, and what I don’t understand is the widespread belief that making new games is better than sequels. For instance, I saw a picture showing upcoming games for the 3DS and there were people complaining that they were all sequels and no “originals”. A good sequel is better than a bad original.

    • Gaseous Snake

      that last sentence is an overlooked truth of gaming.

  • zdog

    I think Miis became a lazy excuse for implementing new gameplay ideas without dealing with the burden of creating new characters or stories. It is one of the very few things that Nintendo has made that I am adamantly against.

    • Ibi Salmon

      How? I don’t think it’s become an excuse. It’s just a fun little idea that’s not meant to be particularly amazing.

      • zdog

        They keep rearing their ugly faces (pun intended) everywhere! NSMBU, Mario Kart, Mii Verse, Wii Sports (ovbiously), Nintendo release parties and marketng. They are getting a lot of screen time for being a fun little idea. My point is, they come up with a fun new idea and rather than taking the time to build a story and world around it they just slap a mii on top of it and say “enjoy this fun new gameplay idea!” Without the world and story there is no lasting appeal (at least for me) for that fun new gameplay idea.

        • Ibi Salmon

          You make it sound like the Miis actually affect the gameplay. I don’t remember Mario Kart Wii’s gameplay suddenly changing differently when I race with my Mii. Besides, it’s not like you have to play as them in those games. And the ones that do require Miis go for a completely different market than those who buy the “mainstream” Nintendo games.

          I don’t see a problem with Miis as long as they remain purely an aesthetic feature in Nintendo games and in the games dedicated to them. To me, so long as they don’t actually affect gameplay, they’re tolerable.

          • zdog

            That would be fine if it were being limited to extra options in pre-existing games, unfortunately they have games being designed around them. Wii Sports, and Nintendo Land as a shameless lazy way to throw out every idea Nintendo can think of for their new peripheral rather than building a legitimate game to use those ideas in. Given those games came later, but only after we went through it all with the Miis.

            • Ibi Salmon

              Isn’t that the point of those games? To give players a taste as to what’s to come?

              • zdog

                Yes, and it is a lazy excuse. Since when did we need demo games to tell us how to use a console? The game that told us what to expect from NES: Super Mario Brothers, and Ice Climbers. SNES: Super Mario World, F-Zero. N64: Super Mario 64. Gamecube: Luigi’s Mansion. Wii: Wii sports. Wii U: Nintendoland. Don’t give me a demo game that will tell me how great the games to come are going to be, give me an actual legitimate game that proves the console is great right now.

                • Ibi Salmon

                  You have a point there. Nintendo should have had at least one of their major franchises ready for launch. It would have sold a lot more of their systems and proved the the Wii U is a great console worth buying.

                  Still don’t see what the problem with Miis, though.

    • Usaamah Gill

      LOL I think its brilliant, I guess from a gamers perspective, you want that story and the character to have that relationship with, to explore a world with. With the majority of regular consumers though they are just looking for a fun experience with video games, with the Wii and its mass market appeal the Miis were a stroke of brilliance because they were personal figures made by each player to represent themselves, and because they were the medium for the gameplay itself, which was intuitive and instinctually fun.

  • Aiddon

    true, you really should build gameplay first and then work with the setting and characters. If it’s just a same old game in a new skin then what’s the point?