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?