Featured, Unique Global Influencers

Shigeru Miyamoto: Creativity to Inspire Generations

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2018 at 9:00 am

 

Super Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda. The most popular and enduring names in video game history owe their existence to one man, Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo hired Miyamoto in 1977, just as the Japanese company first started its venture into the video gaming industry. For years, he headed the Entertainment Analysis & Development software division, meaning he had a hand in developing Nintendo’s biggest video games from the past 30 years as designer, producer, and/or director. He’s one of the most creative minds in the industry and at one point held the position of president, overseeing production of the iconic video game company’s fastest-selling home console, the Switch.

When it comes to creating video games, Shigeru Miyamoto is interested in one thing: creativity. The development of the original Super Mario Bros (1985), released alongside the popular Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), is the earliest example of him breaking conventions. Miyamoto invented a new genre of video games, which he called “’athletic games’ at the time – games where you controlled a guy and had to jump a lot to overcome obstacles.”

It took him only one year to once again change the home gaming landscape with The Legend of Zelda (1986), an action/puzzle game where the camera tracked the series’ protagonist from overhead. The style of both games would prove to be enduringly popular and often-repeated for as long as 2-dimensional gaming existed, remaining popular to this day.

Miyamoto’s contributions came at a critical point in gaming history. After its initial boom, the video game industry faced a steep decline in the mid-1980s and was regarded as more of a novelty or fad, in the same vein as pinball machines. It wasn’t until the enormous mainstream success of the NES that the public actually took notice to the point that any video games would simply be referred to as a “Nintendo.” With Miyamoto standing at the forefront of creating the most popular NES games, he became the godfather of gaming.

Not only did Miyamoto have a hand in the type of games played, but he also influenced how games would be played, helping design many Nintendo consoles. In a 2008 interview with NBC news, Miyamoto said, “the interface to the software is so important, the development of the hardware and the software are something that must go in hand-in-hand.”

Nintendo took quite a gamble with its boldest innovation yet. In 2006, under Miyamoto’s influence, the direction of its newest home console, the Wii, relied on motion controls for everything from Super Mario to sports-related games.

While a novel concept, many in the gaming community scoffed at the idea, mainly because gamers preferred sitting completely still while playing. Despite the minimal backlash, the Wii opened the door to Nintendo’s most diverse audience. People from all ages enjoyed a new style of playing, which lead to Nintendo’s highest sales ever for a home console. It even earned Miyamoto a spot in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2007, as well as a British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) award in 2010.

The follow up to the Wii, the Wii U, wasn’t as positively received despite the innovative direction. The Wii U’s most prominent “gimmick” involved a small tablet-like screen embedded into the controller pad for users to interact with and play games. In spite of the flop, Miyamoto recycled and improved the Wii U’s concept and created the Nintendo Switch. The Switch plays as a portable hardware that you can play at home or on the go, with or without friends, thanks to collapsible pieces that includes a screen and two joysticks. Sales-wise, the Switch was, and continues to be, a hit. Where the Wii U sold nearly 14 million units worldwide in its run, the Switch sold 17.79 million in its first year alone.

The results made it abundantly clear that Nintendo’s creativity would continue to pay off with customers. Miyamoto’s newest console innovation is projected to be the highest selling system in company history.

In recognition of his contributions, Nintendo promoted Miyamoto to the role of “Creative Fellow.” His duties now include overseeing game design and console production, where his fertile imagination is most needed. Since this move, Nintendo’s biggest franchises (Super Mario and Legend of Zelda) have seen their biggest creative departures, and simultaneously, their biggest financial successes.

Miyamoto’s contributions to Nintendo can be compared to those of Stan Lee to Marvel Comics or Walt Disney to the company that bears his name. Without Miyamoto’s influence, the Japanese company’s fortunes would likely have been quite different. Luckily for Nintendo he has ambition to match his creativity. In the 74th Annual General Meeting for Shareholders Q&A, Miyamoto discussed Nintendo’s future lying with its creativity: “If we can manage Nintendo without losing sight of this challenge, I believe we might be able to create new entertainment that dominates the industry.”

 

Alex Correa | Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Forbes

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