Miyamoto, 70 years as a master - Lakitu's Sachet

Miyamoto, 70 years as a master - Lakitu's Sachet


Shigeru Miyamoto, of the sign of Scorpio in Italy, of the Dragon in Japan, turns seventy today: our best wishes to the Japanese master, whose career we are going to retrace. Not as a whole, after all, we had just talked about his creations as project manager; today we will discuss his exploits as a producer, which are perhaps even more important. Before delving into the paths beaten by Miyamoto, some premises are necessary.

In Japan he is practically taken for granted, achieving success, climbing professional positions. A kind of obligatory cursus honorum, understandable in a society so centered on work successes, which however does not necessarily enhance the talents of the individual. When we talked about the career of Takashi Tezuka, Miyamoto's wacky and bespectacled right arm, we pointed out how his skills as a game designer, and also as a project director, were superior - and not a little - to those as a producer. Sakurai resigned from HAL for various reasons and among these there was certainly the desire to continue creating games, without having to worry about directing anything (outside of his own works). Whether you want to or not, within Nintendo, in line with the professional habits of the country of origin, if you get significant results in a certain area, you are also promoted. And Miyamoto achieved significant results in series during the 1980s. Given the success, it was obvious that he would have been promoted; on the contrary, he was not taken for granted that he would also be excellent as a producer.

Shigeru Miyamoto at the opening of the Super Nintendo World theme park Second premise: what is a producer? Well, we've written in the past that the director of a project is very similar to the director of a film, and basically it is true, but it would be better to argue that the director is somewhere between what, in video games, we call "director " and "producer". Two evidently distinct roles, although Miyamoto - in rare cases - covered both at the same time. The director has more substantial, daily and influential control over the work in development: he concretely feels his hand and must be good at communicating his wishes to the team he leads. The producer is a step above: he can be involved in the design choices, but his priority is that the objectives of the project are respected, both in terms of aesthetic/identity characteristics and on a practical/temporal level.

The third observation that we want to tell you, before starting the actual story of Miyamoto, is that his career has been decisive for the identity and structure of Nintendo. They are only two words, but of fundamental importance. The more successful Miyamoto became, the more Nintendo grew, the more the company and its major talent became similar: He started out as an R&D1 employee, then became the star of R&D4 (a division open to him, basically), then his boss. Shortly after, R&D4 became EAD, by far the largest team of Nintendo, which over the years has divided into many teams, to the point of boasting various divisions, one of which is in Tokyo. In the meantime all the other teams (the non-Miyamotian ones) became less numerous and operational, until EAD merged with the remaining parts and EPD was born, whose many fragments (more than ten), are all daughters (a part one) of EAD.

With his success first as director, and then as producer, Miyamoto monopolized the company: both in terms of development philosophy, both in terms of numbers, and as a brand to invest in. He deserved it, but this is perhaps the only "stain" of his triumphal path, if it can be defined as such: he cannibalized - knowingly or not - his internal rivals, until he had control of the entire creative production of the company, increasingly distant from the single project. This is why, for example, his beloved Pikmin is alive and well - despite not mind-blowing sales - while Kid Icarus has only had one sequel from 1991 to the present - by the way externally developed.


Super Mario World: the first main Super Mario not directed by Miyamoto Although he had occasionally played the role of producer in the NES era, there is no doubt that the career breakthrough occurred with the arrival of the next generation, the SNES one. In this period Miyamoto began his work as a full-fledged producer, both due to the expansion of the projects that involve him (even outside his own team), and due to his definitive departure from the role of director. It's important to specify that "producer" is a generic qualification, and that it doesn't necessarily imply the same level of involvement. In the Super Mario titles - for example - Miyamoto's attention is mainly aimed at respecting the quality and identity of the series; in new brands to ensure that its key design principles (precision of controls, immediacy, depth... to name a few) are respected. And then there are those special projects that, given the time, he would probably direct himself: those in which he is particularly involved, and which he often invents himself.

Star Fox: Miyamoto's most personal project on the SNES In this sense, his most personal game in the SNES era is certainly Star Fox , inspired by his passages under the arches of Japanese temples (we talked about it here ). In general, it is a generation in which EAD expands, and in which a fundamental brand is born: we are talking about Super Mario Kart , another title in which Miyamoto participates as a producer, wanting to experiment with split screen and multiplayer, as opposed to another racing franchise born under his control, namely F-Zero . In this period the main series of him are directed by Tezuka, with him "only" producer, but still in close contact with the development. He also dedicates himself to more atypical projects, such as Pilotwings , Yoshi's Safari and Mario Paint , and collaborates with companies more or less external to Nintendo, for Stunt Race FX , Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and, above all, for Kirby's Adventure ( released on NES, developed in SNES era): his contribution is crucial to define the appearance of Kirby, and for the approval of Sakurai's project. Another important detail is his involvement - for the first time - in some projects for portable consoles: not only producer in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening , Donkey Kong and Wave Race , but also in Pokémon Red and Blue , game in which he demonstrates excellent skills in recognizing the talent and potential of others, even with a project far from his own canons.

In general it is - for him and Nintendo - a generation of transition, of direct expansion compared to the NES era, in which Miyamoto immediately shows his skills as a producer as well. It still boasts close control over the previously set series (because it is in the hands of trusted collaborators), it proves to be excellent in originating new sagas and giving a first impulse to the spin-offs of Maria (with Super Mario Kart, of course), and it proves to be far-sighted in approving and supervising two projects far from his style, but of fundamental importance for Nintendo, such as Kirby's Adventure and Pokémon. Nintendo still develops excellent titles that don't involve it, such as Super Metroid or Wario Land .

It was Nintendo 64 and GameCube

Shigeru Miyamoto during the development of Super Mario 64 The Nintendo 64 era was born with two main objectives, namely to face Sony's entry into the field - useless to comment, we suppose - and, at the same time, to transport its historical sagas in three dimensions. Something strange happens here, as we had already said when talking about Miyamoto's career as a director; understanding the scope of the enterprise, and sensing the rate of talent required, the Japanese master takes a step back, returning to direct command of a project with both Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A Michael Jordan-style "Last Dance", which also ended in a triumphant way for him.

The quality of internal production in the Nintendo 64 era is very high, and it is the latest generation totally shaped by the creatives who emerged in the NES era. Miyamoto in Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time works closely with two apprentices, Yoshiaki Koizumi and Eiji Aonuma , destined to occupy prominent positions in the future. The first "gods of him" productions by him emerge, therefore by an internal EAD team, without his personal involvement: we are talking about Yoshi's Story and Animal Crossing, both produced by Tezuka. The home console catalog is now populated only by EAD works. R&D1 exiles focus almost exclusively on the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance.

Shigeru Miyamoto with Satoru Iwata, at the GameCube western presentation With the arrival of the GameCube, Miyamoto returns to a "sole" production role , even conceiving the console pad. Unlike in the SNES generation, however, his loyalists have also climbed the hierarchies, leaving the post of director to new recruits. It's the first age of the new Nintendo, and it can't be said that the company isn't feeling a bit of a hit. Both Super Mario Sunshine (directed by Koizumi) and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (directed by Aonuma) are developed quickly, and Miyamoto's involvement is large, but not as decisive as in the past. His supervision now involves almost all of the internal production: Luigi's Mansion, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Kart: Double Dash !! , but also external projects, albeit financed by Nintendo, such as Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem . There are two spearheads of Miyamoto in this generation. The first is Pikmin , the equivalent of Star Fox in the GameCube era: it is designed by the Japanese master, and closely supervised throughout the development. It doesn't sell very much, but it is a unique work of great quality. The other peak of Miyamoto in this period is represented by Metroid Prime: he collaborates closely with Retro Studios since the embryonic stages of the project, gives stringent advice and compacts the team, chaotic - to say the least - in the early stages of processing. The result is one of the best games of the decade.

From Wii to Switch

Shigeru Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata, at the time of Nintendo Wii From here begins a gradual and progressive departure of Miyamoto from the concrete video game development. The triumphant Wii and DS generation, the most lucrative in the entire Nintendo history, was conceived more by the executive spheres - in particular by Iwata - than by the Japanese master; which however is found ready to exploit the new path. First of all, the last two chapters of his historical sagas that see him directly involved come out on Wii: we are referring to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy , both produced by Miyamoto. The second also collaborates as creator of the concept and designer, and is the first masterpiece of the series that does not see him or Tezuka as directors. As for the other works, his role is now general producer, therefore more distant than usual from development, or supervisor (to ensure, for example, that external teams treat Super Mario with respect). He is a major contributor to the casual product line originating the concept of Nintendogs, Wii Fit and Wii Music, as always based on personal experiences/needs. In this generation, again by Iwata's will, Super Mario Bros. (in two dimensions) returns to the fore: considering it now outdated, after SNES Miyamoto had no longer considered it worthy of attention... making a huge mistake, at least in commercial terms.

From here on Miyamoto would have liked to slip away even more, limiting the close production to a few selected projects (such as Pikmin 3), and concentrating on the growth of new talents, with his " Nintendo Garage ", internal seminars for young developers, from which - among other things - Splatoon would have originated. In this period, when he is now in his sixties (we don't know if it has anything to do with it, but we point it out), he fishes some boots with the projects in which he is most involved: we are referring to Steel Diver for Nintendo DS, in which he participates as a designer, and above all to Star Fox Zero , his latest experience as producer, designer and "supervising director", which obtained results that did not live up to expectations.

Shigeru Miyamoto with the Wii U pad, presenting the results of his experiments with young developers Iwata's death in 2015 complicates his plans for training and supervision. He is the best-known and most charismatic man in the company, and he is forced to take on managerial responsibilities: not as president, but as a "Creative Fellow". He officially becomes the head of the entire creative division. We'll never know what would have come of his Garages if they had continued, if Splatoon would have been just the first in a series of new IPs, or a lucky isolated case. Certainly, Miyamoto is increasingly distant from video game development: currently he is mainly involved in exporting his brands to other media, as demonstrated by the Super Nintendo World theme park and Super Mario Bros. - The Movie. In the latest Nintendo Direct he announced Pikmin 4 himself, which gives us hope that, at least for this brand, he can still find the time to develop a project closely.

Pikmin 4, presented by Miyamoto himself for Nintendo Switch Whatever the future holds for us, Miyamoto was unique both as director and as producer: both in supervising projects, and in finding his own heirs, and in communicating - and spreading, in this aided by Iwata - his philosophy of development. Should we find limits to his path, we could point out how his will has progressively and more and more overwhelmed that of the other Nintendo creatives: the series that no longer interested him were diverted elsewhere (Donkey Kong), and those not his they suffered the same fate ( Metroid , Kid Icarus , Wario). Despite this, he has contributed - as a producer - to the birth and support of two very important brands, such as Kirby and Pokémon. He facilitated the creation and development of Mario Kart, Star Fox and Pikmin within EAD. He has found excellent heirs to carry on Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda. His mentality, his development philosophy, is now the dominant style of the entire company. Even those who do not collaborate directly with him follow his principles. Miyamoto is Nintendo, and Nintendo games are largely Miyamoto. Hoping that he will continue to flutter here and there for a long time, free, like his favorite Nintendo character: Lakitu, who watches everything from above.

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