- 26 Mar 09, 09:09 GMT
Nintendo's president Surato Iwata was the sell-out gig of the week here at GDC. Just minutes before he took to the stage, the line of people snaked outside for more than a block.
Preceding his appearance, there was a lot of talk and hope that he would pull a rabbit out of the hat and excite the audience with a new product like a Wii Relax or Wii Qube said PC World.
Alas none of this came to pass and a few of the gamers I spoke to afterwards were disappointed that what he did announce didn't amount to much. Oh apart from a free copy of Rhythm Heaven which everyone got.
At every turn it seemed Mr Iwata covered up the lack of real product news with some knockout sales figure. Fifty million Wii's, 100m DS units, 14m Wii fit sales, 1.4 m pre-orders for the DSi and so on.
Mr Iwata did however make up for this by giving an entertaining talk about what makes Nintendo tick and revealing the methods video games guru Shigeru Miyamoto has deployed in developing products. Nintentdo's hit maker is responsible for things like Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Mario and Donkey Kong.
For Mr Miyamoto, "he sees game development opportunities where other people don't. Ideas are everywhere" said Mr Iwata.
His love of gardening inspired the game Pimkin, a GameCube title that was relaunched on the Wii. The idea for the Wii Fit was sparked when Mr Miyamoto weighed himself on the bathroom scales. And buying a puppy led to the creation of Nintendogs, one of the company's big sellers for the DS hand-held console.
Mr Iwata said when his mentor is developing a game, he as president stays well away until Mr Miyamoto has something worth showing.
Sometimes the prototype period can last as much as two years. Mr Iwata said he makes a point of not asking questions in case it "forces the team to cut corners or settle for less than their desired outcome".
Mr Iwata however admitted that this approach "is not good for my mental health".
When Mr Miyamoto is ready to show Mr Iwata something worth seeing then the Nintendo machine gears up and designers, marketers, strategists, advertisers and the like swing into action.
Mr Iwata said he hoped this sneak peak would inspire developers across the gaming community.
Remi Lavoie a programmer with DTI software said most of this was not "not revolutionary stuff. Most people who work in the industry know that kind of stuff though it is interesting to hear what makes such a successful company tick".
But the real secret to Mr Miyamoto's success lies in his tactic to "kidnap" random employees and watch them playing a game.
Mr Iwata joked "the victim is handed a console and told to start enjoying him or herself. There is no discussion, no lists of questions, no need for the player to talk."
All Mr Miyamoto wants to see is how someone plays the game and how and when they react. The development team are not allowed to even walk the "player" through the game because Mr Miyamoto believes that "we cannot send a developer to every home, so the kidnapped victim must figure it out for himself."
Michael Hershberg from Blizzard said "I think Nintendo has some fascinating insights into what makes people enjoy games and it will help me think more about what it is that we want players to actually experience."
Mr Iwata said "when the kidnapped victim is happy the team has succeeded. As a game developer we create entertainment, entertainment is supposed to be enjoyable.
" If it can't be enjoyed the fault belongs to us," stated Mr Iwata.
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