NES designer likens Nintendo’s pursuit of new play styles to indie scene

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The chief designer behind the Nintendo Entertainment System has likened Nintendo’s continual pursuit of new play styles to indies.

Masayuki Uemura reasoned that “the idea of the individual” has long been a “crucial” component to make great games, and Nintendo has long desired to create paradigm shifts “where all the rules change.”

He sees the Wii as “a prime example of that,” which far exceeded the company’s expectations. It now remains a “symbolic product” for Nintendo, representing a time where they were successfully able to change the status quo.

“Nintendo was always trying to push the limitations of new types of play. That was a difference between Nintendo product lines and the others,” Uemura discussed with GamesIndustry.biz. “With the maturity of the game industry… it was time to start thinking about redefining the importance of mechanics and design. So for a couple decades the game publishers and hardware manufacturers were focusing on graphics processing power and sound effects and so forth and not focusing much on innovating in game design and mechanics.”

He continued, “From my perspective, the game industry has always been [steered by] indies because the idea of the individual has been quite crucial in making great games. When you try to fully utilise all the computing power, and graphics processing and sound effects, then you have to add more people and more staff to create games compatible with all the technology. But the one thing you could [leverage] is the individual powerful resource.

“Nintendo has always been like that, we are like indies. Every time we try to create some sort of paradigm shift where all the rules change, where the status quo changes, by coming up with new ideas. Wii is a prime example of that. It became popular beyond our expectations. That was a quite symbolic product for us, we felt like indies.”

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After starting out with a Yellow Game Boy and a copy of Donkey Kong Land, Alex once hid in his room to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time one Christmas. Now he shares his thoughts on Nintendo Insider, keeping track of everything to do with Nintendo.

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