Iwata Laughs: 4gamer.net interview with Iwata (JP only! Translations welcome!)

Jul 1, 2014
21,766
4
355
#1
UPDATE: starting to add StreetsAhead's translations at the top now!

PAGE 1

This is the final interview in a series done by Nobuo Kawakami (from Dwango) and 4Gamer.

Iwata: Thank you very much for your invitation today. I couldn't refuse when Mr. Kawakami told me wanted me to appear as the 'final boss' in his series.

Kawakami & 4Gamer: Thank you!

4Gamer: It is quite rare for you to have an interview or long-form discussion, though, isn't it, Mr. Iwata? At least, I feel like I haven't seen one recently...

Iwata: Ah, that's probably true. I've always been the one 'asking', so it has been quite a while since I have been 'asked' anything (laughs). Of course, I do a number of short interviews each year, but it has been quite a while since I've done this sort of long form interview.

Kawakami: Is you not doing many interviews a company policy?

Iwata: No, it's usual for the boss to be asked questions. But doing the usual thing is not interesting. I started the 'Iwata Asks' project when I thought, 'It's unusual for the boss to ask questions, so doing it that way might be interesting'. I actually didn't think it would continue for this long though...

4Gamer: The 'Iwata Asks' articles are something that the media could never write, don't you think?

Iwata: Well, there are a lot of interesting stories that happen internally, and I definitely thought you'd never be able to get the developers talking about some of them if you didn't make games yourself.
So, when we started, I had a good time, the readers seemed to enjoy it, and the people I interviewed said it was a very good way to wrap up their projects. Through speaking to developers, you can also create new possibilities, discover hints, and evaluate problems together so for me it's like killing five birds with one stone.

Kawakami: Five birds with one stone (laughs)

Iwata: But of course, doing it for a long time, our customers and even myself grew a little bored with it, so we decided to rest it for a while and it's recharging right now, so to speak.

Kawakami: But I find it really, really interesting and want to read more.

Iwata: We counted up all the interviews just the other day and there were over 200. Even I was surprised.
I'll do some more excerpts piecemeal over the next day or so.
Iwata: So, I have this strange sense of duty regarding the codifying of the 'Miyamoto Methodology', because I feel like it would be useful to the game industry if you could put it into words. I started up a project similar to 'Iwata Asks' for that purpose. And, of course, wanted to see it put into words so I could understand it too, because back when I was just starting out, I sort of arbitrarily decided that Miyamoto was my rival, though that's embarrassing to admit now.

Kawakami: Your rival? Mr. Miyamoto?

Iwata: Yes. Would you believe that for a long time I'd just decided within myself, completely arbitrarily and not at all reciprocated, that he was my rival and I wanted to do something to just give him hell.

Kawakami: Well fair enough, but in the end did you ever manage to give him hell?

Iwata: Umm, well, maybe a little (wry laugh)

All: (Laughs)

Iwata: Miyamoto is, as you'd expect, an amazing person and without a doubt posseses a methodology that I don't have. And I always felt it was a waste that it wasn't verbalized.

Kawakami: It caused a buzz online, but Mr. Miyamoto's definition of a good idea* is quite remarkable.

*"A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once."

Iwata: Yes, that one's great. I thought 'Yes, that's a great quote! It'll be popular with people', so I went and spread it around as much as I could and it's become quite well known (laughs).

Kawakami: Yes, it has. It's like, to put it another way, realizing that killing two birds with one stone was about ideas too! (laughs)

Iwata: Yes. It's the perspective that solving multiple problems with one solution is what an idea is.

Kawakami: But when people say 'I got it!' or 'That's it!', it's usually like that. So, I think from a cognitive point of view, it's the correct definition.

Iwata: It's probably the same as the 'A-ha!' moment that they talk about in neuroscience. Things that, at first glance, didn't appear connected actually are and you can say 'if I just do this to this thing and that thing, I can solve all these problems in one go and everything will work beautifully.' That's the 'I got it!' moment.

Kawakami: Yes.

Iwata: Miyamoto also says that when a problem just can't be solved no matter what, someone is lying.

4Gamer: Lying?

Iwata: Yes. He doesn't mean lying in a bad way, but that the person's thought-process is mistaken, or they're looking at the problem the wrong way.
Miyamoto is like, how do I put this, he's a genius at creating perception changes. Explaining the value of changing one's perception in an easily understood manner makes people happy, so it's a very interesting skill (laughs).
Alright, taking a breakfast break haha.
Talking about story and modern games:

Iwata: So [modern games] are backed by this huge amount of effort and technology, but it feels like very few people remember them [story moments] or players skip over things within the game.

Kawakami: It certainly feels like there's too many cut-scenes these days.

Iwata: Of course, you can use them effectively; I'm not trying to dismiss them completely, but I can't help but wonder what could have been instead done with the energy [time, money, resources] that went into them. Miyamoto has never used many cut-scenes, in his games, but recently I think he has begun to think the same way, too.
On the internet:

Iwata: The internet makes a variety of things transparent and allows information to be shared quickly. Therefore, in a way, you can no longer hand-wave stuff as you once could, but on the other hand it's created a platform for a variety of interesting things.
I don't think it's more difficult now [to do business] with the internet around. In fact, for certain genres and demographics, the internet is better at spreading information for us than, say, TV is.
For example, we posted a Tweet [on the NCL account] saying that we were remaking The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and we had over 16,000 retweets within one day. Looking at those numbers, it's hard to feel that the market is becoming more segmented.

Iwata: Indeed, we see the trend of, as the middle of the market disappears, the big hits only become bigger. For example, there's been four 2 million sellers released on the 3DS [in Japan] in the last five months.
We checked and that's never happened before in the Japanese game market. So, in the middle of people saying 'packaged software doesn't sell anymore' and 'dedicated game consoles are dead', we have this happening.

Kawakami: Just this year, we had Frozen released in Japan and be a huge hit. People are saying no one goes to movie theaters any more and then we have one of the highest grossing movies ever recorded in Japan.

Iwata: It's segmentation and over-concentration. This bipolarity is just a feature of the market in recent years.
The mega hits get bigger, so to speak.
Alright, taking a break for a while now. That's most of the interesting stuff on page 1, though.

PAGE 2

Ok, I meant this only to be a short passage, but I found this whole section interesting so now here it is for you guys:

Kawakami: Alright, changing topics now, Mr. Iwata - you were originally a 'Super Programmer', weren't you?

Iwata: Umm. Well, actually...I don't feel like I can say that, I've never said that actually. I don't think I was really 'super' by today's standards(laughs).

Kawakami: Well, there was definitely a period when other people thought that about you, though, right? When you were at HAL Labs, for example.

Iwata: I guess there was. There was definitely a period of time after I began working at HAL when I sort of fancied myself to be the most proficient software engineer in the video games industry. Because I believed things like that I could write better NES code than even Nintendo's (EAD) engineers or that I could write the fastest, most compact code.

Kawakami: But once you move from a engineering position to one of management or administration, you're no longer writing code yourself, are you?

Iwata: That's right.

Kawakami: So, wouldn't that make you long for it? Like, would you be wondering "should I be a manager or should I keep writing code"? Did you have that sort of internal struggle, Mr. Iwata?

Iwata: Hmm. Actually, in my case, I kept on writing code. Until I was 40.

4Gamer: Wait, really?

Iwata: Yes. Of course, I couldn't write code during the week days, but, well, my nights were my own, as they say. Or, I'd take work home on my days off and write code there. If I made anything cool, I'd bring it in to work on Monday to show it to everyone and they'd all be glad to look at it and that was fun for me.

Kawakami: Wow!

Iwata: Of course, the company wouldn't run if I didn't do my managerial tasks during the day, so I did them. But I didn't quit writing code.

Kawakami: Ah, so, what was you're last job as an engineer, then?

Iwata: Aaah, I wonder if it's alright to admit this? Well, I guess the proverbial statute of limitations is up, so I'll tell you, but my actual last work on programming happened when I was working as the General Manager of Corporate Planning at Nintendo. Something happened and the Gamecube version of Super Smash Brothers didn't look like it was going to make its release date so I sort of did a code review for it (Wry Laugh).

All: (Laugh Loudly)

Kawakami: No matter how you look at it, that's not the job of the General Manager of Corporate Planning, is it? (Laughs)

Iwata: Yes, it isn't really, is it (wry laugh). At the time, I went to HAL Labs in Yamanashi and was the acting head of debugging. So, I did the code review, fixed some bugs, read the code and fixed more bugs, read the long bug report from Nintendo, figured out where the problem was and got people to fix those...all in all I spent about three weeks like that. And, because of that, the game made it out on time.

Kawakami:So you even did the debugging yourself!

Iwata: And that was the last time that I worked as an engineer 'in the field'. I was right there, sitting by programmers, in the trenches, reading code together, finding the bugs, and fixing them together.

Kawakami: That is such an interesting story. But with that being the last time you worked as an engineer, does it mean that there's a knowledge gap between you and people who are currently working as ones?

Iwata: Yes, stepping back from something means that a knowledge gap is inevitable. Even if I understand the principles, I just can't take the time to fully update my skills. So, with time, I've found myself having to ask what certain things are.
So, even though I'm looking over the system development departments, I find myself having to ask them to explain certain things to me. Through that I'm sort of struggling through trying to not let my judgements standards waste away.

Kawakami: So that's an on-going thing, then?

Iwata: Yes, of course. How do I put this? I, personally, don't want to lose my position as the 'CEO of a listed company in Japan with the most knowledge of programming'.

All: (Laugh loudly)

I am super super tired right now and there's some parts I can't make out (or might not have 100% accurate) since I'm still learning a lot, but here's your snippet:

Iwata: In my years as a student in high school and college, I would make games on a Hewlett-Packard HP-67 calculator.

*Programmable pocket calculator sold in 1976. Programs were stored on a magnetic card.

Mr. Kawakami: What sort of CPU was in that?

Iwata: That information was never published, so I can't say for sure what CPU was in there. It was very crude and primitive, not really made for computers (?). However, thanks to the ease with which it could handle Indirect Addressing and Data Entry Flagging, I was able to make games in the middle of class and show it to my friend who sat next to me.

Mr. Kawakami: You're truly a natural programmer!

Iwata: The manual wasn't very easy to understand, it read as though it had been directly (roughly) translated from English. But in those days (some stuff I can't understand) Back then, I considered myself the 'number one master' of calculators in Japan! (Laughs)

Everybody: (Laughs)

Iwata: Back then, I made a Star-Trek themed game by myself. I managed to get over the calculator's restriction of only allowing 224 steps per program by using 6 different magnetic cards. It was a masterpiece of calculator programming! The people at Hewlett Packard's Japanese Agency were really surprised. It was a ton of data to send. By that point, I was no longer worried about the HP-67's documentation.
PAGE 5

Alright, this is from page 5 so sorry for skipping ahead, but this section caught my eye.

Iwata: ... By the way, speaking of usability, the Nintendo DS was the first portable game system to have a sleep function, but that feature was the result out of the frustration of not being able to implement it with the GameBoy Advance SP.

4Gamer: Frustration?

Iwata: Indeed. The GBA SP was also a clam-shell design, so I pretty adamantly demanded of the hardware team that it went into sleep mode when it was closed. 'This feature is absolutely essential!' I said.
However, at that time, they told me that as it would take re-working the chip so it could be turned on and off it would take a year to do it, so I had to reluctantly withdraw my request. Nevertheless, I did tell them that they had to make sure the next system they designed would be able to go into sleep mode.

4Gamer: Designing hardware seems tricky because it requires you to have a couple of years worth of foresight, doesn't it...

Iwata: I was really upset by that at the time. But that feeling of 'We must do it next time!' connected directly to implementing that feature into the DS.

Kawakami: I do think the concept of a sleep mode for a game console is brilliant.

Iwata: Speaking of that, let's talk about two years ago. Right after the Wii U launched, when you were kind enough to give us quite a lot of feedback, Mr. Kawakami, I had a similar feeling of frustration to the GBA SP situation then. On various points, I thought 'We have to do that next time!'

Kawakami:Oh, I'm sorry. I might have been a little insensitive at the time.

Iwata: Not at all. But, because of that, because of that frustration, not only do we want it to connect with features next time, we are actually working to fix it for next time.

All: Oooooh....
There's more to that section, which I will do later, but I thought you all might be interested in this section.


/////////////////////////////////// ORIGINAL: //////////////////////////////////
4gamer.net seems to have been running a series of interviews that comes to a close with a 5 page sitdown with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. They joke about him being the "final boss."


Iwata laughs

Unfortunately I don't speak any Japanese and google translate is rubbish usually. However, I think it might inspire some of our local language wizards to maybe summarize a few parts if we have a thread about the interview.

Interview here: http://www.4gamer.net/games/999/G999905/20141226033/

Some things I can get out of google translate so far:

-They discuss "Iwata Asks" <- translated
-design philosophies <- translated
-Iwata's favorite games
-"tricking" new gamers into playing deeper games
-market trends <- translated
-Iwata's programmer days <- translated
-(laughs)
-old compupers
-programming wizardry
-Iwata making a Star Trek game on his calculator or something <- translated
-learning stuff on the internet vs the old days (?)
-parallels between the skills required for managing a company and writing good code
-what it's like to be president
-logic-oriented thinking (programming) vs human-oriented thinking (management)
-problem solving
-folders
-user experience
-The Cloud(TM)
-competition & Yamauchi wisdoms
-stopping the devaluing of content in the mobile age
-a hypothetical virtual console subscription service (?) <--- DO NOT READ ANYTHING INTO THIS (it's the other guy who brings it up mostly)
-meeting user expectations
-doing new things with game systems
-Iwata wanting to include DS-like "sleep mode" in the GBA SP but couldn't be realized in time <- translated
-making decisions with a bunch of yes-men around who are afraid to say "no" to their boss
-If Iwata sees a problem, he has to solve it, just like Vanilla Ice! (check out the hook while the DJ revolves it) :)
-more Yamauchi wisdoms



My favorite google translate quotes:
Mr. Iwata: said:
Amazing place I think amazing.
Mr. Iwata: said:
I have something difficult to terribly expressed in logic. "I understand the it is correct, I do not want to do!" Or (laughs)
Iwata is a robot confirmed:
Mr. Iwata: said:
[...] but I was forced confront the issue of "human".
Mr. Iwata: said:
Boss is "You're fired" [...]
Mr. Iwata: said:
I think I was doing a geek programmer.
Kawakami:
Oh, I competition I hate. I mean, because lose when you competition (laughs)

Mr. Iwata:
Haha. The same kind of thing, Yamauchi (&#8251;) also I had to say.
Mr. Iwata: said:
But, I want to protect the value of the game. For example, you might sell more Once more cheaply. But, playing only blindly once more come out a lot of people Tteyuu not start again, is more of the things that get to saying "there Naa'm really played" or "playing now also Na interesting", What do not you much important. Including things like that, we believe that it is me how can maintain After doing the value of the game. Well, it is ne. I'd big reason why we are not changing the way.
Mr. Iwata: said:
Well, if it's gonna be I "or dictator?" (Laughs)
Mr. Iwata: said:
So! I So. If there is eye problems before, in a fit of "I want to resolve" impulse, carelessly, I'll I would advice thing (laughs) This is another, It is my habit!
 
Jun 8, 2004
1,422
0
0
#7
I just love that the CEO of one of the largest game companies in the world is a former programmer who earned his stripes making the games. He gets games.
 
Sep 11, 2011
13,698
7
560
Live you where?
#21
Reposting:

Obligatory awesome Iwata facts:
-ported Pokemon Red/Blue's battle code to the Nintendo 64 for pokemon stadium without having most of the documents that detailed it in ONE WEEK
-Disassembled the programs for his Commodore PET computer by writing down the memory dumps By HAND
-Personally compressed Pokémon Gold and Silver well enough so that there was enough room left on the cartridge for the Johto AND kanto regions to be in the game (The original Pokemon Red/Blue filled the cartridge)
-programmed all of Earthbound from scratch, a feat that nobody thought could be done at the time because the game had a complex coding which was in itself a huge scripting language
I'd like to hear about what it was like owning a PET before the major Japanese computers hit big. Anything substantial on HAL's early days would be great.
 
Mar 27, 2012
11,636
0
0
#27
Awesome, good to see Iwata's health is back.

Someone please translate the parts about his early days programming for HAL Labs. I have to know if he programmed a version of the Star Trek mainframe game on a calculator from that period, it would just be so cool.
I am super super tired right now and there's some parts I can't make out (or might not have 100% accurate) since I'm still learning a lot, but here's your snippet:



Iwata: In my years as a student in high school and college, I would make games on a Hewlett-Packard HP-67 calculator.

*Programmable pocket calculator sold in 1976. Programs were stored on a magnetic card.

Mr. Kawakami: What sort of CPU was in that?

Iwata: That information was never published, so I can't say for sure what CPU was in there. It was very crude and primitive, not really made for computers (?). However, thanks to the ease with which it could handle Indirect Addressing and Data Entry Flagging, I was able to make games in the middle of class and show it to my friend who sat next to me.

Mr. Kawakami: You're truly a natural programmer!

Iwata: The manual wasn't very easy to understand, it read as though it had been directly (roughly) translated from English. But in those days (some stuff I can't understand) Back then, I considered myself the 'number one master' of calculators in Japan! (Laughs)

Everybody: (Laughs)

Iwata: Back then, I made a Star-Trek themed game by myself. I managed to get over the calculator's restriction of only allowing 224 steps per program by using 6 different magnetic cards. It was a masterpiece of calculator programming! The people at Hewlett Packard's Japanese Agency were really surprised. It was a ton of data to send. By that point, I was no longer worried about the HP-67's documentation.
 
May 21, 2012
3,424
0
0
#33
I'm curious about this hypothetical virtual console service. Does he go into any detail on this at all, like if it would follow a Netflix model or something different?
 
Oct 24, 2011
8,925
0
0
England
#38
I am super super tired right now and there's some parts I can't make out (or might not have 100% accurate) since I'm still learning a lot, but here's your snippet:

Iwata: The manual wasn't very easy to understand, it read as though it had been directly (roughly) translated from English. But in those days (some stuff I can't understand) Back then, I considered myself the 'number one master' of calculators in Japan! (Laughs)

Everybody: (Laughs)
"Iwata, Master of calculators"
XD
 
Sep 15, 2013
34,165
1
715
www.neogaf.com
#40
Yesssh! Let's do this. I'm working hard on my Japanese so I should be able to translate one line:


&#24029;&#19978;&#27663;&#65306;
&#12288;&#19968;&#30707;&#20116;&#40165;&#65288;&#31505;&#65289;

Here, he's saying "ishi go tori," "stone five bird." That crazy Iwata! Who can ever figure out what he means, right? (Ne?)

ETA: Streets kindly cleared this up below. I wasn't atrociously far off, at least! Thanks Streets!
 
Jun 13, 2011
12,626
0
0
#42
This is the final interview in a series done by Nobuo Kawakami (from Dwango) and 4Gamer.

Iwata: Thank you very much for your invitation today. I couldn't refuse when Mr. Kawakami told me wanted me to appear as the 'final boss' in his series.

Kawakami & 4Gamer: Thank you!

4Gamer: It is quite rare for you to have an interview or long-form discussion, though, isn't it, Mr. Iwata? At least, I feel like I haven't seen one recently...

Iwata: Ah, that's probably true. I've always been the one 'asking', so it has been quite a while since I have been 'asked' anything (laughs). Of course, I do a number of short interviews each year, but it has been quite a while since I've done this sort of long form interview.

Kawakami: Is you not doing many interviews a company policy?

Iwata: No, it's usual for the boss to be asked questions. But doing the usual thing is not interesting. I started the 'Iwata Asks' project when I thought, 'It's unusual for the boss to ask questions, so doing it that way might be interesting'. I actually didn't think it would continue for this long though...

4Gamer: The 'Iwata Asks' articles are something that the media could never write, don't you think?

Iwata: Well, there are a lot of interesting stories that happen internally, and I definitely thought you'd never be able to get the developers talking about some of them if you didn't make games yourself.
So, when we started, I had a good time, the readers seemed to enjoy it, and the people I interviewed said it was a very good way to wrap up their projects. Through speaking to developers, you can also create new possibilities, discover hints, and evaluate problems together so for me it's like killing five birds with one stone.

Kawakami: Five birds with one stone (laughs)

Iwata: But of course, doing it for a long time, our customers and even myself grew a little bored with it, so we decided to rest it for a while and it's recharging right now, so to speak.

Kawakami: But I find it really, really interesting and want to read more.

Iwata: We counted up all the interviews just the other day and there were over 200. Even I was surprised.
I'll do some more excerpts piecemeal over the next day or so.
 
Mar 3, 2013
12,619
3
0
#49
Iwata Asks has to come back next year. There are games with super interesting art styles like Kirby and Yoshi. A brand new IP with online multiplayer in Splatoon. A Mario Creator with multiple styles. The new open-world Zelda and Xenoblade Chronicles X.

Just think of an Itagaki Iwata asks.
 
Feb 6, 2012
11,866
12
525
UK
#50
His hair definitely isn't as fabulous as it was before his operation, but I imagine it's going to take a while to get it looking that good again, so that's understandable.