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

Asbear

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Segmentation and over-concentration are pretty good terms to describe what's happening to the videogame industry.

I agree. I think this is actually the first interview I've read from the man himself. He's a lot smarter than I thought to be honest.
 
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I agree. I think this is actually the first interview I've read from the man himself. He's a lot smarter than I thought to be honest.

Dude, he's the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, what did you expect?

Contrary to public opinion, most of the people in those high-end jobs are actually pretty sharp and hard-working. Getting there is no easy feat!
 

Cosmonaut X

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I agree. I think this is actually the first interview I've read from the man himself. He's a lot smarter than I thought to be honest.

I don't think his smarts should ever have been in doubt; he's clearly intelligent and perceptive, and he seems to have a passion for new ideas and approaches. Unfortunately, because he's Japanese and the head of a relatively media-shy company, thorough interviews - and good translations of the public pronouncements he does make in Japanese interviews like this - tend to be thin on the ground, and the gap is made up from assumptions about him from the personality he projects in Directs, or PR statements and formal presentations.

Of course, being smart and passionate doesn't stop you making mistakes, and I think everyone would agree that the last few years of pain for Nintendo stem from mistakes made by the company under his leadership. Some of that can be placed at the feet of others in the company, or institutional attitudes, I'm sure, but ultimate responsibility still rests with Iwata. The interesting question now is whether he can salvage the situation they're in, learn from those mistakes and bring Nintendo through stronger for it, in spite of the more conservative streak in the company and its executives. I'd tend to lean toward "yes", but it will be fascinating to see how it pans out.
 

StreetsAhead

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Thanks for your translations, guys!

Mainstream gaming sites are now copying and pasting them as news stories: Nintendo Life and Nintendo Everything. At least the latter credits you as a source.

Oh, they do that all the time. At least they sourced me. I saw one person on a Facebook fan-page posting translations I'd done saying that they'd been 'Google Translated'.

What already translated is great and all, but I'm very interested in the rest of the interview too! I hope it'll get translated soon enough.

I'll be able to do some more later - I've got brunch (lol) this morning, but when I get back it'll be Iwata time.
 

Jintor

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Streets, how many places that have sourced your translations have actually attempted to contact you prior to get permission?
 

StreetsAhead

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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)

---

Streets, how many places that have sourced your translations have actually attempted to contact you prior to get permission?
Um, no. They don't really need to, I guess.
 

DXB-KNIGHT

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The more I read about Iwata the more interested I get about him, he's truly a man who that went ground up to the management.
 

Lernaean

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Such an amazing human being.
He looks like he is recovering well.
Can't wait for the full interview translation, some important bits there.
 

deltatheta

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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'.

If not for Larry Page, he probably could claim that title for the world.

Actually, I wonder if Page or Iwata is the better programmer. Google Search is definitely a hugely significant product, but you could argue that it was low hanging fruit at the time.
 

Eolz

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(wry laugh)
So Iwata helped to save a lot more games than Pokemon Stadium, Gold, and Earthbound. Doing all of that while already having a busy job during day. Wow.
 

MCN

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This is why the industry needs Iwata. The vast majority of the industry right now seems to be run by executives who were brought in from outside the industry (even Nintendo themselves aren't immune - Reggie is a pizza man). Iwata lives and breathes games, and knows exactly how they're made. He is a visionary who may not always get it right, but at least he tries, and the industry needs a trier.
 

TheMoon

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Now i understand why this guy is so pasionately against mobile gaming.

Being one of the posters in the past saying iwata needs to go ... i couldnt be more wrong.

He is the ONLY CEO out of the three main console makers that actually rose through the ranks as a game coder.

I also highly recommend watching his GDC 2005 keynote (it's on youtube). It also drives that point home very effectively.
 

jariw

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This is why the industry needs Iwata. The vast majority of the industry right now seems to be run by executives who were brought in from outside the industry (even Nintendo themselves aren't immune - Reggie is a pizza man). Iwata lives and breathes games, and knows exactly how they're made. He is a visionary who may not always get it right, but at least he tries, and the industry needs a trier.

NoA has a tradition of having sales people as presidents. Arakawa (who started up NoA) had no gaming history, more than being married to Yoko Yamauchi. So when Reggie says things like "when I play a game" it's mostly sales talk. The gaming heroes at NoA are in the Treehouse.

Iwata is the CEO of NoA.

Thanks for the translation work of this article, Streets!
 

TheMoon

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Oh, ok. Can't wait to har more about mobile software, virtual console and...all the rest, seriously.

I copy everything into the OP, separated by the original pages and mark the bits on my (shoddy) bullet point summary, if you want to check for progress.^^

NoA has a tradition of having sales people as presidents. Arakawa (who started up NoA) had no gaming history, more than being married to Yoko Yamauchi. So when Reggie says things like "when I play a game" it's mostly sales talk. The gaming heroes at NoA is in the Treehouse.

Iwata is the CEO of NoA.

Thanks for the translation work of this article, Streets!

Reggie plays games. There's no reason to doubt that. We know he grew up loving ALTTP and has dumped crazy hours into Dragon Quest IX lol. He just doesn't make them or goes crazy deep into them because his job demands other priorities. Don't sell his personal investment into gaming itself short, though.
 

Sylverstone14

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Reggie plays games. There's no reason to doubt that. We know he grew up loving ALTTP and has dumped crazy hours into Dragon Quest IX lol. He just doesn't make them or goes crazy deep into them because his job demands other priorities. Don't sell his personal investment into gaming itself short, though.

Also to note, when I was at the #ImWithReggie meetup at Nintendo World in November, you could tell that he had such a boner for Fantasy Life by how much he was bragging about the amount of hours he logged into the game.

Dude's legit.

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:

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).

As for Iwata, he's definitely Japanese coding Jesus walking.
 

TheMoon

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Also to note, when I was at the #ImWithReggie meetup at Nintendo World in November, you could tell that he had such a boner for Fantasy Life by how much he was bragging about the amount of hours he logged into the game.

Dude's legit.

Anyone who loves Fantasy Life is legit. It seems Reggie loves himself some Level-5 games ;D
 

test_account

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What does "segmentation and over-concentration" means? Too many platforms and too many games? Or too much focus on some games?
 

JDSN

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Really amazing interview even tho I dont know shit about engineering, you can tell that Iwata wants to have a lasting legacy not only as a CEO but teaching a new generation of engineers.
 

Mysterious

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If not for Larry Page, he probably could claim that title for the world.

Actually, I wonder if Page or Iwata is the better programmer. Google Search is definitely a hugely significant product, but you could argue that it was low hanging fruit at the time.

Well a lot of CEOs and execs are engineers. Satya Nadella and Tim Cook are also engineers.
 

SalvaPot

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Iwata saving Melee makes sense, the man is a badass. I´m kinda sad he doesn´t do coding anymore, but nintendo games tend to be mostly glitch free and increidibly compact in size, so I guess its fine. Thanks for translating so far!
 

TheMoon

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I see, thanks. Is that really true though? Afterall, there are a lot of games coming out.

Have you looked at what's happened the last few years? The mid-tier disappeared (RIP THQ, etc), the big hits got bigger (COD, Minecraft). Or just look at the examples provided in the interview.
 

ASIS

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I see, thanks. Is that really true though? Afterall, there are a lot of games coming out.
Discounting the indie scene I think that's very true. The dedicated handheld market is deminishing but the software is selling very well in comparison. Video game budgets are getting ridiculously high, causing numerous studios to close and basically eradicate the mid- budget titles, but in turn we are seeing an insane amount of AAA titles. Those that succeed bring serious cash to the studio. Finally, although there are a lot of genres in gaming, very few of them get any sort of light when compared to FPS's or action adventure titles for example.

I still don't understand why Nintendo doesn't count indies though. Because once you include them the picture becomes much brighter.
 
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Discounting the indie scene I think that's very true. The dedicated handheld market is deminishing but the software is selling very well in comparison. Video game budgets are getting ridiculously high, causing numerous studios to close and basically eradicate the mid- budget titles, but in turn we are seeing an insane amount of AAA titles. Those that succeed bring serious cash to the studio. Finally, although there are a lot of genres in gaming, very few of them get any sort of light when compared to FPS's or action adventure titles for example.

I still don't understand why Nintendo doesn't count indies though. Because once you include them the picture becomes much brighter.

In terms of variety of genres? yeah definitely. Financially however Indies are still just a small blip on the Market.
Although personally I see the potential of Indies eventually becoming the much needed Mid Tier that was completely eradicated by EA/Ubi/Activision.
 

Kai Dracon

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Iwata might be talking about more spiked sales, where a smaller number of bigger games sell more, but there's less even distribution of sales between those big games. The audiences / market becoming concentrated around tentpoles, with various pools of customers only buying specific hits rather than trying mid-tier games that are released between the biggest titles.

It seems to have resulted in a few really popular 3DS games selling more than ever within a certain time period, but perhaps other games besides those hits did worse than they would have before.
 

Vena

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I still don't understand why Nintendo doesn't count indies though. Because once you include them the picture becomes much brighter.

The majority of indie projects are low-budget. What Iwata means about mid-tier remains valid because for every mid-tier budgeted indie title you have a sea of games made on the "cheap" so to speak.

This still keeps to an unnatural gap where big studios or indies fill out the low-end with cheap budgets and mobile titles/ports, and then you have big companies filling out the huge AAA budgets. How many titles like Bravely Default do you get in a year? Two?
 

Oregano

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Discounting the indie scene I think that's very true. The dedicated handheld market is deminishing but the software is selling very well in comparison. Video game budgets are getting ridiculously high, causing numerous studios to close and basically eradicate the mid- budget titles, but in turn we are seeing an insane amount of AAA titles. Those that succeed bring serious cash to the studio. Finally, although there are a lot of genres in gaming, very few of them get any sort of light when compared to FPS's or action adventure titles for example.

I still don't understand why Nintendo doesn't count indies though. Because once you include them the picture becomes much brighter.

It's been looked at from the perspective of the 3DS in Japan. There is a distinct lack of mid-tier projects for the platform and I think he's pointing out it's not because of a lack of demand.

There's a good post from Nirolak in the most recent Media Create thread about how Square Enix went a few years without mid-tier handheld products and it's only now 3 years into the gen that it seems they're ready to release that stuff.
 

test_account

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Have you looked at what's happened the last few years? The mid-tier disappeared (RIP THQ, etc), the big hits got bigger (COD, Minecraft). Or just look at the examples provided in the interview.
Discounting the indie scene I think that's very true. The dedicated handheld market is deminishing but the software is selling very well in comparison. Video game budgets are getting ridiculously high, causing numerous studios to close and basically eradicate the mid- budget titles, but in turn we are seeing an insane amount of AAA titles. Those that succeed bring serious cash to the studio. Finally, although there are a lot of genres in gaming, very few of them get any sort of light when compared to FPS's or action adventure titles for example.

I still don't understand why Nintendo doesn't count indies though. Because once you include them the picture becomes much brighter.
What about the japanese gaming market? Seeing that this is a japanese interview, i would guess that hes first and mostly talking about that, or definitelly counting it in. I dont see any specific examples being mentioned in the translation regarding this in the OP by the way.

But yeah, the indie scene has taken over a lot from what we had before. Games that are categorized as indie games today would in many cases have been AAA games back in the days (maybe not regarding advertisment budget, but at least regarding production values). Then there is all the phones and tablet games as well. I think there is still much diveristy to be had.
 

TheMoon

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What about the japanese gaming market? Seeing that this is a japanese interview, i would guess that hes first and mostly talking about that, or definitelly counting it in. I dont see any specific examples being mentioned in the translation regarding this in the OP by the way.

Frozen. It's not limited to video games.
 

StreetsAhead

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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.