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Sakamoto Interview elaborates On Iwata's secret development team at Nintendo

Shikamaru Ninja

任天堂 の 忍者
Sakamoto Interview elaborates On Iwata's secret development team at Nintendo

It seems that whenever there is reference or discussion of Nintendo's in-house development, Mr. Miyamoto and his band of 500 developers at EAD are the sole topic of discussion. But the truth is there was always a rival department, in the same building, different floor, lead by none other than Mr. Iwata himself.

While Mr. Miyamoto was General Manager of the EAD Division, Mr. Iwata became General Manager of the SPD Division.

"So, the result was that two centers of thought developed at Nintendo.The one under Mr. Miyamoto, and one outside of Mr. Miyamoto's circle. Mr. Iwata liked Mr. Miyamoto more than anyone and deeply respected him, but he thought that if everything was left to Mr. Miyamoto then Nintendo would go down only one path, so he ventured to make a team that was not under the supervision of Mr. Miyamoto. And Mr. Iwata managed the team himself."

Mr. Miyamoto lead the much bigger software division with seven production groups.
* Konno (Nintendogs, Mario Kart)
* Eguchi (Wii Sports, Wii Play, Animal Crossing)
* Aonuma (Zelda)
* Kimura (Pikmin, Big Brain Academy, New Super Mario Bros.)
* Sugiyama (Wii Fit, Steel Diver)
* Shimizu (DS Guide Series)
* Koizumi (Super Mario Galaxy, Flipnote Studio)

Mr. Iwata lead the smaller internal division, but also had a separate external production group.
* Takahashi (Brain Age, English Training, DS Dictionary, Band Brothers, Wii Channels etc)
* Sakamoto (WarioWare, Rhythm Tengoku, Tomodachi Collection, Card Hero DS, Kiki Trick, Mii etc)
* External Groups (worked with outside developers)

While Miyamoto's developers generally delved into the larger budget and longer development cycle games, Iwata's developers had a different philosophy:

"Mr. Iwata managed the team himself, and he had us make games that could be developed in half a year. And that had a direct impact on Nintendo’s ability to regularly release games."

Nintendo SPD's internal games were pivotal in providing innovative software in-between the release of big EAD games . Most of which became hugely successful in establishing the touch generation line and resonating with non-traditional gamers.

Sakamoto closes out, on being one of the few internal Nintendo developers from his era not to have worked under Miyamoto.

"I have never worked with Mr. Miyamoto. Yes. Yes, so all this time I was left to grow free-range."

2015 marked the end of the Iwata/Miyamoto structure with Satoru Iwata passing, and Mr. Miyamoto vacating his position as GM of EAD. The Kimishima era has done away with the multi department structure of game development, in favor of one combined and streamlined development department all under the reign of Shinya Takahashi. Takahashi-san was actually Iwata's protege and Deputy GM of SPD, and as the new GM of EPD (SPD+EAD), he is the perfect face of Nintendo development because of his time spent working for both Miyamoto, and then Iwata.

This also marks the first time Sakamoto has access to large pools of resources and 3D artists, if the project deems fit enough for Takahashi to approve of.

source: https://miitomo.com/en/talk/02.html (Miitomo Interview #2) / Shikamaru
 

DrWong

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Nov 17, 2011
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Thanks for the thread! Good read.

Let's not forget the new integrated development structure was initiated by Iwata.
 

Neiteio

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Iwata's foresight to not put everything under Miyamoto's control is VERY much appreciated.

Miyamoto is a genius, but if everything was left to him and his tastes, many elements of Nintendo games would be homogenized.
 

Trago

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But now they are all under that new division that was established recently right? Does that mean that everyone is under whoever oversees the division?
 

Jinketsu

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I thought this was going to play out as a fanfic of Miyamoto's devious plot towards Iwata's demise.

I'm only slightly disappointed.

Great read otherwise. I'm really looking forward to what kind of software Nintendo will develop (or assist other developers) with their IPs this coming generation. I would imagine this kind of restructuring definitely calls for a large halt in development, and is likely somewhat part of the reason why what we have left to look forward to for Wii U is only Paper Mario and Zelda.
 

Boney

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Interesting to know that it was actually Mr. Iwata that spearheaded SPD and also had the philosophy of quick to the point, fun games. Most of my favourite Nintendo games of the last 10 years have been from that division, so God bless them.

I don't think Sakamoto is going to directly produce a game with 3D graphics (at least not cutting edge) and he'll keep going with his goofy simple style. I wonder how SPD is incorporating. The core Metroid team was pretty overwhelmed with 3D technology when developing Other M.

People should remember Shinya Takahashi's name for when the next big corporate shakeup happens. He's going to move up very fast and very dramatically.
Yep it just depends how quickly he matures and if they have someone that can fill the role as GM of the software division, as I'm sure it won't be any of the old guard.

2-5 years I think Takahashi's going to be appointed a Director position, and maybe even consolidate around him.
 

Silkworm

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People should remember Shinya Takahashi's name for when the next big corporate shakeup happens. He's going to move up very fast and very dramatically.

Do you see him potentially taking a similar trajectory to that of Iwata? Would be nice to one day have another president of Nintendo with roots in helping to develop games :)
 

21x2

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It's always been apparent that Iwata, even long after becoming the president of Nintendo, was still was a game developer at heart rather than a corporate businessman. While Nintendo has had some rough years and not everyone agrees with what the direction they've moved in the last generations, I very much doubt their output would have been better under any other person.

I miss Iwata :(
 

Ogodei

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Retro et al's relationship would be that they would get their handlers from the people who used to be part of the External Dev SPD group, right?

This also seems to raise the chance of a Sakamoto-helmed Metroid game if he's in a pool of AAA talent instead of his oddball-budget-game team (although he worked miracles with the oddball and laid an egg when he got big budget carte blanche).
 

guek

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Apr 27, 2011
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It's always been apparent that Iwata, even long after becoming the president of Nintendo, was still was a game developer at heart rather than a corporate businessman. While Nintendo has had some rough years and not everyone agrees with what the direction they've moved in the last generations, I very much doubt their output would have been better under any other person.

I miss Iwata :(

The word really does feel the lesser in the wake of his death
 

Fourth Storm

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Do you see him potentially taking a similar trajectory to that of Iwata? Would be nice to one day have another president of Nintendo with roots in helping to develop games :)

I don't think there's much higher he can go w/out becoming CEO. He actually has more responsibility now than Miyamoto did as head of all Nintendo software development. He's also on the Board of Directors.
 

Boney

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I wonder if they'll keep the Creative Fellow and Technology Fellow positions upon later restructuring and/or when Miyamoto/Takeda retire.

But all of them together are first party?

Ok. I get confused over who is under them.
First party is just a layman's term referring to Nintendo owned software/usual collaborators. Third party means that it's software licensed by Nintendo (or other companies) for their system but it's not developed by them. Outside development studios are either wholly owned by Nintendo, partially owner or have a deep relationship and are funded by Nintendo. They don't use the same management style as the internal Nintendo studios because of the physical limitations of working in separate buildings/countries but share some of the common Nintendo DNA with internal project managers assisting in development most of the cases. HAL for example is a curious case since they're not technically affiliated with Nintendo as a subsidiary but share a strong relationship since the 80's after Nintendo commissioned work for them and later bailed them out of bankruptcy.

Second party actually refers to us the consumers buying the goods, but since gamers are dumb dumbs, they like to misuse concepts to incorporate them in pissing matches about how one such company is bad at videogames because the good one is external.
 

thefro

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Yep it just depends how quickly he matures and if they have someone that can fill the role as GM of the software division, as I'm sure it won't be any of the old guard.

2-5 years I think Takahashi's going to be appointed a Director position, and maybe even consolidate around him.

He's already on the Board of Directors. Iwata added him in 2014.

He's actually the most senior person on the board now besides Kimishima/Miyamoto/Takeda, so he's definitely being groomed to be the next President.
 

Boney

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He's already on the Board of Directors. Iwata added him in 2014.

He's actually the most senior person on the board now besides Kimishima/Miyamoto/Takeda, so he's definitely being groomed to be the next President.
Ah! Had no idea he was actually in the board of directors. Then it's just a matter of finding a replacement for his current position probably while Kimishima takes over this transition period and hands the reigns once the NX has been established along with the other licensing deals Iwata was making.

They might as well, the titles just basically mean "They do what they want and we occasionally ask them to look at stuff."
Might be better to coalesce behind a single figure with Takahashi, since these positions were probably made to quell any unrest about the succession of the late Mr. Iwata. So I don't see the point of keeping them especially if both retire.
 

Shikamaru Ninja

任天堂 の 忍者
Eguchi will probably become the big development head in coming years (he pretty much is already), too, especially if Takahashi does more business-related things.

NCL named Eguchi and Koizumi as Deputy Managers under Shinya Takahashi. It sounds like Eguchi will sub-manage the Kyoto developers, and Koizumi the Tokyo developers.

Then you have the 9 Group Managers.

1. Konno
2. Nogami (took over Eguchi)
3. Aonuma (might have been promoted though)
4. Kimura
5. Sugiyama
6. Shimizu
7. Hayashida (took over Koizumi)
8. Sakamoto (yeah baby!)
9. Kawamoto (Brain Age, Rusty's Real Deal, Nintendo Badge Arcade)
10?

Then the external producers might be in another department of EPD Division.
 

TheMisterManGuy

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Fascinating. I mentioned this before, but with the new EPD structure, I want to see a big Creative Renaissance from Nintendo. A Nintendo that constantly pushes boundaries in game design and input in insane ways. Not just new IPs, but new ideas, novel ideas, new experiences, and fun experiences that anyone can pick up and play. In short, I want another Dreamcast-era Sega. Someone trying to spread reds and blues, in an industry largely covered by grey.
 

TheJoRu

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Might be better to coalesce behind a single figure with Takahashi, since these positions were probably made to quell any unrest about the succession of the late Mr. Iwata. So I don't see the point of keeping them especially if both retire.

Indeed. Especially for mr. Miyamoto it feels a lot like he's basically taken on the role of "face of Nintendo" now that Iwata is gone (and Kimishima not feeling like he should or can be the front-facing president Iwata was), doing a lot of work concerning the general image of Nintendo; working and signing off on ideas for merchandising (the designs for the Vans-apparel, for example), movie development, the theme park project, and of course software development to ensure everything the company does in this time of expanding their business is consistent with the spirit of the company and its IP. That was the sense I got from what has been said during investor's meetings and other stuff.

Important work, absolutely, but probably the last stop for Miyamoto before retirement and not necessarily a position (the "Fellow"-positions specifically) that would be filled by someone else in the future.
 

TheDinoman

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In short, I want another Dreamcast-era Sega. Someone trying to spread reds and blues, in an industry largely covered by grey.

I mean, Nintendo has funded and sometimes produced a lot of weird and strange stuff over the years. Wonderful 101, Kid Icarus Uprising, Chibi-Robo!, Splatoon, Fossil Fighters, Codename Steam, there's a lot of creative new games with the Nintendo label on them.

I think Nintendo ultimately needs to balance creativity with profitability. Splatoon was a smash hit and Uprising was successful for what it was, but all those other games I mentioned were flops and/or totally overlooked. They need more games like Splatoon which is a new and creative idea that can still appeal to a mass audience, while something like Wonderful 101 can only ever have a niche fanbase due to the way it's designed (Such are the ways of being a PlatinumGames title).

Looking back, I think the problem with SEGA is that pretty much Sonic The Hedgehog was basically their only really popular and recognizable enough brand. All of their other games, like Jet Set Radio, Shenmue and such were kinda niche in comparison.
 

TheMisterManGuy

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Looking back, I think the problem with SEGA is that pretty much Sonic The Hedgehog was basically their only really popular and recognizable enough brand. All of their other games, like Jet Set Radio, Shenmue and such were kinda niche in comparison.

Yeah, Sega was pretty terrible about marketing any game that wasn't Sonic. However, Sega's 1st party games, especially their Dreamcast games, had a similar kind of simplistic, pick-up-and-play gameplay as something like Splatoon that would be perfect for a mass audience, had Sega just been better at marketing. In many ways, Splatoon feels like a Sega game in spirit.

My point though was that Nintendo's future games should not only mark a Creative Renaissance, but should also retain the quick-to-the-point, pick-up-and-play simplicity Iwata believed in. Games that marry novel concepts with novel technology, and create experience that everyone young and old can enjoy.
 
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What no one is talking about yet is the real important issues... Sakamoto's new haircut! What happened to that long beautiful mane??? I suppose it's just age, but looks like there's still plenty left tied back, not to mention clearly shaved sides as a stylistic choice.

On a more serious note, it's cool that Itoi is interviewing him. The first part of their interview is very good too, they reminisce about the times they've met. They were both close to the late HIrokazu Tanaka (who worked on both Metroid and Mother).

https://miitomo.com/en/talk/index.html
 
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Yeah, Sega was pretty terrible about marketing any game that wasn't Sonic. However, Sega's 1st party games, especially their Dreamcast games, had a similar kind of simplistic, pick-up-and-play gameplay as something like Splatoon that would be perfect for a mass audience, had Sega just been better at marketing. In many ways, Splatoon feels like a Sega game in spirit.

You could also argue this was Sega's biggest problem. They were still making arcade games (in mentality) for home consoles when the market was moving toward larger, self-contained experiences that followed journeys. Given enough time, Sega would have figured out how to transition that part of their software development to something the market would accept, and they probably would have gotten there before most of the rest of the industry.
 

Gnomist

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TheMisterManGuy said:
In short, I want another Dreamcast-era Sega. Someone trying to spread reds and blues, in an industry largely covered by grey.

I share this sentiment even if I don't have a preference on where that creativity comes from. I think there was a healthier spread of ideas when Sega was around because they inhabited their own world separate from both Nintendo and Sony. When the three hardware companies each had their own unique take on software we had what felt like a greater variety of ideas. Nowadays with Sony and Microsoft essentially doing the same thing it feels like lost potential. We certainly are seeing unique software from different areas like mobile, VR, and indie studios, but I still wish all the players in the hardware business felt substantially unique from one another.
 

Memory

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It's always been apparent that Iwata, even long after becoming the president of Nintendo, was still was a game developer at heart rather than a corporate businessman. While Nintendo has had some rough years and not everyone agrees with what the direction they've moved in the last generations, I very much doubt their output would have been better under any other person.

I miss Iwata :(

This 100%, i think we would have seen questionable games as well as questionable hardware.
 

AntMurda

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Indeed. Especially for mr. Miyamoto it feels a lot like he's basically taken on the role of "face of Nintendo" now that Iwata is gone (and Kimishima not feeling like he should or can be the front-facing president Iwata was), doing a lot of work concerning the general image of Nintendo; working and signing off on ideas for merchandising (the designs for the Vans-apparel, for example), movie development, the theme park project, and of course software development to ensure everything the company does in this time of expanding their business is consistent with the spirit of the company and its IP. That was the sense I got from what has been said during investor's meetings and other stuff.

Important work, absolutely, but probably the last stop for Miyamoto before retirement and not necessarily a position (the "Fellow"-positions specifically) that would be filled by someone else in the future.

I've come to the conclusion that developers aren't primarily promoted on their "game development skills" but rather who can handle being a face for the company. Traveling and being in the public eye seems against the nature of some of the more shy and private Japanese culture.
 

TheMisterManGuy

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You could also argue this was Sega's biggest problem. They were still making arcade games (in mentality) for home consoles when the market was moving toward larger, self-contained experiences that followed journeys. Given enough time, Sega would have figured out how to transition that part of their software development to something the market would accept, and they probably would have gotten there before most of the rest of the industry.
In the end, that's what I always liked about Sega. They were similar to Nintendo in that their games had a simplistic, pick-up-and-play design and quirky novelty that anyone can enjoy. The difference being that Nintendo knows how to balance that with a home experience, while Sega could never realize that what works in the Arcades, doesn't work the same way at home.
 

AntMurda

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What no one is talking about yet is the real important issues... Sakamoto's new haircut! What happened to that long beautiful mane??? I suppose it's just age, but looks like there's still plenty left tied back, not to mention clearly shaved sides as a stylistic choice.

On a more serious note, it's cool that Itoi is interviewing him. The first part of their interview is very good too, they reminisce about the times they've met. They were both close to the late HIrokazu Tanaka (who worked on both Metroid and Mother).

https://miitomo.com/en/talk/index.html

Sakamoto has hella swag. Just a strange cool dude.
 

ika

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Great interview. I hope Sakamoto can do a new big Metroid game in 2D... I love some of his bizarre little projects but I miss old school Metroid.
 

AntMurda

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Great interview. I hope Sakamoto can do a new big Metroid game in 2D... I love some of his bizarre little projects but I miss old school Metroid.

I feel that's a possibly. A classic old school Metroid inlieu of him attempting a mega cinematic 3D Metroid game.
 

TheMisterManGuy

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This 100%, i think we would have seen questionable games as well as questionable hardware.
What amuses me is that the gamers who disliked the direction Nintendo went with the Wii and DS wanted him gone, but as soon as he dies, flip flop and act like he was the best thing to happen to Nintendo. Iwata did a lot of good for the company, but it's funny how most can change their tune at the drop of a hat.
 

AntMurda

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What amuses me is that the gamers who disliked the direction Nintendo went with the Wii and DS wanted him gone, but as soon as he dies, flip flop and act like he was the best thing to happen to Nintendo. Iwata did a lot of good for the company, but it's funny how most can change their tune at the drop of a hat.

I'm not sure most of us wanted him fired. We were all hoping they would find a nice compromise after the Wii - between casual and core.