Miyamoto Unplugged

Miyamoto Unplugged

The last time we spoke with Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s future still hung in the balance.

Back then, Wii was codenamed Revolution, and Sony, with PS3 months from release, still dominated the game market. Today, the situation is very different, so much so that we hardly bat an eyelid when Miyamoto says: “To tell the truth, I have this big ambition for Wii Music, that it can eventually be something so influential that it might be able to influence what music means in the world.”

Brash from anyone else, such a statement can only be seen in the light of the massive changes Wii has wrought in the two years since its release, having asserted itself as an essential element of so many family living rooms. Wii Music is the latest game to emphasise this ethos, but its awkward centrepiece demonstration during Nintendo’s E3 2008 presentation exposed it to heavy criticism by many observers for being simplistic and a declaration of Nintendo’s disregard for core gamers.

Indeed, reviews of Wii Music have already been published by the time we meet Miyamoto, and many have not been complimentary. It’s probably best, however, not to think of Wii Music as a game. Miyamoto is, in fact, careful not to refer to it as anything other than just “software” during our interview.  It’s not driven by scoring. There are no fail states. You simply play with it, your success down to how much you’re enjoying yourself and the quality of the noise you’re making.

Miyamoto is careful to reiterate that his teams are currently working on new Mario and Zelda games, and Wii Music is less an inconsequential piece of mainstream fluff than another piece of finely designed software that’s tuned to appeal to all. But it is another reminder that Nintendo is no longer the underdog company championed by gamers during the days of Revolution.

EDGE: Who did you have in your mind when you created Wii Music?
MIYAMOTO: When I’m making something I think in terms of my own family, and always imagine how my entire family can enjoy it together. I think a very large audience can enjoy Wii Music. As a matter of fact, when we asked people to do hands-on demos, many of them took to it. High-school students who performed in their own band enjoyed it, and even middle-aged men who have never touched a musical instrument before were excited to play together.

Those that are good at playing musical instruments can play with those that can’t. I really don’t know who are actually going to purchase the game, but I hope that schoolchildren will play. Children get access to music education by first being taught basic theory and then playing musical instruments, but that is really not easy. The primary purpose of letting children learn theory and play instruments is for them to be able to learn the joy of music and how to express themselves through it.

I think Wii Music approaches it completely differently from the school curriculum – you don’t need to learn the difficult theory or master the different instruments, but you will get access to the immediate joy of music itself. I want many small children to get access to Wii Music.