Nintendo's Yamauchi speaks
On PSP, the NES, industry mergers and more
Former Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi has given an interview with Nihon Keizai Shimbun, with the legendary industry veteran giving his views on a wide range of topics with his trademark bluntness.
It's over a year since Yamauchi retired from Nintendo, and was replaced by current chairman Satoru Iwata, but the outspoken ex-chairman has obviously kept closely involved with Nintendo and the industry as a whole, as the following excerpts - translated by Polygon Magazine show.
On the topic of Sony's forthcoming PlayStation Portable, Yamauchi broke the ice in typical style - stating that analysts who "think Nintendo has a monopoly over the handheld market and Sony may be able to break it" simply don't understand the games business.
"New product competition in this industry is important," he explained. "Although Nintendo's core business is software, having another hardware developer will allow us to judge the superiority or inferiority of our machine. But software for both machines will be very different, and it would be a mistake to consider them in direct competition."
Yamauchi's comments in this respect are very similar to those made by SCEE boss Chris Deering at the ELSPA Games Summit in London recently, where he outlined his belief that Game Boy Advance and PlayStation Portable could in fact co-exist and complement each other, rather than existing in direct competition.
Speaking about the difficulties faced by the GameCube overseas, Yamauchi came over all philosophical about cultural differences between game markets. "There have always been differences between players in Asia and those in North America and Europe," he commented, "and I think those differences are becoming more clear. Sales of GameCube software fell short in North America and Europe last year, and I believe that's due to the popularity of violent games on other consoles."
"The culture of Japan is very different and less accepting of such titles," he continued. "Our target market is the entire world, so it's very difficult to develop software that appeals to everyone - and that's the lifeline of our business. That's why it's hard to achieve success in America and Europe for Japanese developers, even the most talented ones."
This difficulty over violent games is one which Nintendo seems to be musing over a lot recently, with current chairman Satoru Iwata discussing the subject in his E3 address as well. Some critics claim that Nintendo has been wrong-footed by the move towards more mature games such as Grand Theft Auto in the current generation of consoles; Nintendo, on the other hand, believes that following the herd in this direction would alienate its core users and betray the basic image on which the company's success is founded. This isn't just an East-West divide, it's a divide between Nintendo and the rest of the industry as a whole.
On the topic of Nintendo's plans for the coming year, Yamauchi-san made some intriguing comments about mergers which may point towards an increased focus on second-party relationships with key developers. "Developers are faced with the choice of mergers, which can have both positives and negatives," he opined. "If each developer is talented and they complement each other, new opportunities may blossom through a merger. Nintendo plans to collaborate with several developers for new software titles this year which players can expect during the Christmas season."
Finally, on the topic of the NES (Famicom), ostensibly the reason for this interview as the console celebrated its twentieth anniversary recently, Yamauchi unsurprisingly revealed that Nintendo plans to keep the platform alive. "There were clearly masterpieces of software available for it," he commented, "and we're examining how we can keep those titles alive with today's technology." And charge users a pretty penny to play them again, no doubt.
So there you have it - a rare chat with one of the industry's most outspoken figures, who's obviously very much on the ball even after a year of retirement. It may not be quite as interesting as some of his more insane proclamations while he was chairman (like the ones where he effectively publicly announced that all of Square's games were rubbish and that they were sure to go bust...), but it's certainly good to hear from him again nonetheless.
Thanks to Polygon for the translation.