I thank Kiyoshi for taking the time out for this interview. My questions/comments are in bold.
Growing up, there were companies that fascinated me.
But many of those companies are dying out because of
lack of innovation. Sun Microsystems and SGi are
examples. Using Windows 95 for the first time amazed
me, but I haven't been amazed by anything Microsoft's
made so far. Nintendo is one of those companies that
continue to amaze me. The Wii is justification for my
fascination. What keeps Nintendo innovating? Most of
this interview is meant to get inside the mind of both
Nintendo as a corporation and the employees at
Just as side note I can say I completely agree with you. Another company that also always amaze me personaly is Apple. They've made and keep makeing great products.
Firstly, I'd like to ask questions about Nintendo
What qualities does Nintendo look for when hiring
software and hardware engineers? What about artists?
Well for engineers it's of course the standard bit with skill and what you can do plainly technically. There is a bit of puzzle solving, some fundamentals. And then we look at how well the person can work in a team, and how well she or he cans aceppt than other people doesnt agree or want to change the ideas and how he/she reacts. It's important to be flexible, you must also be persistent if your onto something and show why its so good and make sure that all really understand you.
When it comes to artists we look for similar things, but here creativity is more important, the ability to look at one artwork and make things that look good with it. It's also important to be able to express feelings, or envirnoments in a effective way through few elements.
Could you describe the corporate culture at Nintendo?
Is it relaxed and casual?
While the climat is always friendly in all departements, I wouldnt say any are really relaxed. Especially not the corporate parts. It's hard work all of it, and the talented persons empolyed always work a lot. But still, we have a friendly and understanding atomshere and while working hard its important for each person to feel minimal stress to accomplish the best.
In terms of business practices Nintendo is
conservative. But what about ideas? Is Nintendo open
to ideas from all levels of the business chain?
Since we design console for our own games, most of the developement come from Nintendo and we are pretty closed about ideas. But in sometimes we let 3rd party developers decide. Like the speaker in the Wiimote. We though we remove it since no developement team was really excited about it, but the 3rd party developers really wanted to do creative things with it. So we thought why not keep it.
Next, some questions about the corporate mindset at
How has the atmosphere at Nintendo changed since you
joined the company? For example, how has the
company's business mentality, outlook into the future,
and creativity changed? Is it for the better or
We have definitely become more free when it come to ideas. Now we're trying more to break the limits and create crazy stuff. All early ideas start with crazy experiments and thoughts and not 10% make it to any kind of final product. We just go crazy because the best way to do things is often unconventional. Other than that I cant say much have changed.
How was Yamouchi-san perceived among Nintendo
employees when he was still president?
He was always a bit stubborn but deserved all respected because he was the one who lead Nintendo to the game market in the first place. But some thought he was too hard and didnt listen enough to fresh ideas.
My understanding is that Yamouchi-san and Iwata-san
are two sides of the coin, which is why Yamouchi-san
picked Iwata-san as the next president. Is this
correct? If not, do you think the company would be
doing what they are doing now if Yamouchi-san were
Iwata-san is much more open, and he is a lot different from Yamouchi-san. I think if Yamouchi would still be the president it would not be as good and we would be stuck with older ideas, much like Microsoft and Sony Computer Entertainment. A company needs to renew itself constantly.
I've heard the DS was Yamouchi-san's idea. Does
Yamouchi-san still influence Nintendo's business
We do keep a open mind to all people working at Nintendo to give ideas and we always look at them before rejecting. I can say that while he wasnt a man who wanted to test all ideas and rejected lots of them, he does come up with clever ones once in a while. And when we think it's interesting, we may as well use it. And actually he has influensed in good ways. For example to also use the microphone in the Wiimote was his idea first, and the internal developers are very excited for it.
Next, some miscellaneous questions.
Do Iwata-san and Miyamoto-san have a good
relationship? Are they friends?
Yes they are good friends and often work closesly in new games. Miyamoto often talks to him what he thinks about new gameplay and how it could change. Even though Iwata is Nintendo's president he is also a very talented game designer.
Who plays the biggest role in designing a console? Is
it the hardware engineers, software engineers, or
They are all needed so they are equal important but in the beginning and to form the direction of a new console it always starts with the artists. How can it be more immersive? How can it be more fun? And it always start with concept. Moving your arms to control things would be fun. How can we do this? And then from a vision we look how and which things can be done. Then the hardware people make their hardest to make it cheap to produce, powerful as possible and etc, when the general concept about it is done. After it's all made, its all about the software enginers.
My impression is that Nintendo would be content if
they were only successful in Japan. Is this correct?
Since this is our home market it's true that a success in Japan is often taken as a general success and we design our products with this market in mind. But without our success in other areas we wouldnt be able to spend as much on researsh, gret games and it wouldnt be as good. So we're working hard to make everything universal and we're reaching for the stars.
Revolutions don't come often. Can we expect to see a
different interface in the next generation console?
You will see new features and refinements, but a whole new fundamental system you wont see. We've only had one before - the game pad. Now we have another one - the Wiimote. The perhaps hardest thing in developing a grondbraking new interface is too make it work with existing concept, like driving a car or jumping around in a platforms game. With the Wiimote we hit a homerun and it will be there for at least another generation. But be sure it will be greatly enhanced and will have new exciting features. But right now I dont know myself how it could possibly be approved... But we'll work hard and look at lots of new ideas so until its time again we'll have somthing great for you all.
Thank you for your time.