Nintendo warns about being ‘motivated by greed’ when making video games

Even Super Mario Odyssey only sold 28 million copies (Nintendo)

A newly discovered interview sees Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto explain how Nintendo only needs a 30+ million hit every few years to do well.

It’d be wrong to say that Nintendo doesn’t like to talk about its finances, because no video game company does, which leaves it largely a mystery as to how much they spend making games or how much they expect to make in return (except when Sony accidentally revealed some details last year).

Nintendo’s budgets tend to be lower than that of most Western companies, but as they themselves have admitted that may change in the next generation, when games will become even more expensive to make.

But it turns out that they’ve been even more explicit about what they’re looking for in terms of a game’s success, with Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto talking about the need to have a 30+ million sized hit every few years.

Miyamoto is a top exec at Nintendo now and has very little involvement in day-to-day development of new games, but even so it’s unusual to hear him talk about raw business matters in this way.

The interview is from January but because it’s only in Japanese it wasn’t noticed until now. It was discovered by a fan on Famiboards and it features Miyamoto and Mother/EarthBound creator Shigesato Itoi speaking at length in front of a small group of students.

There’s no official English translation, so it’s possible something is being lost by using Google, but when talking about the current economics of gaming Miyamoto states that: ‘If we can have one big hit every three to five years, we’ll be fine.’

Itoi then suggests that for Nintendo 1 million is not considered a huge hit, to which Miyamoto agrees.

In the wider industry, 1 million is generally accepted to be the threshold for a game to be considered a hit, although it very much depends on the budget and certainly is not much for a triple-A title.

Itoi then asks Miyamoto what he considers to be a big hit, to which Miyamoto responds: ‘About 30 million.’

30 million is a lot and very few full-price games in history have ever hit that mark. Nevertheless, there’s been four on the Switch, in the shape of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (62 million), Animal Crossing: New Horizons (45 million), Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (34 million), and Zelda: Breath Of The Wild (32 million).

Considering the Switch has been around for just over seven years now, that means Nintendo is well above target in terms of this generation.

Miyamoto then discusses how breaking even is not good enough; although it’s impossible to tell how often this is a problem for them, since Nintendo never reveals a game’s budget.

He then suggests the following: ‘There are times when something catches our attention and we think, ‘Huh?’ or ‘This might be something that will turn out well.’ We can sense such things from the very beginning. However, if we are only thinking about greed or wanting to stabilise our profits, we will overlook this.’

‘Yes, if you are only motivated by greed, you will think first about how to avoid losing money. You will inevitably think in terms of the break-even point,’ adds Itoi.

‘That’s right. I think the most dangerous thing is to miss something that has the potential to grow. I think the good thing about our company is that we’ve been good at nurturing those seeds,’ replies Miyamoto.

That is not the sort of thing you would expect a Western publisher to say, especially given the turmoil of the last few months, and yet Miyamoto and Itoi treat it is a self-evident fact.

If nothing else it seems a far healthier attitude than just trying to rely on live service games and sequels, but then again we haven’t seen Nintendo’s software plans for the Switch 2 yet…

Very few games sell as much as Mario Kart (Nintendo)

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