Saturday, December 10, 2011

12/9: Nintendo's War on Reporters

You cannot put a genie back in a bottle. You cannot collect the million feathers scattered from a ripped-open pillow. You cannot unbreak a plate. But you can really run yourself ragged trying to.

Wednesday, Wired ran a piece by Chris Kohler, an exercpt of a longer interview with Mario's main man Shigeru Miyamoto. Nintendo doesn't give many people access to Miyamoto, partly out of an Oz-ian sense of mystery, partly because the guy is too busy to be a PR flak, and partly because Miyamoto is a nice man who will honestly answer a question someone asks.

Here's the scoop-quote from the Wired piece: "Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire,’” Miyamoto said through his interpreter. “I’m not saying that I’m going to retire from game development altogether. What I mean by retiring is, retiring from my current position.”
“What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself...Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small.”

Clear enough, right? He's staying at Nintendo still making games. In fact, the job most people who know about Miyamoto THOUGHT he had is the job he's "retiring" to go do! This is like Spielberg retiring from Dreamworks to focus on directing.

The word "retire," though, is to the stock market slightly less scary than an angry rattlesnake. Nintendo's resident genius is retiring? Sell. Stock prices dropped two percent, shaving millions in market cap off of a company already waifishly lean after a rough financial year.

So Nintendo mustered it courage, remembered the George Costanza line that it's not a lie if you believe it, and said that Kohler misunderstood what Miyamoto said. Miyamoto, by the way, conducts all his interviews via an interpreter despite speaking English, because he wants to be certain nothing he says can be misconstrued. Saying he was misquoted is a bit like saying Vic Vega is a snitch.

After a perhaps overly hasty "Nuh-uh!" response, Nintendo released this additional clarifying statement:

"Video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s role at Nintendo is not changing. He will continue to be a driving force in Nintendo’s development efforts. In discussing his priorities at Nintendo in a media interview, Mr. Miyamoto explained how he is encouraging the younger developers at the company to take more initiative and responsibility for developing software. He attempted to convey his priorities moving forward, inclusive of overseeing all video game development and ensuring the quality of all products. Mr. Miyamoto also discussed his desire to pursue fresh ideas and experiences of the kind that sparked his initial interest in video games.”

So Miyamoto, who was going to retire to do some good old-fashioned designing, is now officially still doing all his old stuff, plus still going to do all this new stuff. This is so the stock price that already went down won't go down. 

This leaves me with several new questions. 

One: So he's actually taking on MORE work, an entirely new second job? That's what he meant by "retiring"? 

Two: Is this a ruse? Will he go do his game-workshop thing and not oversee Nintendo's day-by-day endeavors anymore, but we'll still be told that he's on the job? 

Three: Did this just tank Miyamoto's dreams? If he could design games AND run Nintendo's cadre of other designers, he wouldn't have waited 25 years to start doing so. So is he now handcuffed to his old job? 

Four: You don't want to start calling reporters liars, especially reporters who published what I'll put money on as an accurate quote. Just because you don't like what someone says doesn't mean you get to retroactively call them a liar. 

Google, Apple, and Nintendo are the three most beloved companies on earth. Google and Apple have two or three books written about them every year, going back a decade. Nintendo does not. This is why: its relationship with the press is similar to your reaction to your inkjet: here, print this. If it doesn't come out as expected: stupid printer messed up.

It certainly looks like Nintendo wasn't happy with the reaction one of its execs' statements, so it foolishly tried to pretend it never happened. Nintendo is an ostrich, its head in the sand.