It seems that, as always, game designer Shigeru Miyamoto knows exactly what he’s doing.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the designer behind some of Nintendo’s most beloved video games such as the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda series, is extremely good at what he does. Sometimes his talents permeate a game so deeply that it’s hard to notice just how polished it is while you’re playing it, like when he made the first level of Super Mario Bros. essentially a tutorial that gamers could absorb without even knowing they were being taught anything.
Even as Nintendo moves into smartphone game development, a totally new arena for the company, Miyamoto seems to have quickly grasped what is and isn’t a fitting strategy for the games he’s involved with. For example, while details are still sparse regarding the recently unveiled iOS title Super Mario Run, Miyamoto has indicated that the game won’t be built on the free-to-play model so common to mobile gaming’s biggest hits. There’ll be a sample level that’s free to download, but after that a single payment gets you the full game, with no additional in-app purchases to nickel and dime players out of extra cash.
▼ The Super Mario Run website lists the game as “Free to download and play part of,” as opposed to a more sweeping description such as just “Free to play.”
Old-school gamers who grew up before the rise of free-to-play titles are no doubt happy about this, but Miyamoto didn’t make the decision for them. In an interview with The Verge, the designer said that his aim was to make it easy for smartphone owners to let their kids play the game on Mom or Dad’s device, without fear of them accidentally running up a huge bill for power-ups or extra lives, or pestering their parents to make the purchases for them.
Not only does this fit nicely with Mario’s wholesome, family image, it also meshes with what Miyamoto says is the changing progression of how kids become familiar with technology and digital entertainment. In the early part of his career, before consumer electronics became so ubiquitous in the home and daily life, the first piece of high-tech gear many kids interacted with was a Nintendo video game system. Now, though, Miyamoto says that role has shifted to smartphones, which makes them the natural place for a simplified game like Super Mario Run that Nintendo is hoping will bring new, young gamers to the franchise’s mainline console games.
The way Miyamoto is standing his ground is especially admirable because adding Super Mario Run would be incredibly easy to do. In addition to selling players extra lives and continues, the franchise has dozens of power-ups, from Fire Flowers to Tanooki Suits, that a price tag could be slapped on. There’s also the vague promise of being able to create your own Mushroom Kingdom in the game, which would again present the opportunity for Nintendo to make a little extra cash by charging a buck or two for different colored pipes, airships, or cakes to fill its grounds, skies, and castles with.
But Miyamoto isn’t having any of it, and is attitude is a refreshing throwback to classic video game design fundamentals. After all, isn’t it better to spend money so that you can play a game that’s fun, rather than spend it to breeze past one that isn’t?