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Shigeru Miyamoto Shares Nintendo Secrets

The revered video game designer on Nintendo’s history, the next wave of gaming and the ‘Year of Luigi’

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Nintendo of America

Nintendo visionary Shigeru Miyamoto, known as the "Godfather of Video Games," is one of the most influential entertainment figures of all time. He's the creator of Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, the Legend of Zelda series, Pikmin and more Nintendo classics. At 60, he still works daily at Nintendo's headquarters in Japan, leading a team of designers on new ideas. His latest project: To mark the 30th anniversary of one of his most beloved characters, Nintendo has declared 2013 the "Year of Luigi," releasing a slew of games including the recently-released Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and future releases Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and New Super Luigi U. "Thirty years ago, we were able to create a single game with just five to six people," says Miyamoto, sitting in a boardroom on a visit to Nintendo's New York headquarters. "Nowadays, we're looking at 50 to 60 – but what's always important is the starting idea."

By Patrick Doyle

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Nintendo of America

Super Mario Bros. Redux

The colorful The New Super Mario Bros. U hit stores in November. Like classic Super Mario Bros., you still need to fight Bowser and rescue Princess Peach – but with new power-ups like a flying squirrel suit. "At the same we were working on Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, we were working on New Super Mario Bros U," says Miyamoto. "We decided to do the downloadable content for that, which is going to feature Luigi and be new Super Luigi U."

Miyamoto sees this model as a future for the company. "We're looking not just at creating a single product, but also at how we take advantage of those distribution methods, potentially creating additional downloadable content for those games. Going forward, we've sort of moved out of simply focusing on the technology and trying to completely create the worlds that had been imagined by the user. As we go forward, we'll start to see new ways that we can leverage technology to create new structures of play or leverage new means of distribution to the consumer."

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Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Wii: Reloaded

In November, Nintendo followed up the Wii with the Wii U, a new high-definition system where players use a touch-screen controller, the GamePad. "It used to just be the TV screen, but now with splitting that TV screen into 4 multiplayer screens and adding the fifth screen of the GamePad, it becomes, 'How can we create these interactive systems using these different screens and find a way to design that system so that it elicits the creativity from the user? How do we find ways to leverage their imagination and creativity of play?"

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Nintendo of America

Pikmin 3

Nintendo's 3-D strategy game Pikmin debuted on GameCube in 2001: Protagonist Captain Olimar crashes on an unknown planet and needs to put his ship together with the help of a mass of pikmin creatures. Miyamoto also oversaw Wii U's Pikmin 3, which will be released this spring. "With Pikmin 3, you'll have the ability to have three different captains or leaders of Pikmin groups and you can switch between them," he says. "So it sort of allows you to approach the game from a much more strategic position. The volume of work that you can get done within the timeframe has increased dramatically. And so that in and of itself really enhances the depth of strategy that's available to you in that game."

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Nintendo of America

Luigi Finally Gets Some Respect

The Miyamoto-produced Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is Nintendo 3DS's sequel to 2001's Luigi's Mansion for GameCube, where Luigi explores creepy haunted mansions, clearing them of ghosts, which Luigi sucks up with his Poltergust 5000 vacuum. You can play with others in Nintendo's online network. "We've had many different people internally saying they want to work on Luigi projects," says Miyamoto. "And it turns out that several of those projects happen also to be launching this year, which also happens to be the 30th anniversary of the game that Luigi first appeared in. So we looked at sort of all of everything coming together and said, 'With all these Luigi games and this being the 30th year, why don't we just make it a Luigi festival?'"

As always, Miyamoto drew on real life when he dreamed up the latest game. "I've been vacuuming a lot at home lately," he says with a laugh. "Just cleaning the house, tied to Luigi's mansion."

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Nintendo of America

Dream Team

The year of Luigi will continue this summer, when Nintendo releases Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for Nintendo 3DS. The role-playing game will feature-puzzle solving and the duo fighting battles both in their real life and Luigi's dreams. Says Miyamoto, "It's almost a coincidence that this is coming out the same year as a Pikmin game, because one of the main themes of the Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is the idea of these mobs of Luigis – these big mobs of Luigis that are attacking the enemies that has sort of a Pikmin-like feel to it."

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