The creator of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Star Fox and F-Zero is retiring early, only 59 years old–or wait, maybe he isn’t. Don’t believe everything you read.
It turns out Nintendo bigwig and game design luminary Shigeru Miyamoto isn’t going anywhere, despite a rumor started by Wired in which Miyamoto said he was planning to retire from what he’s currently doing.
“Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire’,” said Miyamoto through an interpreter, reports Wired. “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.”
Sound like a pretty straightforward confessional? Sure, but read the next part, where he explains he just wants back into the hands-on biz, to “be in the forefront of game development once again… 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.”
Media scrape-a-thon translation: “He’s quitting! He’s quitting!”
Except that he’s obviously not. He’s probably just weary of how managerial bureaucracy and franchise games with insane budgets have this sneaky way of snatching all your creative energy and time.
Nintendo public relations is understandably freaking out: “This is absolutely not true,” a spokesperson for Nintendo told Reuters. “There seems to have been a misunderstanding. He has said all along that he wants to train the younger generation. He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned.”
So no folks, he’s not retiring. The problem here’s really just the word “retire.” He should have said (or been translated as saying) something like “change” instead, that he’s swapping his current role at Nintendo for another, one in which he focuses on smaller development cycles and getting the next generation(s) ready for the point at which he really does have to say goodbye.
“The reason why I’m stressing that is that unless I say that I’m retiring, I cannot nurture the young developers,” Miyamoto told Wired. “After all, if I’m there in my position as it is, then there’s always kind of a relationship. And the young guys are always kind of in a situation where they have to listen to my ideas. But I need some people who are growing up much more than today.”
Will we see another Miyamoto name-stamped Zelda or Mario game? Who knows. But it’s important to be mindful of the fact that, as Steve Jobs to Apple, Miyamoto gets the lion’s share of credit for what’s really a massively complex team effort. No one knows the name Yoshiyuki Oyama (the designer of Zelda Skyward Sword) or Koichi Hayashida (the director of Mario 3D Land), for instance, or any of the hundreds of others involved in pulling these games together. Maybe we should, instead of–with great respect for Miyamoto–this problematic hero-worship thing, capable of rattling stock prices for purely psychological reasons (Nintendo’s shares fell 2% today). Perhaps it’s worth using an occasion like this to think about that.