Interview: Nintendo and Namco partnership

Nintendo's director Shigeru Miyamoto, Namco producer Atsushi Shiozawa, and Namco president Youichi Haraguchi talked about the huge deal recently made between the two companies.

You can find the news article here, telling how the next Starfox game after Adventures will be a flying shooter co-developed between Nintendo and Namco for both Gamecube and the TRIFORCE arcade board. And that after this October, all Namco games on Nintendo systems will be published by Nintendo. After the news conference, three big hitters from the companies talked about the deal, Starfox and what the they think on it all.

Question: Mr. Shiozawa, why did you decide to develop StarFox, what is your vision for the project?

Shiozawa-san: If you look at the Ace Combat series, we consistently tried to make the series more realistic. Lately however, it’s become more and more difficult to express that idea. In the series, the planes take center stage. These are aircraft which are capable of flying at supersonic speed, and it’s been frustrating trying to express that kind of speed and also keeping the environments realistic. As a result, some of our ideas were never fully realized. Through this partnership with Nintendo we'll be able to bridge the worlds of Ace Combat and StarFox. Originally, I intended to make the game as realistic as possible. But after some early concepts, my plans have changed and now I'm more interested in creating a fun shooting game.

Question: Mr. Miyamoto, you're the real father of the StarFox series, what are your thoughts on this partnership?

Miyamoto-san: I'm very pleased for this opportunity to work with Namco. Mr. Shiozawa is known for creating great simulations. When I think of simulations, I often associate them with golf games. Typically games like that have a very narrow appeal, and we were initially afraid of alienating fans of the StarFox series. However, then I thought back to StarFox 64, and how it offered tank levels and different styles of shooting. I began to realize that Mr. Shiozawa could take the series in a new direction. He's been involved with the development of the GameCube arcade system 'Tri-Force,' and I have to admit, I've been dreaming of the possibility of people dog-fighting in a StarFox arcade game. I'm really excited about this partnership, so let me say to Mr. Shiozawa, good luck and make a great game.

Question: Mr. Miyamoto, can you explain the differences between StarFox GC and StarFox Adventures, both of which are in development for GameCube?

Miyamoto-san: StarFox Adventures is developing smoothly and will be released this fall. While they bear the same title, StarFox Adventures is more of an action RPG game. Players will take the role of Fox McCloud, armed with a cane-like weapon and will explore huge worlds filled with dinosaurs. There will be many areas to explore and puzzle elements like our Zelda series. There are some battle and shooting elements in the game, but it’s mostly action/RPG in nature. We hope players continue looking forward to it. StarFox GC will serve as a full-scale shooting sequel.

Question: Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Shiozawa, what are the challenges for each of you associated with this partnership?

Shiozawa-san: For the past few years I've pursued games which explore the world of adults, and StarFox represents a new challenge for me. It will be a new experience developing a game for both young and old players.

Miyamoto-san: Namco has been involved with this business for more than 25 years. We've been rivals in the past, and I've been both student and teacher to people at Namco. I remember being amazed when Pac-Man first came out, and I even considered leaving Nintendo to work for Namco at one time. So the relationship between our companies runs deep. I believe Namco had the ability to broaden the appeal of not only GameCube, but the entire videogame market. We've seen how important they've become in the arcade market and how those games translate to home consoles. Surely, we make great partners and I look forward to exploring new projects with them in the future.

Question: How will the development expenses be shared on StarFox?

Haraguchi-san: That's something that hasn't been fully decided yet. Mutually, I think we both expect equal input and responsibility for the game. As for exact development resources details, that hasn't been decided yet.

Question: As a result of this partnership, Nintendo will publish Namco's GameCube and GameBoy Advance games beginning in October. What are your sales goals?

Haraguchi-san: Generally, orders for games are accepted three months in advance, so our publishing partnership will begin even earlier than October. As for sales expectations, it will vary depending upon the game. I hope to go into more detail about that during our shareholders meeting on May 29.

Question: Will this new relationship have any effect on Namco's arcade business?

Haraguchi-san: We're working on the Tri-Force arcade system together, and we plan to release home versions of games for that system in the future. As for StarFox, we haven't fully explored ideas for an arcade version yet.

Question: What specific responsibilities will Nintendo and Namco have regarding the development of StarFox?

Haraguchi-san: Nintendo will be responsible for designing the characters, and Namco will handle the gameplay engine.

Miyamoto-san: Fundamentally, Namco will be responsible for development. However, we've mutually agreed that it’s important for development team members from both companies to meet regularly and discuss production in Yokohama.

Question: Will the development of future Namco titles for the GameCube such as Mr. Driller be supported by Fund Q, Nintendo's investment fund?

Haraguchi-san: There are no plans for that kind of support.

Question: Nintendo has already announced joint-development plans with Sega. Can we expect more collaborations in the future?

Miyamoto-san: We were rivals with Sega, but the adversarial environment which once made it impossible for our companies to speak has changed. Since then, I've decided we can strengthen our software lineup by collaborating with other companies. I don't subscribe to the belief that hiring more people and developing new games internally will ensure success. On the contrary, it jeopardizes the quality of our products. We're blessed to work with so many talented third party developers. Hudson Soft is another example of a company which we've been working closely with. Nintendo is interested in developing new games for the GameCube and GameBoy Advance, and all avenues of collaboration are being explored. We look forward to bringing Nintendo's software to the arcade market on Tri-Force with the help of Sega and Namco, two pioneers in the arcade business, and strengthening our relationship in the future.

Question: Namco has confirmed plans for a new GameCube RPG, will it be released on other consoles?

Haraguchi-san: Our new RPG not related to the 'Tales' series will be a GameCube exclusive. We feel Tales of Phantasia, which was originally developed for the Super Famicom, fits the GameBoy Advance platform the best.

Question: Are there plans to release Tri-Force (arcade) versions of upcoming GameCube titles such as Zelda?

Miyamoto-san: It's technically possible, but nothing has been decided amongst the development team yet. If we feel an arcade version can be positively carried out, we'll explore the idea.

Question: Why did you decide to give Namco the right to develop StarFox, certainly you could have profited more by developing the game yourself?

Miyamoto-san: We're profiting from this relationship in more ways than just money. [smiles..] There are limits to how many projects you can work on simultaneously, both at Nintendo and Namco. I am completely confident in Namco's Ace Combat team, under the direction of Mr. Shiozawa. This will be a completely new experience for everyone. The staff previously responsible for StarFox 64 won't be involved, which will allow Namco's team to create their own world for StarFox on GameCube. I trust them; that's why the decisions are being left in their hands. Now it's just a matter of waiting to see what they come up with next.

Question: How will the new publishing agreement benefit Namco?

Haraguchi-san: We have history of sales and promotion together. However, our efforts have always been somewhat limited due to the separation in our business plans. Nintendo's games typically sell at a higher level than Namco's, so there's much to learn from Nintendo's sales force. Their distribution model is also very beneficial for us as the developer and retailers. Nintendo has been very open about negotiating what we feel are the best options for publishing.

Source: Xengamers

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