Shigeru Miyamoto is not retiring, but his role at Nintendo may change


It appears that we’ve lost the ability to read. A recently published Wired article titled “Nintendo’s Miyamoto Stepping Down, Working on Smaller Games” has led to a barrage of reports that Shigeru Miyamoto is retiring from Nintendo, a fact that is not supported by the legendary game designer’s statements in the article.

The controversy seems to stem from the use of the word “stepping down” in the headline and Miyamoto’s tongue-in-cheek declaration “I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire” in the Wired interview. However, much like a soundbite can be taken out of context, reading Miyamoto’s entire statement indicates that he is not planning to retire, but only change his role in Nintendo to focus more on game design and let the company’s younger designers work without having to get his approval on everything. 

“Inside our office, I’ve been recently declaring, ‘I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire,'” Miyamoto told Wired 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….In other words, I’m not intending to start from things that require a five-year development time.”

“The reason why I’m stressing that is that unless I say that I’m retiring, I cannot nurture the young developers,” continued Miyamoto. “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.”

shigeru-miyamoto-master-swordFrom reading these quotes, we get the impression that Miyamoto simply wants to get back to game design himself. In his current role, he overseas all of Nintendo’s major projects and spends a large amount of his time approving and advising Nintendo’s many developers. From his statements, we imagine that he’d like to get back to the front lines and do some intimate game designing like he used to in the 1980s and 1990s. It also sounds as if he believes in Nintendo’s younger crop of designers, but doesn’t believe they will reach their potential if he is always around to coddle them.

Of course, once word spread that “Miyamoto is retiring” Nintendo’s PR team has been making the rounds doing damage control, vehemently denying that the creator of Mario and Zelda is retiring. 

“This is absolutely not true,” a spokeswoman 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.”

The subject of retirement isn’t entirely unjustified. Miyamoto is 59 and will not be around forever, as his statements imply. It sounds as if, quite thoughtfully, he is preparing Nintendo for the day when he might not be around, which shows how much he cares about the company and its future. But don’t expect him to leave anytime soon. Personally, I’m quite excited to see what a focused Miyamoto can create if he’s unhooked from some of his massive creative responsibility at Nintendo.