Nintendo's celebrity developer, Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of most of its largest IP has been beloved by gamers for many years. But there was a period in the Wii U era where Miyamoto was seen as sort of the "bad guy" in the eyes of gamers. Games weren't coming out fast enough, he was messing with other people's work, he was pushing controller gimmicks, he hates story in games, etc. The Wii U was not doing too hot for Nintendo, and while the 3DS eventually recovered from its poor first year, it still didn't live up to its predecessor in sales. And such, Miyamoto became an easy scapegoat. The common argument among Nintendo fans was "If Miyamoto leaves, then Nintendo will finally make the games I want". Honestly, looking back at some forum posts, it's hilarious to watch people play armchair CEOs over how Nintendo should move forward.
Honestly, he wasn't even to blame for a lot of Nintendo's problems then. It's easy to forget this, but Nintendo is not a monolith. They're a large, complex organization with different divisions, teams, and subsidiaries that all make decisions about what's best for the company. In Miyamoto's case, he was the General Manager of Nintendo EAD, at the time, the company's largest development division running several internal studios and hundreds of staff between its Kyoto and Tokyo branches. That's still an important job, but was only one limb of Nintendo's operations.
While I do think a lot of the hate towards Miyamoto was unfair during this time, I do think he shares much of the blame regarding the Wii U's failure and the 3DS' weak start, and I honestly think he wasn't what Nintendo needed at that time for several reasons.
* Lack of games - Let's get this out of the way, EAD... Sucked at getting the Wii U and 3DS off to the start they needed. In the 3DS' case, we had Nintendogs + Cats, a sequel to the DS original that didn't evolve the series significantly enough, and Steel Diver, a DS tech demo that was dug up and repurposed for the 3DS. We had to wait until June to get Ocarina of Time 3D, and then Fall for Star Fox 64 3D, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7. The later of which needed Retro's help to even get finished. The Wii U fared better, but not by much. It launched with New Super Mario Bros. U, at a time when people were already tired of the series, and Nintendo Land, a sort of Wii Sports for the Wii U. The ultimate problem was that Miyamoto and EAD prioritized the wrong games to launch these two consoles with. Instead of dredging up an ass old DS tech demo, those development resources could've gone towards maybe getting OoT 3D out at launch. Instead of yet another NSMB game at launch, maybe try and put out something a bit more unique. I understand not wanting to rush games, but ensuring the console launches with at least one big title would help out significantly, even if it is only one game.
* Detached management - If I were to describe Miyamoto's management style at EAD, it would be Yamauchi-lite. From various Iwata Asks interviews during this time, Miyamoto's way of running things very much is that he'd come in, look at what the development teams are doing, make some mandates and changes, then leave. It felt like Miyamoto during this time was tired of being GM, and simply expected his teams to just know what makes a good game. This kind of distant, autocratic management style works for a smaller group with a clear vision. But when you're running your employer's largest development division overseeing dozens of development teams, and constantly interacting with marketing and sales departments across NCL, NoA, and NoE, it can only go so far. I honestly think this is part of the reason why games took forever to come out during the Wii U days, it never felt like Miyamoto interacted enough with the development teams or gave them enough support. Miyamoto is very good at being an editor type, the kind of person who will point out flaws in a project and make people question their direction to ensure a better product. But I think EAD simply didn't play to his strengths during this time.
* Lack of understanding - Miyamoto's problem during the Wii U days, was that he didn't seem to get what a console needed in terms of games, especially early in its life. Miyamoto is known to be very passionate about his creations, almost to a cartoonish degree. It's great that he cares about series like Pikmin, and Star Fox. But I think his ultimate problem, was that he never really understood the importance of having a diverse range of games, and instead focused on the traditional "Nintendo" style, or what he believes Nintendo needs. Now at the time, EAD largely did internal development, creating their own games and worlds from scratch. That kind of tunnel vison was fine for that setup. But it would've created problems when Nintendo would inevitably merge EAD with its other game division SPD (which handled co-development with external companies and small scale internal development), into the current Nintendo EPD, which handles both homemade and collaborative development under one roof. Can you imagine a Miyamoto-run EPD? That would mean no Octo Expansion, no Astral Chain, No Metroid Dread, No Fire Emblem, No Bayonetta, or if they were to exist, they would've been heavily altered from their current forms to appease what Miyamoto thinks is a "Nintendo game". I'm not saying that would've been a disaster, the games would've still been high quality. But part of Nintendo's strength during the Switch era is ensuring that the console has a wide range of different games for everybody on the first party front. That's something I don't think Miyamoto would've handled nearly as well as Takahashi and Koizumi did.
* Not preparing for HD soon enough - Ultimately, EAD's downfall in the Wii U days, was not staffing up for the demands of HD development much sooner. Far too many EAD productions kept getting delayed or needed outside companies to come in and help finish because they were too understaffed for Wii U development. To Miyamoto's credit, he expressed in the past that he wished the Wii supported HD from the start. But even if he did have the foresight to try and ask Iwata for an expansion to EAD to handle Wii U development much sooner, would he also have been able to coordinate and oversee projects involving multiple outside studios effectively?
Now I'm not saying this to disrespect Shigeru Miyamoto, the guy directed and produced some of the greatest games of all time, and helped make the medium what it is today. But I think I and many others simply felt that he wasn't what Nintendo needed during the Wii U era, being GM of EAD simply didn't play to his real strengths. I think his current position as Representative Director and "Fellow" is actually the best for Miyamoto as it plays to his strengths as a creator. He gets to be involved in the games he actually wants to make (Pikmin 4 for example), can offer valuable advice to younger development teams to help improve the experience, and acts as Nintendo's rep for the company's emerging multi-media ventures such as Super Nintendo World and The Super Mario Bros. Movie. To put it simply, Miyamoto is a great creator and advisor, but Shinya Takahashi and Yoshiaki Koizumi are the better EPD heads.Last edited by TheMisterManGuy - on 19 December 2022