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The Man Behind Mario Explains Nintendo’s New iPhone Game

Matt Peckham, writing for Time, spoke with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto shortly after today's Apple keynote where it was announced that a new game, Super Mario Run, would be coming to the iPhone this December.

Time: When I asked [late Nintendo CEO Satoru] Iwata back in early 2015 about Nintendo’s smartphone plans, he said “that being ‘unique’ or ‘unprecedented’ was appreciated far more than being ‘better’ than the others.” How are you working to differentiate Super Mario Run from existing mobile runners?

Miyamoto: That’s true. So the basic premise this time was, we started by wanting to make a Mario game that you play one-handed. And if you think about Mario games up until now, generally Mario games are very simple and anyone can play them. But as you get deeper into the mechanics it gets more challenging. For some people, they have a hard time running, using the ‘B’ button to dash, or jumping while trying to run and dash at the same time. So the approach we took was, “How can we take that essence of the simplicity of Mario and bring it to mobile devices?” And that meant thinking about a game that would run automatically, on its own, but where there’s still the challenge of jumping and things like that, that are uniquely Mario.

We’ve also prepared the battle mode, as you saw, and this is really geared toward people who just have a few minutes to play. It’s a short mode you can play very quickly. And the other thing is we’re bringing in a number of elements that add skill and technique. As you get better at those skills and techniques, you’ll have a lot of motivation to compete for high scores and things like that.

Despite the fact that this was quite a brief interview (comprised of 5 questions), Miyamoto's answers are quite detailed and provide some real insight into Nintendo's thinking with this new Mario game. Super Mario Run has been designed to "take advantage of the uniqueness" of the iPhone and "perfect for that sort of simple interface and broader user base". Nintendo is hoping that new people will discover the joy of Mario and seek out other Mario games that exist on Nintendo's own hardware.

So of course as you’ve seen with Pokémon Go, we have millions of people who may never have played a Pokémon game, or maybe just knew the name Pokémon, who are now playing that game and learning the names of each individual Pokémon. And the result of that is that we’re also seeing sales of things like our original Pokémon Red and Blue games on the rise as a result of that. We think we’ll see a similar effect with Super Mario Run, and especially as we continue to develop Mario games for our own platforms that have more robust action and those sorts of elements, we think those will be appealing to the audience playing Super Mario Run on mobile devices.

If you're interested, be sure to read Matt Peckham's full interview with Miyamoto on Time.