November 13, 2008 / 1:00 PM / 10 years ago

Videogame guru tunes into interactive music

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters Life!) - Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, nicknamed the “godfather of videogames,” has hit a new note with “Wii Music,” hoping to attract new players and fulfill his frustrated musical ambitions.

Miyamoto, the creator of hit games like “Mario,” “Donkey Kong, and “Nintendogs,” said “Wii Music” was part of Nintendo’s original plan to introduce a casual audience to gaming with the Wii console, people who might not otherwise play games.

“When we created the Wii, we identified areas that would appeal to everyone in the household,” Miyamoto told Reuters. “One was sports, another was fitness, and one was music.”

“Wii Sports” is the pack-in game for the Wii console which is currently the most popular game system in the world.

Miyamoto launched “Wii Fit” earlier this year with a balance board so players can take part in yoga and other forms of exercise - then he turned his hand to “Wii Music,” tuning into the popular music game genre that didn’t exist five years ago.

For Miyamoto, 55, it was also a personal mission as he has always harbored musical ambitions.

For the past 30 years, when he wasn’t creating the world’s most famous plumber, Mario, or revolutionizing the gaming demographic with Nintendo DS or Wii, Miyamoto has been playing musical instruments like the saxophone.

“‘Wii Music’ has been an answer to my long life as a struggling musician,” said Miyamoto. “The one problem I’ve never been able to resolve is that while I wish I was good enough to perform for people, no matter how much I practiced I never felt my performance was good enough.”

Miyamoto has designed “Wii Music” so that four players can form a virtual band and play any of 50 songs in the game, including pop hits like “Every Breath You Take,” “Material Girl” and even the theme song to “Super Mario Bros.”

The game has over 60 musical instruments, each of which makes use of Wii’s motion-sensor controllers - the remote and the nunchuk. For example, to play a violin, a player uses the two controllers to mimic holding the violin and moving the bow.

“We expect ‘Guitar Hero World Tour’ and ‘Rock Band 2’ to sell extremely well on Wii based on how the previous installments have performed, but ‘Wii Music’ is a very different experience than those games,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America.

“It’s a creativity experience that carries a different a lower price point and doesn’t require any additional peripheral purchases.”

Miyamoto believes that while the core game design was to create a fun family experience, “Wii Music” may help get kids interested in playing real musical instruments.

“Kids are learning more about the fundamentals of music then they realize,” said Miyamoto.

“When it comes time to learn to read music and play a real instrument, ‘Wii Music’ might make them more interested in taking on the challenge and sticking with it long-term.”

Michael Pachter, videogame analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities expects “Wii Music” to have a long shelf life, forecasting sales of 2 million copies this quarter worldwide and then an additional 500,000 to one million copies each year.

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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