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The big interview: Shigeru Miyamoto and Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot


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Of all the games of E3 2017, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle stands out as the biggest surprise – even if we all knew about it beforehand. After its existence leaked towards the end of May, enthusiasm towards it was low, and then… Ubisoft’s press conference began. Company president and figurehead Yves Guillemot stepped out on stage to introduce the game, and with it, a very special guest.

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Shigeru Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot.

What happened next – the arrival of Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto and the two CEOs posing with oversized props – will go down as the start of E3 2017’s best press conference, and one of Ubisoft’s strongest showings of all time.

The duo exuded a sense of fun and positivity found lacking from other shows. Everybody fell in love with the game’s tearful creative director Davide Soliani, overcome with emotion in the audience. Oh, and Mario + Rabbids itself? Its deep, turn-based tactical gameplay has silenced critics.

Two days on from Ubisoft’s press conference, and I’m sat much closer to both its stars. Across a table upstairs in Ubisoft’s E3 booth, ringed by almost a dozen PRs from the two companies, is Miyamoto himself, with Guillemot beside him. I’m here primarily to discuss the development of this special project – but also some other topics besides.

(If you missed it yesterday, we snuck in a quick question regarding the status of Miyamoto’s long-awaited Pikmin 4 project, which he was kind enough to update us on.)

How did Mario + Rabbids come about, and why now? It feels like the product of a very special relationship between your companies.

Shigeru Miyamoto: It started out when launching Just Dance in Japan – and the idea to have Mario in there. Ubisoft has provided a lot of support for [Nintendo] hardware and they understand how it works. They’ve made products which are very satisfactory and fit the market we’re shooting for. We’ve had a relationship now for over 20 years, but this is the first time we’re operating at the level where we’re sharing characters.

In terms of major games in both companies – Ubisoft has Rayman, it’s a similar sort of platformer. We thought about ways of collaboration and then Rabbids came up – and that them collaborating with Mario might be a fun idea. We also wanted to create a new genre with this collaboration.

Yves Guillemot: We admire what Nintendo does. We also thought we could learn a lot from this collaboration. Our teams did Just Dance together – Nintendo published Just Dance in Japan, and they reworked the core concept to make it fit with the Japanese market.

Xavier [Poix, Ubisoft’s French studios manager] and his team made a proposal to Nintendo to put those two worlds together, and Mr. Miyamoto reacted strongly – three years ago actually, at E3 – saying ‘I’m ready to see more’. So Xavier’s team went to Japan to show more of that possible collaboration.

What were the conversations like behind the scenes, feeling out what each set of characters could or couldn’t do – I know you’re both obviously protective of your respective IP. Some people were surprised to see Mario shooting an energy gun, for example.

Shigeru Miyamoto: In terms of Mario wielding a gun, it’s something which was talked about for a while within Nintendo to work out what the appropriate way to do that would be. There was a time in the development of Splatoon where it could have been a Mario-based game. But we decided that a new style of weapon would work. We had a lot of discussion between Ubisoft and Nintendo to make what you see today.