Shigeru Miyamoto on why Pikmin hasn’t ‘exploded’ in popularity

Pikmin remains one of Nintendo's least popular franchises.
Pikmin 4

Despite featuring as one of Nintendo‘s primary mascots, the titular beings of Pikmin haven’t really had a fair shake. Across multiple console generations, Pikmin has been one of Nintendo‘s least popular franchises, with middling sales figures being a consistent feature. In a new interview with Nintendo, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto has talked openly about this lack of mainstream popularity, and why he thinks Pikmin has yet to gain the traction it deserves.

His answer, which is refreshingly honest, puts this disappointment down to more difficult gameplay, and the fact that death is a constant as you guide your Pikmin to victory.

‘There have been three games in the series until now, from Pikmin to Pikmin 3, and personally I’ve always wondered, “Why haven’t they exploded more in sales even though they’re so much fun to play? Why do people think they’re so difficult?”‘ Miyamoto said.

‘I get that people find it more difficult when death is a factor. But I think the franchise’s strength lies in its relationship with mortality. If something is irreversible, you need to figure out a way to prevent undesired things from happening. To try to prevent Pikmin from dying, you need to practice “Dandori.”‘

Read: Pikmin 4 Review – Collective Might

Dandori, in this case, refers to the art of organising strategically and implementing an effective battle plan. In all Pikmin games, this typically takes the form of recruiting the right Pikmin, and using them in the right manner to ensure you reach your goal with minimal casualties. Miyamoto believes it’s this complex gameplay that makes the game unique, but also may discourage players.

‘I think people find Pikmin difficult for two reasons: the controls and the depth of gameplay. I spent a long time mulling over how we could convey these points as “interesting” rather than “difficult.”‘

In the same interview, developer Yuji Kando also spoke about this challenging difficulty, and how Pikmin 4 aims to be the most approachable sequel in the franchise. The development team reportedly spent some time determining how to prioritise ‘ease of play’ and ensure the controls were simple enough that anyone could jump in.

‘Looking at players’ reactions to the first three games, I’ve also thought really hard about how to get more people to play this game,’ Kando said. ‘In the early stages of development, we prioritised ease of play and experimented with making the controls easy enough for those who aren’t used to playing games. We also tested improvements to the camera and AI.’

Per Miyamoto, a balance was essential. The team wanted to maintain what made Pikmin great, to ensure fans of the original games would be enthralled by the new sequel, while also providing a new avenue for newcomers curious about the adventure.

‘After thinking about it, I realised that we could do both,’ Miyamoto said. ‘We could retain the depth of gameplay that makes Pikmin so interesting, while providing the functional support to address the challenges around controls.’

The result of these discussions, and a push for more approachable gameplay, can now be seen in Pikmin 4, the long-awaited sequel that seemingly provides that coveted balance between rigorous gameplay, and freeform experimentation. In the GamesHub review, we called it a ‘a charming, challenging, and comprehensive expansion of the action strategy series.’

Pikmin 4 is out now for Nintendo Switch.

Pikmin 4 - Nintendo Switch
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09/25/2023 09:08 am GMT

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.