HAL Labs on their relationship with Nintendo, their long-lasting success, the key to Kirby's appeal

A portion of a World Folio interview with Masayoshi Tanimura, Chairman and CEO of HAL Laboratory...

WF: Since the 1980’s, you have closely collaborated with Nintendo, being one of the most famous and recognized game conceivers across decades of different gaming consoles. How would you describe your long-lasting relationship with Nintendo?

MT: Before HAL Laboratory was founded, one of the first personal computers created, the Commodore 2001, was being sold at a store in Japan. In that store, several college students, who would eventually become part of HAL Laboratory, used to hang out and spend their time. These students were tech savvies, always curious to know how this kind of machinery functioned.

At a time where there was no disclosure about internal contents or know-how, they were able to hack the computer and figure out its internal system. This tech-savvy crew set up HAL Laboratory. From the start, we had a group of people who were technically capable and who understood internal computer mechanics. Luckily, the CPU used for the Commodore 2001 was similar to the one used for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), which opened the door to our partnership with Nintendo. This anecdote goes to show that our collaboration with Nintendo is something historical, and over the years, we have established a mutual relationship of trust based on collaboration.

However, I want to make clear that HAL Laboratory and Nintendo are two different companies. Our customers are often confused as to our relationship, and tend to wrongfully assume HAL Laboratory to be a part of Nintendo. HAL Laboratory is a secular and independent company, both in terms of management and corporate culture.

WF: 2015 marked the 35th anniversary of HAL Laboratory. Since 1980, you have been releasing record-breaking games with the likes of Kirby or the Super Smash Bros series. These successes have crossed decades and generations. What are the foundations of this incredible longevity?

MT: What we care about most is making our customers happy with our products. I use the word “happiness”, as this should not be confused with “satisfaction”. In fact, I would like to clarify that matter. At HAL Laboratory, we believe that happiness and customer satisfaction are two separate concepts. On one hand, a person can be satisfied by obtaining materialistic objects or winning an abundance of money, but not necessarily happy about it. On the other hand, some people have nothing, or very little, but live in a state of happiness. There is an index for measuring consumer satisfaction. However, the happiness that a game brings to you is not something you can calculate; it’s something you have to culturally install and be internally dedicated to.

WF: Your latest feature, Kirby Planet Robobot, surpassed in June 2016 the 300,000 sales unit. Could you tell us what makes this game stand out and be different from others in the market?

MT: The key to the Kirby series’ success is that we are not developing towards a specific target audience. We try to make our games enjoyable for beginners and experienced players alike. Regardless of age, gender, nationality or background, we are developing games that everybody can play.

I sometimes like to compare our games with the sensation of pressing bubble wrap paper; because people simply enjoy pressing it! We want our customers to have fun when playing our games. That’s the big principle guiding us. For this particular title, I would highlight the tremendous effort we have invested in the making process, the attention to detail, and the various levels of difficulty.

Categories: Interviews, Consoles, Portables
Tags: kirby, hal


Kirby is like bubble wrap. Something about that comparison is so innocent and adorable. Just like Kirby himself.

Besides Kirby, the only new thing they did is Boxboy....and, they aren't involved in Smash anymore.

Also I'm a bit ticked at the article here...not one single mention of the times they spent with Iwata-San or of Masahiro Sakurai's disappearance. I get that its hinted that they had friends that formed Hal but Iwata-San was one of them and the most important one considering that he saved Hal from bankruptcy. And Sakurai-San for creating Kirby.

That said, well done Hal! I do admit that happiness and satisfaction are two different things entirely.

I feel like HAL is currently undergoing an identity shift. Iwata left long ago and Sakurai shortly after Smash made its way around. With the games they're known for going to other sources, I feel like Box Boy was an attempt to find the new HAL amongst the shift within Nintendo.

If you're implying that Hal will make games for Sony and Microsoft, that might not happen since Nintendo owns Kirby and Kirby is what makes Hal what it is now.

Now I do need to get into Box Boy and see how that compares to Kirby though.

That's... Not what I was saying (nor implying) at all. Just saying they may feel like they need to be known for something again. Smash, as we all know, were all considered one of HAL's greater creations. And with the creators moving and changing, I feel they may want to gain a fresher identity within their own company.

Oh sorry...my bad.

But if that's the case, they might be able to make Mario RPGs?

Sat Feb 18 17 01:10am
(Updated 1 time)

Oh and Hal wouldn't have made it this far if Nintendo didn't offer them a helping hand to begin with.

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