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SEGA's Toshihiro Nagoshi on Super Monkey Ball's tight budget, F-Zero GX development and sales, Nintendo turning down Yakuza

Toshihiro Nagoshi has had a very long and successful career at SEGA. He's created numerous big-name games and long-running franchises, and continues to do so to this day. In an interview with EDGE, Nagoshi looked back on his past to discuss what it was like working on some of his most well-known projects.

Creating Super Monkey Ball

Around that time our CEO kept changing, and the newest one asked me why making games cost so much money. I told him we couldn't do it any cheaper, but at the same time I was quite upset about it. I decided to make a game with minimum resource, minimum time and minimum budget.

(...) Looking back, that's no way to work (laughs). But there are some huge fans of this game. When we gave up on making hardware, we knew the Gamecube was coming, and when it would be launched. We didn't think we had enough time to get a game ready for release day, but (...) Super Monkey Ball came to mind. I think we had ten people on the game, maybe less. We made it just in time somehow

Working on F-Zero GX for Nintendo

Compared to us, in the big picture, we are similar. But in the finer details - their decision-making and timing - things are different, and I learned a lot from them. In short, it's about objectivity. (...) It's hard to describe, but when I'd say about some part of the game, "It's okay like this, isn't it?" they'd say, "Our company does not allow this kind of thing. Ever." I didn't manage to change their minds about anything. Not even once. But that's why Nintendo has such a solid brand, even after all these years. That is why we lost the hardware war.

I really liked the Super Famicom game, and while we made a few proposals - Metroid for instance, and others - I was most confident in making a driving game because of my experience in the genre, though I'd never make a sci-fi one.

Even though we'd lost the war in the hardware market, I wanted Nintendo to see how great Sega was as a company. We made lots of characters and courses, and we did the best we could for the graphics using the best technology of the time.
Even though we'd tried really hard making games for Sega hardware, they never sold too well, but F-Zero sold over 1.5 M copies worldwide. We realised the only thing we needed to admit was that Sega did not have the ability to sell hardware (laughs). That as a developer (...) we did not need to be pessimistic at all.

After it released, I got a call from Nintendo. They said they wanted to see all the source code for the game, and wanted me to explain how we'd made that game, in that timeframe and with that budget, in detail. They were wondering how we'd done it - they couldn't figure it out. We were able to achieve something a lot higher than what Nintendo had expected.

Pitching Nintendo on Yakuza

I've never said this before, but while we released this game with Sony, I'd done presentations about it to Microsoft and Nintendo. Back then they said "No we don't want it." Now they say, "We want it!" (laughs) They didn't understand the reason why I created it.

Comments

Top Rated Comment
gakdudes
Mon Aug 13 18 09:19pm
Rating: 8

https://youtu.be/JzUeddOOv7k

https://youtu.be/figRSlg6gfg

There's 2 commercials. Do you get paid by the word or by the post, or is it an hourly thing? Some filip muicin level research might improve your posts.

His comments about F-Zero GX are very interesting. I loved that game. I'm surprised it sold 1.5 million copies. Nintendo did absolutely nothing to promote it. Like a lot of their smaller/lesser games on Gamecube, they were sent out to die. There was no TV advertising whatsoever. Sega actually bested Nintendo at their own game, I was so surprised. That series needs to come back. Even just release GX in HD and with online play, I'd settle for that. That's how little Nintendo care about the franchise and I'd be desperate to play it again.

gakdudes
Mon Aug 13 18 09:19pm
Rating: 8

https://youtu.be/JzUeddOOv7k

https://youtu.be/figRSlg6gfg

There's 2 commercials. Do you get paid by the word or by the post, or is it an hourly thing? Some filip muicin level research might improve your posts.

I finally just blocked him. Im not the nicest person myself but they are far too negative about everything I can't read the posts anymore.

I enjoy watching these types just to try figure out the psychology behind it. It's usually just simply money that drives it, I find. But maybe there's a history of trauma, or some interesting disorder, it's all very fascinating.

There were no TV ads in Europe, definitely none shown in Ireland. This might surprise you but there's a world outside of America. I wanted the game to succeed(I did my bit) but it seemed to flop and that's how it was reported. It happened with a lot of Gamecube games. Toshihiro says here that the game sold 1.5 million copies. That's news to me, because my memory is that it sold around half a million copies, it definitely didn't get anywhere near a million, and VGChartz say it sold 650,000 copies.

enthropy
Mon Aug 13 18 09:40pm
Rating: 1

Isn't it basically a fact by now that we can NOT trust VGChartz?

True, but it's the only site to give numbers for games back then. And actually, reading around a few threads, F-Zero GX sold even lower than 650,000. I see figures of 300,000 to 350,000 being quoted. I know it was definitely regarded as a flop. A critical hit in terms of reviews, but a dud sales wise. You also have to take into account that the Gamecube install base was low.

I don't think Toshihiro is a liar. He could be wrong, of course, but the 1.5 sales could be spot on. That they coded the game so good must have been a jab at Nintendo and specially Iwata back then (who was the guru on stuff like that).

The gamecube install base far from huge. It was an amazing console with some amazing games, like all Nintendo consoles, but them turning down Yakuza could have been the reason the actually funded Bayonetta 2, which is just good for everyone or else it would never have come to be!

If there was a world outside of America wouldn't they have made a commercial for them? With cash flow being so tight in the game cube days they had to put their money where they'd get the most return, which unfortunate for you was not Ireland. However whatever form of advertising they did use obviously worked on you as you purchased the product. Given that it was a futuristic racer on Game cube I'd say those sales are a successful vindication of their marketing.

It wasn't advertising that got me to buy the game. I've been a lifelong Nintendo fan(right back to the NES and SNES), bought all their consoles at launch, except the NES as I was too young. I read magazines back then and the trawled net, the latter of which I still do to this day. Magazines have largely died out and are too late with the news these days, though they do have some interesting articles, reviews and bits and pieces. The Gamecube is still probably my favourite console to this day, I've close to 100 games for it.

100 gamecube games! Pics or it didn't happen. Advertising of some form got you to buy the game or you would not have known about it to buy. Egm and Nintendo power were just fancy ads man.

Advertising and reviews are not one in the same. There are tons of games I bought in the GC era based solely on reviews in old Nintendo magazines. Advertising is all about controlling the message- once the product is out to an impartial reviewer to dissect, the resulting review is not a commercial (unless the review is paid for), no matter how positive.

Are you trying to say that the free review copies sent out are not budgeted under marketing expenses? Of course its marketing, dont fool yourself. If it wasn't you would see a lot more average rates games, not 8s or higher for the majority.

Are you saying that every reviewer who receives a free copy of a game automatically reviews it favourably?

Nope, but that doesn't particularly matter. Publicity is publicity. Why else would they send out a free copy and charge it to marketing? If a reviewer was known to give out 5s to most games do you think he would continue to get free copies?

Do you really think I'm going to dig out all my Gamecube games and take photos for someone who's been so obnoxious towards me? I don't have to prove anything. As I've said, I'm a lifelong Nintendo fan, I own a tonne of their hardware and software. My collection would dwarf most people here and I try not to think about how much I've spent on them over the years. It's easily in the 5 figures bracket.

gakdudes
Tue Aug 14 18 09:21am
Rating: 1

Settle down, it was a joke.

But I am interested to see your 5 figure collection. You should set up a Nintendo room and take a pic.

kezay
Tue Aug 14 18 12:50pm
Rating: 1

This was a beautiful pimp smack of a reply to him, good show! Granted he had to retreat to the "but what about Europe" response but Nintendo did openly advertise the game outside of print in their two strongest markets. That's not to say Europe didn't need it either but he pretty much got caught with his pants down straight up asserting that Nintendo did nothing at all for it.

Moving on...

But yeah, I remember at least one F-Zero GX commercial which was the first one you posted. I don't remember ever catching the second one, but yeah Nintendo did actually put some marketing muscle behind it. Glad to hear that it managed to sell pretty well in the end.

I am still 100% sure that the GC version will hit the Switch online service. It would be the perfect game to show it off! But not from the start!

The whole YAkuza thing saddens me. But damn the Switch will be the only console with the Bayonetta trilogy! Guess they learned some from their mistakes!

The more I learn about Yakusa the less I want it on Switch. It looks good and probably plays good, but I'm just quickly losing interest in caring about playing it.

enthropy
Tue Aug 14 18 08:04pm
Rating: 1

But on the other side there are people who want it on the Switch. The more (good) games, the better, not?

Mon Aug 13 18 10:58pm
Rating: 2 (Updated 1 time)

Hiroshi Yamauchi did a TON of great things as president of nintendo. between him and Iwata nintendo has become what it is today...but man he was bad to third parties. Iwata was and kirishima is still cleaning up his mess with them

Oh lord, please get these guys to make another F-Zero game Nintendo

Unfortunately Amusement Vision, the team that made F-Zero GX are no more.

Gx sold a million? Does that mean it sold well? If so, why is there no fzero?

Here's a list of observations and answers given by Nintendo

Nintendo has a limited amount of development studios and a mountain of games to make, some that are needed to keep the business running, some that have dedicated teams and many more that are harder to get greenlit for various reasons
Nintendo for better or worse always tries to bring new things to the table for each new game and can't think of much else for a new F-Zero other than making F-Zero GX2
Nintendo have tried on multiple occassions to get a new F-Zero game into development but external studios were unwilling
The Success of F-Zero GX gave Nagoshi free reign so he started development on Yakuza and never looked back

That's all I could think of

This is why there is no F Zero;

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-06-23-nintendo-asked-burnout-dev-to-make-wii-u-f-zero

Plus the lack of sales of Wii U didn't help its case.

F-zero gx sold 100 981 copies
https://web.archive.org/web/20080409074438/http://www.japan-gamecharts.com/gc.php

The only thing I've found for the other territories is that :
https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/560617-f-zero-gx/44170908
250k for europe and NA, but I search the sources on the wikipédia page of f-zero gx and the source that said the game sold 250k was an article about mortal kombat deadly alliance...
If f-zero gx sold more than 1million their will be an article or something online.

rickola
Tue Aug 14 18 07:09am
Rating: 1 (Updated 1 time)

https://www.gonintendo.com/stories/315725-sega-s-toshihiro-nagoshi-on-super-monkey-ball-s-tight-budget-f-z

This is a pretty good source to cite, the games Producer said that F-Zero (GX) sold over 1.5 M copies worldwide

Nintendo and Capcom aren't the only companies in the entire industry reporting numbers in the entire industry, and even then they were a bit nitpicky before Switch. Of course no one reported on numbers, there were none officially given before today. Plus, it's not surprising that those are the Japanese sales. F Zero never held any weight in Japan, it was designed for America to begin with. And Gamefaqs isn't a much better sales source over VGChartz. Even Wikipedia, which I am pretty trusting of, isn't that great for sales. If one of the production leads of the game says this is what it sold, one of the leaders of SEGAs game division no less, Is say they are pretty official

nathatruc
Tue Aug 14 18 03:36pm
Rating: 1

I found it funny that in 15 years nintendo never said anything about fzer gx's sales number.
And you can found nintendo annual reports her :
https://www.nintendo.com/corp/annual_report.jsp
In the 2006 annual reports they list the millions sellers for this year.

And what I was saying about the sale number is that the only report we had in 15 years was the famitsu's report I posted in my other post. And about gamefaqs what I tried to say is that the 250k numbers that what posted there was surely wrong qince there isn't any official numbers.

Why nintendo never said that f-zero gx sold 1.5 millions and always implied that fzero gx was a failure.
And I'm happy that fzero gx sold 1.5million, I just found it odd that it took 15years to finally get the sales numbers

I would assume that is mainly because of SEGA's involvement, but it also could have been because sales occurred over a long period of time/

I bet if Iwata-san was acting President during the Nintendo GameCube Era, it would've seen more success and the Nintendo Wii would've been even more impressive with 3rd Parties. And goodness the way he's sorta ripping on SEGA for their shortcomings. ūü§≠

If Iwata led that consoles development over Yamauchi, I think a lot less stupid decisions would have been made. A lot of Iwara first years as president were spent attempting to salvage relations with third parties, if Iwata had been in charge earlier maybe third parties would have been treated with more respect earlier and maybe the console would have actually known its direction. Unlike Yamauchi, it seemed that Iwata actually respected third parties and didn't see them as some tool, probably because he had (third party) development background himself.

Exactly, plus the extra time spent on the Nintendo GameCube could've gave the Nintendo Wii more development or whatever to more ambitious I suppose. Love all them both though.

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