Nintendo, a 128-year-old Japanese company that got its start making playing cards before hitting it big with video games in the 1980s, is famously cautious and traditional, often to a fault. A right analog stick, HDTV, online gaming, and actually competent online gaming, are just some examples of things Nintendo stubbornly refused to adopt for years after each was proven to be the new standard.
But Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle Director Davide Soliani recently told IGN that Nintendo is actually “quite open-minded” to new ideas. All it takes to convince them is a bit of creative justification. That sounds simple, but it’s almost certainly not given how closely Nintendo has historically clutched its IPs and products to its chest.
That being said, Nintendo has certainly opened up a little more recently, with the most recent example being Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, a game that gives Mario and his supporting cast guns — guns! — and drops them into Xcom by way of the Mushroom Kingdom. So, how the hell did that happen? Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto challenged Ubisoft Milan to make a Mario game based on something other than jumping.
At this point, that almost sounds quaint. Sure, Mario’s main games are all about jumping. But Mario Kart, Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, Mario Tennis, Mario and Luigi, Mario Party, and a whole lot of other things with the word “Mario” in them have little-to-nothing to do with jumping. Nevertheless, Kingdom Battle is a particularly out there concept that it’s difficult to imagine the Nintendo of yesteryear greenlighting.
To wit, Soliani told IGN that giving Mario a gun was “not an easy topic” to discuss with Miyamoto. And yet, the designer quickly took to it given that Ubisoft Milan had a game concept that justified the Mushroom Kingdom gang operating firearms.
“Every time you are proposing something crazy to Nintendo, they are quite open-minded, but you need a good justification and a good logic to create something in the Mario universe,” explained Soliani.
For his part, Miyamoto told IGN “it’s ideal if we can get old characters to do new things,” but that Nintendo has “hesitancy and resistance” toward anyone who tries to be overbearing and “create new characters over and over again.”
Nintendo’s open-mindedness seems to have served it and Ubisoft well in the case of Kingdom Battle, which is enjoying a Metacritic score of 85 along with a generally positive fan reception.