Video Wiz All Business

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Apart from his Beatle haircut, the man behind the new blockbuster Mario video game doesn't exude a hint of arty zaniness.

Courteous, articulate and almost prim, Shigeru Miyamoto looks every bit the square Japanese company man that he is.

For a recent interview, he was pulled from a business meeting by an intercom voice asking for "Manager Miyamoto" that echoed through the staid, spotless corporate office of game giant Nintendo Co.

Bare of posters, mascots or other frills, the Nintendo headquarters in the ancient capital of Kyoto looks as removed from entertainment as the most serious of Japanese companies. Women in navy uniforms bow to greet visitors, and businessmen huddle around ashtrays.

Miyamoto fits in well with the Nintendo culture. Unlike his American eager-to-job-hop counterparts who tend to grumble about companies obsessed with their profit margins, he sees a big company as a blessing.

"I'm so glad I work for a toy maker," Miyamoto, 44, said with a smile. "I view the company as a patron and sponsor."

Miyamoto, who has been with Nintendo for 20 years, is one of the video game maker's top designers.

His latest product, Super Mario 64, had American parents trampling over each other at toy stores over Christmas. In just three months, the game sold more than 2 million copies worth $140 million in the United States.

The game with Nintendo's trademark plumber back-flipping, sliding and scuttling through multilayered, colorful chambers has wowed the critics. Some U.S. magazines are calling it the best video game ever.

The game runs on a new type of Nintendo machine that uses 64-bit computer technology. Bit size shows the amount of data a machine is able to handle.

The Super Mario is just the latest achievement for Miyamoto. His overall Mario series, including games for older machines, has sold a staggering 130 million copies worldwide.

With such rare talent for producing hit game after hit game, including Donkey Kong and the Legend of Zelda, both classics for game fans, Miyamoto could easily set off on his own.

But independence has its drawbacks, such as having to worry about the money side of business. At Nintendo, which Miyamoto joined right out of college, there is plenty of money for him to create his products.

Although he refused to disclose his salary, Miyamoto said he is satisfied because he lives simply. He commutes to work on a mountain bike. His favorite pastime is to play bluegrass tunes on his guitar.

"I consider myself a craftsman," Miyamoto said.

Miyamoto doesn't even keep a Mario game at home because it could make his two children, ages 8 and 10, neglect their homework or their household chores.

When asked to comment about his company's prized designer, Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi said gruffly, "Miyamoto is an employee of Nintendo, and I am the president of Nintendo, so I feel it's not appropriate to say how I feel about him."

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