Microsoft Game Studios' GM discusses Rare's work for Nintendo's dominant handheld

Spencer: DS development can aid our design skills

Phil Spencer, the general manager of Microsoft Game Studios, has told Develop that he’s letting Rare work on a DS version of Viva Pinata as it helps MGS "maintain design innovation" talents.

His comments come in the second part of an in-depth interview discussing the format-holder’s publishing division’s work with studios around the world, both internal and independent.

Rare announced its DS version of Viva Pinata at the San Diego Comic Con in July with the originally Xbox-exclusive IP heading to a Nintendo format.

"Rare has a history in making handheld games, and titles for Nintendo platforms. When we acquired the studio that expertise was there and the team was there. As Microsoft we had a discussion – do we want to build that expertise? We decided yes," explained Spencer.

"Not so much because we need to support Nintendo – their platform will do fine without us – but because it is important for us to build that experience as a publisher and game developer and understand what it means to build lightweight, maybe shorter session experiences, and maintain that design innovation."

Although MGS doesn’t publish on the DS, only develop games for the format – publishing is handled by third party partners in the industry that have established publishing relations with Nintendo – Spencer said the whole industry, including Microsoft, has a lot to learn from the shorter-session games that the DS and Wii have introduced to games.

He said: "You realise that there is a sensibility that comes from those shorter, arcade experiences that’s different from the BioShocks and the Halos of the world – it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. These games ask players what they feel like doing right now and how much time they have to play."

Added Spencer: "It might play out in handheld today and it might play out on Xbox Live Arcade later on; there are a lot similarities between handheld games and Xbox Live Arcade games and you see some XBLA games have a history in that space.

"So for us it was about looking at what state of the art game design might be in future and asking if we want to be part of that, regardless of what platform it’s on. We said yes, because we have the expertise in the studio today and its an expertise that we want to nurture. One of the ways to do that was build DS games. Rare has also built Live Arcade games, and I think in future you will see them both those platforms and generally innovate in general."

Part two of the MGS interview can be read here.

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