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How a Slacker Became Nintendo’s Chief Ambassador

There’s a method to Nintendo’s magic, and Kensuke Tanabe is in charge of teaching it.

While other companies often start by creating massive design documents that detail minute aspects of a videogame’s characters and levels, Nintendo produces rapid prototypes. The company creates, tweaks and refines a gameplay mechanic until it is fun and appealing, often spending many months in these very early phases.

“We prototype intensely in the beginning, until we find that core mechanic that really seals the deal,” says Tanabe, a producer at Nintendo’s home office in Kyoto, Japan. Even after that, Nintendo will change and refine games very late in the production process.

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