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Mario creator says he’s ‘retiring’ – sort of

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Shigeru Miyamoto

Shigeru Miyamoto is royalty in the video game world. There is no other game creator whose name instantly commands respect and awe — and to whom a company's fortune is so indebted.

Now, the man who created such classic franchises as Donkey Kong, Mario and The Legend of Zelda says he intends to step back from his current role to focus on more personal projects.

"Inside our office, I've been recently declaring, 'I'm going to retire, I'm going to retire,'" Miyamoto said in an interview with "I'm not saying that I'm going to retire from game development altogether. What I mean by retiring is, retiring from my current position. … What I really want to do is be in the forefront of game development once again myself. Probably working on a smaller project with even younger developers. Or I might be interested in making something that I can make myself, by myself. Something really small."

Miyamoto says he's not quitting the company, but rather intends to steer clear of games that have long development cycles. He will continue to act as a mentor to the company's stable of other developers.

[ Photos: Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword screenshots ]

Nintendo, perhaps fearing the investor backlash of a surprise Miyamoto retirement announcement, quickly denied the report, saying the comments were misconstrued. That didn't stop the company's stock from falling 2 percent in trading Thursday.

"This is absolutely not true," a Nintendo spokesperson told Reuters. "There seems to have been a misunderstanding. He has said all along that he wants to train the younger generation. He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned."

The denial somewhat confirmed the news, though, with Nintendo telling Bloomberg that  Miyamoto plans to spend less time in development and more time training the company's next generation of developers.

Miyamoto has been crucial to Nintendo's success over the past 30 years, having a hand in virtually every major hit game the company has released, from the arcade standard Donkey Kong to Super Mario 3 (which sold more than 18 million copies) to this year's critical hit The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Update 12/8/11: On Thursday morning, Nintendo issued the following statement expanding and clarifying its insistence that Miyamoto is not, in fact, retiring:

Video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto's role at Nintendo is not changing. He will continue to be a driving force in Nintendo's development efforts. In discussing his priorities at Nintendo in a media interview, Mr Miyamoto explained how he is encouraging the younger developers at the company to take more initiative and responsibility for developing software. He attempted to convey his priorities moving forward, inclusive of overseeing all video game development and ensuring the quality of all products. Mr Miyamoto also discussed his desire to pursue fresh ideas and experiences of the kind that sparked his initial interest in video games.

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