Solved: If Miyamoto Never Said His Most Famous Quote, Who Did?
"A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad" is a quote often attributed to Miyamoto, but where's it really from?
In a Half-Life 25th anniversary documentary that launched this weekend, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell paraphrases a decades-old bit of gaming industry wisdom, saying, “Late is just for a little while, suck is forever.’ Right?”
This quote is often attributed to Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto — who famously led the development of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend Of Zelda — in a variation that goes:
“A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad. “
But when I tried locating the source of this quote, the earliest I could find it attributed to Miyamoto wasn’t an interview, but a 2003 Usenet post complaining about Rebellion’s first person shooter Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death, of all things.
And in a 2001 Usenet post it’s instead attributed to the offices of Blizzard:
While a 1998 Usenet poster wasn’t sure whether it came from Nintendo or Rare:
This was not a good sign. Even worse, the further back we go, the more varied the phrasing of the quote becomes.
Thankfully, this is where our earliest print source comes in — five months before the earliest mention on Usenet. In the June 1998 issue of Gamefan, a version the quote that’s very similar to the common “Miyamoto” variation shows up, but it’s not Miyamoto who says it. It’s GT Interactive senior producer Jason Schreiber talking about Unreal, the namesake of the Unreal Engine:
And normally we might call that case closed. But when I tweeted about this in 2019, I got an interesting lead from Sean Howe — author of fantastic non-fiction books like Marvel Comics: The Untold Story — who spotted a variation of this quote in a GDC transcript from 1996:
After playing around with Google Books’ very limited Snippet View for awhile, I eventually learned that it was said by Ellen Guon, who attributed it to her significant other. However, I could not find contact info for either of them, and decided to leave the mystery here.
Until last year, when film editor Javed L Sterritt was so determined to find the source of the quote that he tweeted:
I figured I was about 95% of the way there, I just needed contact Ellen Guon’s significant other. While tweeting about my latest attempts, a mutual pointed out to me that the reason I’ve been having trouble finding her is that she’s since transitioned and changed her name to Siobhan Beeman. This is such a not-uncommon occurrence in the gaming industry that, honestly, anytime I can’t find someone and there’s no obituary, I assume they’ve simply transitioned.
Thanks to this new lead, I was able to get in contact with Beeman and ask about that GDC panel, and she confirmed: “To the best of my recollection I came up with that phrasing. The sentiment certainly existed in the industry, especially at places like Origin.” Beeman was the project director at Origin from 1989 to 1992.
Of course, the greatest form of confirmation would be if we could find a period document with the exact phrasing from that time. Because while the 1996 GDC talk is pretty close, even Beeman can sometimes misremember what the exact phrasing was. In an Origin retrospective from 2005 spotted by fellow historian Ethan Johnson of History Of How We Play, Beeman recalled the motto at Origin was:
“A game’s only late until it ships, but it sucks forever.”
Or maybe Gabe Newell wasn’t that far off.
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