Friends, it turns out that Hidetaka Miyazaki and I are basically the same person. Both of us, when people like our work, react with a kind of pleased befuddlement. The Dark Souls director says he hasn't the foggiest why Elden Ring has been so successful, which is pretty much the same as when I used to be surprised by good marks for essays I wrote the night before the deadline. Kind of. A bit. Look, just let me have this.
Miyazaki was speaking at a Q&A session during the Playstation Partner Awards (via IGN (opens in new tab)) when he was asked to explain Elden Ring's phenomenal success (opens in new tab). Your guess is as good as his, apparently: Miyazaki said he hadn't "analysed it much," and that while "It’s true that sales were higher than those of [FromSoft's] previous games," he has "no idea what the reason was". Probably the pope turtle (opens in new tab).
It's probably for the best, because it sounds like Miyazaki is determined to keep directing games according to his own tastes, rather than cleaving to whatever seems popular. Miyazaki said he tries "not to think about it too much," because he reckons it'd "be a bad idea to analyse it deeply and to consciously try to replicate it in another game". So don't go expecting another big, open-world FromSoft game just because Elden Ring did so well.
In fact, Miyazaki seems absolutely determined not to let external factors influence the direction of his game design. The director said—in a lesson we should probably all take to heart—that he deliberately avoids being too exposed to player feedback. "It might affect my future decisions as a developer, which I find rather unsettling," said Miyazaki, so he tries to "avoid being directly exposed to too many opinions".
It's an eminently respectable philosophy, and one that seems better-suited to making novel and interesting games than design-by-focus-group. Still, I can't help but wonder how recently Miyazaki adopted this outlook. Dark Souls 3 in particular felt like it was made in direct response to the myriad criticisms that players threw at Dark Souls 2 in so many aspects that I struggle to believe Miyazaki hadn't engaged with feedback to some extent. Then again, maybe he just had someone to do that for him: talk about a bearer of the curse.