Nintendo has revealed its new gaming console, the "Wii", currently scheduled for release within 2006. Nintendo has redesigned its traditional game controller, introducing a new user interface that allows players to control characters by moving the controller up/down or left/right and activating an acceleration sensor. Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo, shared his thoughts with us on his ambitions for the "Wii"; revolutionizing gaming console user interfaces in the wake of the highly successful "Nintendo DS".(Interviewers: Naoki Asami, ITpro Publisher, and Hiroki Yomogita, Silicon Valley)
Q: What led you to place emphasis on the user interface?
Iwata: Nintendo has spent several years tackling the question of how to increase the number of users who will enjoy playing games. Being a techie myself, I have no intention to discredit the importance of technology. Yet I was concerned that improving the graphical quality any further would not lead to more people playing games. This led us to focus on the user interface.
Q: Wasn't changing a 20-year-old controller design a bold decision for you?
Iwata: The current design for game controllers was determined by Nintendo, so some of our staff disagreed with changing it. Yet after some hands-on time with the prototypes, we knew we had a working formula. That is why I declared at last year's E3 that revolutionary interfaces will bring change to future games.
A Multitude of Prototypes
Q: Was the going rough or smooth while deciding on the current design?
Iwata: We initiated research on the elemental technology around 3 years ago, and had formed a task force team 2 years ago. Our software and hardware teams held joint discussions each week to explore possibilities. Interface tweaking is different from optimizing performance, for the former is largely subjective, and calls for actual testing. We created a multitude of prototypes.
Q: Why does your controller have a speaker?
Iwata: This feature was absent from the prototype a year ago – we introduced it fairly recently. We discussed what type of feedback the games should provide the user with. Households sporting 5.1 channel speakers will certainly be able to enjoy realistic sound, yet not all homes have such audio equipment. Adding a speaker to the controller will enable us, for example, to have it emit sound effects when hitting the ball in ping-pong, tennis or golf games.