Nintendo’s chief executive took some time after Tuesday’s press conference to talk to me about the kind of thinking that led to the creation of his company’s upcoming “Wii U” console.
In the interview that follows, Satoru Iwata talks about how the Wii U will end living room battles over who gets to use the TV and what Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto demanded from the device.
I had a chance to play with the Wii U yesterday and it’s really intriguing. The thing that surprises me the most is that it seems like yet another paradigm shift from Nintendo. What are the key points you wanted to address in creating this concept?
We really want to change the structure of home entertainment. As you know, by now, home console video games have been wholly dependent upon home TVs. In other words, without home TV sets, we could not play video games at home. And we thought, “What if we were able to be independent from the TV?”
Then we came to think about the possibility of adding the second screen. And then we started thinking about that kind of possibility, and the mass potential it would provide for us. So far, we have been able to showcase only a glimpse of the total possibility Wii U will be able to provide. This product is slated for next year, not this year. Closer to the timing of the launch, I think we will be able to showcase a lot more.
Another thought behind that is thinking in terms of how busy people’s everyday lives are today. I thought we definitely need this kind of structure of entertainment. Otherwise it’s going to be difficult for our new console and device to be melded into the daily lives of consumers, naturally.
So you’re saying there needs to be an option to separate away from the living room, that it allows people to continue their game experience or have it on their own schedule on their own terms?
Well, for example, we are not saying we can get away from the living room at all. What I’m saying is that we shall be less dependent on the home TV set; more specifically, the images and all the others are processed within the inside of the console of the Wii U, not in the controller. So, for example, you cannot just take away the controller and continue playing.
It’ll have a range that it works within, then?
Yes. A certain range. Also, it is possible for you to be in a separate room from the living room where the console of the Wii U will be located. However, dependent upon the thickness, for example, of the wall, we cannot tell if you will be able to smoothly play on that.
Yeah, obviously, that’s going to vary. The other thing that struck me when looking at the device yesterday and the controller, was streaming possibilities from the unit to the controller. Is that something you guys would be willing to explore, like not just games but other kinds of entertainment?
Yeah, of course. [With current technology,] there are a number of opportunities for us to be able to see the videos and images while they stream but in most cases today they are not utilizing that with interactivity. In other words, most people often utilize that kind of technology in order to view photos and videos, et cetera.
Most specifically, in most of these devices, you are supposed to have 0.5 seconds to 1 second of latency, but that is too long to be able to play video games. So first of all, that is actually one of the first missions we had to tackle, to solve that kind of latency issue. I think you have already experienced some of the demonstrations by now. You probably have noticed that we have already solved that kind of latency.
Of course, this is supposed to be a video game machine so that you can play a video game. But at the same time, you may want to see a situation where your mom or your wife, they want to see some video stream from the console in the kitchen.
So that capability will be there. Okay. The other thing that surprised me was when I played Shield Pose, it was a little bit of a conceptual adjustment because it’s not augmented reality but rather it’s like a portable game world. Do you think you are going to try and stress such implementation for internally developed games?
Well first of all, the person who has strongly demanded that such mechanisms are motion sensing, controlling mechanisms such as gyroscopes, that’s Mr. Miyamoto. Also, in the home console video game we just cannot move the TV set very easily.
But on the contrary, when we are able to add the second screen, of course, we will be able to move that. And Mr. Miyamoto was the first to notice that there’s got to be enormous potential for entertainment. So far there’s got to be, I believe, certain boundaries separating, for one thing, the home console video game.
This idea is specifically for the hand-held game. But with the launch of the Wii U, those kinds of boundaries are going to be disappearing. Including that, we would like to offer some new structure of entertainment.
Another question is why isn’t the controller screen 3D? Since you guys have already successfully implemented it glasses-free, in a smaller format, what was the thinking of keeping it off of the Wii U?
We have a separate mission with Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. Of course, there are some TV sets with the capability to show the 3D available today but it’s not dominating yet. Of course, you may want to say now that you have the second screen and you have the 3D technology with Nintendo 3DS, however after all, that kind of experience we can explore over the existing Nintendo 3DS machine. As I said, we are trying to make a new structure of home entertainment and because we are trying to make something unprecedented, we just wanted to focus on something different.
Don’t overcomplicate it. I know you guys aren’t talking about retail offerings yet, but will the controller be available a la carte if you want to add a separate one into your home experience? Is it going to be an additive proposition or will it just be one bound per unit?
First of all, for the SKU, we believe that one controller, the new controller, has got to be included in the package whenever we are going to sell the Wii U console. And as you can guess, this new controller for Wii U is going to cost more than the other controller does, and that’s why, most often, our focus on the software shall be the ones that can be enjoyed with the one Wii U controller.
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