Miyamoto: The Wii U GamePad Gives Us Advantages over Tablets, Smartphones

I spoke with Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto by phone earlier this week in a broad-ranging interview about the Wii U as well as his approach to game design. This is part one.

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Nintendo

Forget Nintendo’s lackluster January console sales, forget worries about dwindling interest in game consoles in general — Shigeru Miyamoto clearly believes in the Wii U, and he’s thinking well beyond its appeal to traditional gamers. The man whose iconic video game franchises — Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Pikmin and more – have for decades inspired the games industry views the Wii U’s sui generis GamePad as the Wii U’s saving grace, arguing that its synchronous streaming technology should insulate it from the tablet/smartphone threat while fundamentally reconceptualizing the decades-old viewing/playing dynamic in living rooms.

I spoke with Miyamoto by phone earlier this week in a broad-ranging interview about the Wii U as well as his approach to game design. This is part one; part two is here.

What part of the Wii U’s hardware do you find the most inspiring and why?

From a gameplay perspective, what interests me most are the new types of play you can create using the Wii U GamePad as either a second or fifth screen when you’re playing split-screen multiplayer.

At the same time, one of the other things I find particularly interesting is, it used to be that when you were playing you had to choose whether you would use the television to watch TV or play games. With Wii U and the Wii U GamePad you can do both at the same time. Similarly, there used to be particular activities that you would perform on your computer, like browsing the Internet, and you would have these different functionalities or features that you would use different devices for. But with Wii U and the Wii U GamePad you can now bring these together in one device, and I think that’s ultimately going to make your TV, when it’s connected to Wii U, a more useful thing in the household.

I asked this of Cindy Gordon in September, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. The Wii U GamePad as a secondary screen seems to have been inspired by the Nintendo DS. In fact I’ve sometimes referred to it as a DS snapped in two.

Well certainly because Wii U has that second screen you can apply some of the ideas that we’ve brought to life on the DS and bring those to Wii U, but I don’t think it would be correct to say DS is where the Wii U idea originally came from.

One of the things I think is particularly unique about Wii U is that up until now, game consoles in the home haven’t been able to function unless the TV was turned on and set to display the game console. With Wii U, our primary goal was to create a game console that functioned regardless of whether the TV was on. With the Wii U GamePad’s second screen, the Wii U itself can be used in the living room without the TV on, which allowed us to bring the sort of applications we’ve seen on Nintendo DS, or just the know-how we’ve developed in building games for Nintendo DS, to Wii U. It’s also allowed us to bring some of the ideas that we introduced with the Game Boy Advance-to-GameCube connectivity to the console.

You could also phrase it as saying the screen that everyone watches together is the television screen, whereas the screen that an individual can watch and interact with is simply the Wii U GamePad screen.

Let’s talk about the Wii U system updates. The Wii U launched with interface issues and missing applications, including slow load times for native apps. Why weren’t the slow load times caught before release, and why is the update to improve system performance taking until spring?

It’s a tough question, certainly, but I think it’s also an accurate observation. For Wii U in particular I would say that in preparing the system for launch, it was a project on an unparalleled scale for Nintendo. We had multiple different teams working on multiple different segments of the hardware and its features simultaneously. Certainly we’d had experience with that type of development designing the 3DS, but with Wii U the scope of the project was far beyond our development of the 3DS hardware. And with many of those features, you don’t get a true sense for how they interact or where the advantages and disadvantages lie within the broader framework until you’re able to bring all the components together into a single unified system.

Even during the testing phase, it’s difficult to ascertain what facets of those interactions between the applications are resulting in inconveniences for the consumer until you have an opportunity for many people and lots of consumers to try these features out — to understand how they’re using those features and what they’re doing as they’re switching between them. Since the system was released, we’ve spent a great deal of time looking at how people are using it and where they feel it can be improved, and we’re currently continuing out preparations for this first major system update that’s coming. What we want to do is make sure that when we release it, that we address as many of the different opinions about how people would like to see the system improve as we can at once. We hope to cover a wide range of requests while simultaneously ensuring it’s a very stable update to the system.

Do you anticipate a significant performance upgrade to the Wii U interface itself?

We think that by this summer, the system is going to be very much improved over how it’s performing currently. Of course when it comes to the actual hardware, those decisions have already been finalized, and one of the things we focused on in making those decisions was the speed of the connection between the Wii U system and the Wii U GamePad. We strongly feel the transfer speed between those two devices is so strong that it’s not something that can necessarily be achieved by other devices that haven’t been designed specifically with that in mind. So as we get into these other system-based updates, our anticipation is that because of the amount of effort we’ve dedicated to the GamePad’s wireless connection to the hardware, these additional improvements are going to make for an overall device that’s even more convenient to use.

You’ve said that the most important thing about the Wii U for you is that it could become the first screen families interact with in the living room. Do you see Wii U becoming the default living room interface? For more than TV and gaming?

Yes, I do think Wii U is going to become a place where people can go to get their overall entertainment in the living room. Certainly there are other devices that are designed with very specific uses in mind, and they might be good at those particular uses. But for people who are looking for a single device that can really meet all their needs in the living room, I think that with everything Wii U can do, people are going to find that it is the one device they’re going to want to have connected in their living room to access all their entertainment.

How worried are you about the elephants already sharing the room with the Wii U, meaning tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices along with set-top boxes from players like Roku and Apple?

I look at it from two different angles. One is how you can use a device like Wii U — to make an experience that up until now has happened on a single screen — into a better and more convenient experience. And I think that the Wii Street U powered by Google application we’ve recently released for Wii U is an example of how we’ve taken an existing application and really enhanced it through the use of Wii U and the GamePad.

I think the other goes back to, as I was mentioning before, the response time between the streaming of visuals from the Wii U hardware simultaneously to the TV and to the GamePad. Certainly from an interactive standpoint, when it comes to interactive content, because of the strength of that streaming capability of Wii U, my feeling is that the more you start to see other devices that are integrating connectivity with smartphones or tablets through special applications, the more that that’s simply going to illustrate the benefits of having Wii U because of the advantages it has in terms of its interactive elements and how the system streams graphics to the Wii U GamePad screen.

As people are using the system and getting familiar with everything it can do and really learning how to use Wii U and the GamePad, I think the last remaining hurdle for Wii U becomes one of storage in terms of being able to store media. But since we’ve designed the system in a way that allows people to simply add the amount of storage media they need to supplement Wii U, we think it essentially gives people the greatest flexibility within a single device to really make the most of their entertainment in the living room.

MORE: Miyamoto: I Couldn’t Have Imagined Where We’ve Ended Up

35 comments
PatrickOwens
PatrickOwens

The load times are hardly even an issue, after the recent update, I don't think they're even ten seconds. The only time I have noticed lag on the gamepad is when I'm in the bathroom with the door closed 30 feet away from the system. Even then, the games are still playable which is awesome (having dual band wireless n with a range extender is the best).

My primary concern with the Wii U is the short battery life of the gamepad, I may end up buying Nyko's improved battery pack. The 3-4 hours of battery life would not be an issue if I could use the Wii U Pro controller or Wii remote for Netflix and other apps. I would like to see Nintendo implement the ablity to use the system with the gamepad being turned off (not just the display turned off). The Wii U Pro Controller and Wii Remotes should be usable for all applications (except of course games that require the gamepad).

The ability to play games while my wife watches TV is a very nice feature and I thank Nintendo for the feature. Sony's remote play with the Vita is a joke, the lag is horrendous and hardly any games support it. As far as graphics/specs go, I think the system is more than capable and I have a gaming pc rig (best of both worlds). You buy a Nintendo console to play Nintendo games, duh. Sony and Microsoft don't have much of anything to offer I can't get on the PC. I sold my 500 gb PS3 and Vita to help finance building my PC and getting the Wii U.

strykers82
strykers82 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wow.  The wiiu is amazing.  There is so much controller integration that I like about the system.  Its not as limited as the xbox and playstation consoles.  Just wait for E3!  It will be amazing.  Also please sign dark souls 2 wii u petition to have dark souls on wii u.  It will be nice http://www.change.org/petitions/dark-souls-ii-for-the-nintendo-wiiu

DavidDixon
DavidDixon

@strykers82 I signed the petition months ago. It's just not moving. I think someone should get a big YouTube personality to push this thing.

AlexanderTrust
AlexanderTrust

Actually I have to say that Miyamoto is eliding the fact that the Wii and the 3DS both are using an OS similar to the one used with the Wii U. The GUI is in part the same. So it's their fault not to have anticipated what could have happened. It's just an alibi to say they could not have checked it under real conditions. This is only true for the online gaming and networking performance but everything else is not affected whether one user uses the console or millions all over the world do. They simpley were not ready at all but had to react because the numbers of Wii sales started to drop.

FCastelli
FCastelli

It's because of these lack of functionality that many people don't see its full potential


JustinJackson
JustinJackson

I really like my WiiU. People tend to forget that it took Microsoft awhile to get Halo on 360 or it took Sony awhile to get Uncharted. WiiU's Modern Warefare is really good. They had the newest Tekken! Anyway we will see if nextbox and ps4 will have 100 games that everyone seems to be expecting.

Oh and I will be honest, I really don't like touch screen only games. This fad of the IOS Gold rush (and it is a developer gold rush) is getting old. If all the developers decided to just release crap for touch devices only I will just go PC only.

11eleven11
11eleven11

WiiU is the first console I own, and I am impressed with it's performance. I bought it just for the potential it has to become the center of family home entertainment and I think Nintendo is on good track to succeed in it. What I would like to see in the upgrade is to give the gamepad capability to learn functions from other remote controls, and a nice and stable media player. I have no doubt the new games will be awesome.

AdanVC
AdanVC like.author.displayName 1 Like

Nice article. It's nice to know that Nintendo is working hard in making a nice and polished update. I'm REALLY excited to see what's coming for Nintendo in terms of games in the future, right now looking forward for playing Pikmin 3.

mikehellings
mikehellings like.author.displayName 1 Like

Wii U is good. No huge jump from Wii. The Wii U game pad is junk when compared to an iPad in battery life and screen resolution. I have kids and I who love nintendo games like mario and zelda but. The gaming TV is not our main big TV that would never work and we have found that multi-person games on the multiple ipads using air share to our TVs ( MORE THEN 1) beats the wii U hands down. We also tried to purchase and download a game through the wiiU it failed and it took 3 days over a fast internet home connection. Nintendo makes GREAT GAMES on ok hardware time to dump the hardware its only there for content protection.  Mario on the iPad would make BILLIONS! 


janezk7
janezk7

@mikehellings haha..  i respect other peoples opinions... but no huge jump from wii? .. that made me lol..

also did this guy JUST SUGGEST a nintendo game to be played without BUTTONS ??

element187
element187

@mikehellings anyone who says the Wii u is no large leap over the Wii has no idea what they are talking about..... The Wii u is several times faster than the PS3 and Xbox 360... So that means the xbox360 and ps3 is an even smaller jump from the original Wii.

Good know. I think it's safe to dismiss anything you will ever say.

element187
element187

@mikehellings The Wii u is several times faster than the PS3 and Xbox 360... So that means the xbox360 and ps3 is an even smaller jump from the original Wii *according to mikehellings.

nuttyriv3r
nuttyriv3r

@mikehellings Deep pockets and no cents. You are talking around a $1000 difference in hardware. That had better beat Wii U hands down, and I doubt it does simply because there aren't console quality games on iOS, and a touch interface as the primary control scheme is still hokey. Nintendo as always leads the bleeding edge in gaming innovation - many Miracast solutions are coming to market this year. They probably aren't as concerned about profits as shareholders would like, but continue to bolster their legendary status. Miyamoto and Iwata are right...people just need to buy the thing. It changes your living room entertainment paradigm for the better. Maybe not for the enthusiast, but for the rest of the commoners. ;)

element187
element187

@nuttyriv3r @mikehellings I love my ipad but sorry, the weak tegra video card and weak arm processor will never be able to match the performance and visual fidelity of the Wii U... The Wii u is sporting a modern Radeon (6000 series) that is fully DX11 capable (tessalation)

mikehellings
mikehellings

@nuttyriv3r @mikehellings  Again see my other posts. Deep pockets would refer to buying the ipad for just gaming and it does much more and mine were not purchased for gaming at all. Nintendo is behind the curve on technology as THEY JUST GOT HD  and are still on a DVD media platform! There are many third party joy pad adapters for the apple mobile devices that improve the gaming controls. Going to be a long time before you can phone call on a wii U. You can get a NEW ipad mini for same price as wii U. Why dont you go out and try an apple device with AIRSHARE on an appletv so you understand what I am talking about. Whole wiiu thing smacks of the virtual boy of which I have. Trying not to feed the trolls but to inform. 

nuttyriv3r
nuttyriv3r

@mikehellings @nuttyriv3r Point taken, man. Just think it's apples and oranges to compare iPads and Wii Us. I think the bigger problem right now is that the games are too expensive on any console, and games on Google Play and the App Store are too inexpensive. The consumer is ping ponged and confused - and profits are suffering.

ronnande
ronnande like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Seriously, the WiiU is a HUGE jump from the Wii. I must admit the Wii and motion controls never totallly won my heart, but the WiiU and the gamepad did. Plus comparing the WiiU to an iPad is just bonkers, its totally different devices with totally different uses and pricepoints. Soon you will be able to buy replacement batteries to the gamepad that quadruples the batterylife (think its in april). The iPad is in my opinion TOTALLY useless for serious gaming.

mikehellings
mikehellings

@ronnande have you tried multi person gaming using multiple iPads and the appleTV? for one each person can be anywhere in the house and game as long as you are on the same network. With the wii U game pad it fails after you get more then 20 feet away not counting walls or doors.  I think Angry birds a game on the iPad has made millions. Don't get me wrong I love nintendo games and want to see more. I just think they could do so much better! 

JacobD.Taylor
JacobD.Taylor like.author.displayName 1 Like

@mikehellings Thee Wii U does support up to 2 actually. Not 4 but as you're saying it's pretty set to be played over the internet. The Wii U costs $300, the ipad's $500+, and your apple network doo hicky how much? Please relate this to the rest of the world. Also... I don't know many people to grab their ipads/tablets and come over to play games. If we wanted to play wirelessly we'd do it from home. Not meet up in the park.

mikehellings
mikehellings

@TylerLindsey @mikehellings @MrleelongiJenson @ronnande I think you got me all wrong I like nintendo and the games but the game pad is lame and the wii u is a minor upgrade from the wii. To "whats the problem with only one pad" I reply if the pad was that great why cant the wii U support more then 1. I am not the only one who thinks this there are many other articles out there panning the nintendo pad. I am not promoting apple i just don't have a android pad to compare my experience with. If when you state paying alot of money to multiplay you are wrong. The ipads and iphones all that support multiple are purchased as work and communication devices not just a gaming device and in most case I give my old ones to the kids as I upgrade. This article states that nintendo is trying to get the game pad in the living room as multifunction device. IT AINT happening.  Don't let your brand loyalty blind you to things that could be better.  Again this is all IMHO I am not a game or hardware designer just a user. Enjoy 

mikehellings
mikehellings

@MrleelongiJenson @mikehellings @ronnande interesting. but I can attest that the wiiu game pad in my non perfect wifi apple extreme powered home environment can only work while playing Mario or nintendo land from at most 15 feet away with line of sight. iPads when playing multiplayer game like infinity blade which does 60FPS can work and stream video and audio anywhere in the house. 

Also from what I understand the Wii U system only supports 1 game pad not multiple game pads. Currently when we play Super Mario wii u with multi users we all use the old controllers and none of the kids want to play with the new game pad.

MrleelongiJenson
MrleelongiJenson like.author.displayName 1 Like

@mikehellings @ronnande

You do know how the GamePad works right? You just mentioned the fail point with the iPad and the other Apple devices, they use a wireless network to function off of. This right here isn't the best possible solution as you WiFi will take a hit with many devices connected to it. The GamePad also uses WiFi but it uses a special newer type of WiFi called Miracast. Miracast was still fairly new when Nintendo approached Broadcom to help them with Wii U GamePad connectivity but the two worked together and made it far much better to the point that the GamePad's screen is refreshing at 1/60th of a second. The GamePad is actually refreshing quicker than the TV screen which is a wired connection, that's pretty insane.

It get's more interesting though. Broadcom came out right around the launch of Wii U to say that the GamePad can actually send and receive date from 100ft in prefect conditions. Sadly you'll have to live in the middle of nowhere to probably see these conditions. Nintendo figured out what the average conditions would be and then gave their number (which if memory serves me right it's like 26ft). But get this Broadcom went on to say that it'd actually be possible to add a wireless repeater into the mix increasing the distance that the GamePad could function at from the system. There's talk that this would cause latency issues but people theorize that it shouldn't since all the GamePad is doing is sending and receiving audio and video and sending control input.

Gahiggidy
Gahiggidy

Good article.  But I wish you had asked Miyamoto about the jaggies in the latest batch of Pikmin 3 screens.

element187
element187

@Gahiggidy I think they are older screenshots.... I'm not going to call this game the best the Wii u can do... It's basically a Wii game with high res textures added. So it's still going to have terrible geometry no matter.

andybdrums
andybdrums

@Gahiggidy Where did those come from anyway because I've search high and low and I can't find the original source anywhere. They're not on Nintendo's site, and they didn't come from any of the sites that Mr. Miyamoto had done an interview with this week. That combined with the fact that Nintendo EAD would be the last development team on the planet that would willingly let a screenshot that clearly unacceptable, especially compared to all other previous shots/footage, hit the internet, just screams LEAK, to me. 

 And now that I'm really looking at them, yeah... there is NO way these were meant for release. I have a background in 3D modelling and I can say with absolute certainty the rough edges are most definitely because Anti-Aliasing had been temporarily disabled. The final product won't look like that, at all. 

First of all, the only reason AA would be ever be disabled in the consumer build was if the system was seriously being maxing out the system . Second, if that were the case, any game developer with a brain would making smaller cutbacks effects over a number of resource heavy visual settings to gain some head room without any one effect being noticeably. In these screen shots, the lighting/shadow quality is obviously great the character polygon counts are excellent, and the depth-of-field effects  look stronger than they did in the footage from the Jan. Nintendo Direct. If the system was maxed, these have plenty of room to absorb some and probably and allow a enable 

Since these were the first screenshots of these finished character models, it was probably a one of the modelers who had been making final adjustments and disabled AA to speed up his work, then took a screenshot to send to maybe the director or even Miyamoto and since it was just an internal message, 

ronnande
ronnande like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I seriously love my WIIU, its a great console indeed. The gamepad are really a great invention and off-tv play are a godsend.

Randawg
Randawg like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I love My Wii U!!!

derekdonovan
derekdonovan like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Great article, I hope this gives more exposure to the console itself, seeing as how people think it's not a new console but just an add-on. I've been a Wii U owner since launch and I'm completely satisfied with it, looking forward to all the new games coming out in the upcoming weeks.