E3 2011 Interview: Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Talks About ‘Wii U’

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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.

(More: E3 2011: Hands-On with Nintendo’s New ‘Wii U’)

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.

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