Wii U is playable, but still a long way offIwata’s been grilled constantly about Wii U lately, and there’s no end in sight! When asked about the long span of time between the 3DS’s announcement and release and how this could perhaps have impacted the momentum behind the launch this year, Iwata responded that there is a lot that must go on between a hardware announcement and its release. He didn’t really comment much on what exactly this consists of, but I’d imagine it has to do with tuning the hardware and software based on public demos, helping new developers attracted by the new hardware announcement to get their feet wet, and so on. Not only that, but in order to develop software for a new piece of hardware, development teams can’t be tied up with projects for the previous system.

Of course, he could have said so succinctly and precisely and I’m sure everyone would have understood, but his actual quote seems rather dodgy and non-specific and doesn’t really explain these obstacles very well. Take a look at what he had to say on the subject, along with some of his other comments on why Nintendo’s finally making the jump to HD and possibilities and limitations associated with using the 3DS as a controller:

On the time between announcement and launch

Last year, when the Nintendo 3DS was unveiled in June, I thought “Wow, something amazing is coming,” but it was only launched in February this year. Can’t the time from announcement to launch be shortened? It seems to me that development is slow and the excitement fades unless a product is launched three to six months after its initial announcement.

Iwata: The situation, “Even if a person thought it was amazing at the time of announcement, the excitement fades six or nine months later,” may also be felt for the Wii U. If Nintendo could maintain the platform without anyone else’s help or use past assets without any change, for example, enhanced graphics along with 3D view when Nintendo DS software is played on the Nintendo 3DS, then we could keep silent in the preparation of the platform and then announce, “We will launch it tomorrow, please buy one.” However, unfortunately, we needed to have software newly developed for software that uses 3D, beautiful graphics or new communication functionality on the Nintendo 3DS. This applies not just internally within Nintendo but outside of the company also.

In the past, when Nintendo did not receive as much attention as we do now, we did not have to worry about the spread of our confidential information since it did not have any value in society, but since the Nintendo DS and the Wii created a social phenomenon, “Nintendo’s next move” commands great attention and extreme news value. Therefore, although we go to great lengths to ensure that this will not happen, there are cases where, even if a person receives information under a Non-Disclosure Agreement, the information is leaked because there is great temptation. Even for the Wii U, some people may be aware, if they had been checking the Internet, that information with true and false rumors mixed together was spread on the Internet before the announcement. Therefore, as for new hardware, even if we wanted to, it is extremely challenging to realize a situation where a product is announced and then launched the next day.

On the other hand, as for software, it is often the case where the time between its announcement and launch is very short, but we sometimes receive complaints from our consumers such as “I don’t have enough time to consider whether I should buy one.” I would like to ask for your understanding that there is a great difference in the time span from announcement to launch between things that we need many people to be involved in, such as hardware, and things that Nintendo can do on its own (such as software made internally).

On incorporating motion controls & adopting HD support

I’ve always had a suspicion that the reason Nintendo didn’t adopt full HD support with the Wii initially was to keep costs down in an environment where HDTVs weren’t quite prevalent enough to push full support onto their console. If consumers can’t even afford the displays, why force them to pay for hardware parts designed to work specifically with the displays? Honestly, to date I still don’t have an HDTV and precisely because of the cost issue, so I’m kind of grateful for the thought. It’s nice to see this explanation finally out in the open, though.

Iwata also talks about how the adoption of a traditional controller model plus the maintenance of the motion controls started by Wii and continued support for the Wii Remotes is part of their plan to ensure that gamers who grew up using dual-analog and multi-button controllers aren’t left behind in the motion control revolution. I’m still wondering how he plans to satisfy both audiences, though – I can’t imagine most motion-intensive games translating well to a traditional control scheme, particularly not if they involve Wii Motion Plus. Then again, we still don’t know much about prospective software outside of what we saw in the E3 demos.

Motion-sensing video games are in their prime, but because core gamers are conservative, are they really accepting such games? Also, the Wii U will be the first HD hardware from Nintendo and, therefore, it is a field in which Nintendo does not have much know-how, but in what way will you produce a constant flow of software?

Iwata: Putting aside whether people who enthusiastically play games are definitely conservative or not, it is true that such people are used to playing games with a controller with many buttons and sticks, so I can imagine there was a psychological barrier for them to “shake the remote” or to “move the controller itself,” because they had to play the games without using their former skills. We analyzed that this might be one of the differences which existed between the users who accepted the Wii console and those who did not really accept it overall.

We can divide the reasons why we could not satisfy some consumers (who did not really accept the Wii overall) concerning the Wii, into two points. One was the image quality. At the time when we released the new gaming console back in 2006, HD, or high-definition TVs, was not so widely accepted in society, and we judged that the balance between the cost we would have had to pay in order to realize beautiful high-definition images and the merits we could gain from doing so was not worth it. That is why the Wii was developed based on the resolutions of old TVs, which made it inferior in terms of quality of the graphics or resolutions compared to other gaming consoles. Instead, Nintendo allocated its resources to other points and renovated the user interface. By providing entertainment products such as the Wii Remote or Wii Balance Board, we were able to make many people (who did not previously play games) game players.

It is not that our decisions were wrong, but it is just that we made these choices. So, one point was the graphics, and the other point was that this new method of game control was not welcomed by the users who were used to the conventional controllers. One of the concepts for the Wii U is “Deeper and Wider,” and for “deeper,” we mean that we would like to comply with the request of the users who feel that they want to enjoy the games in more depth, and also feel like “The more beautiful the images are, the better,” or “I want to play games in a way that I am used to,” which means “I prefer controlling the games using many buttons and sticks.” Because we wanted to make it possible for such users to utilize their experience with the conventional controllers, there are many sticks and buttons on the Wii U controller, which I have shown you several times today. On the other hand, although it is not as big, bulky or heavy as it may look at first sight, there still might be people who feel psychological barriers to actually holding this controller, so we are currently discussing what we should offer such people.

In addition, you indicated that Nintendo might not have HD video game know-how because we have never developed such games. However, there was a scene from “Zelda” included in the latter half of the Wii U introduction video. This scene is from demo software we, in cooperation with a development company, created in a relatively short time before the E3 show, but a person from another Japanese software development company saw this video at E3 and commented, “These kinds of images cannot be easily produced on the gaming machines of other companies,” and so we believe we have been able to prepare something, and the quality of which can be appreciated to some extent or more. Because we did this in a relatively short timeframe, we could show that we are not completely behind other companies, so I think you do not have to feel anxious about it.

On using the 3DS with Wii U

Every time I hear about the limitations of Wii U, I die a little inside. Apparently at present it’s impossible to connect a 3DS to the Wii U while accessing the Internet. I’m not 100% sure if he’s just talking about web browsing or online connectivity functions in general, but either way it sounds like even though using the 3DS as an additional controller may be a way around the “one tablet per console” limitation, even that solution comes with its drawbacks. If it’s a matter of cutting costs and the gameplay’s still solid, I guess it might be worth it in the end, but I get the feeling that the Wii U controller’s value as a gaming device will diminish if they can’t find a real working solution to these restrictions.

Can you make it so that the Nintendo 3DS can be used as a controller of the Wii U? Also, I read an article that stated that there will be one controller with a touch panel per Wii U, but if the Nintendo 3DS could be used as a controller for the Wii U, multiple people could use touch panels in the same way as the new dedicated controller. What do you think of my idea?

Iwata: First, I would like to answer from the perspective of whether it is technically possible or not. I will say that it is technically possible. However, there are some limitations: While the Nintendo 3DS is communicating with the Wii or the Wii U, the Wii or the Wii U will not be able to access the Internet, and this technical restriction will remain unless we add some special hardware.

Also, as a second point, of course if we decide that using the Nintendo 3DS as a controller for the Wii U is the most obvious choice, we will do so without hesitation but, on the other hand, if software from Nintendo for the Wii or the Wii U system could not be enjoyed without the Nintendo 3DS, some consumers might feel that Nintendo is saying that consumers must buy both systems. So that consumers will not think of Nintendo as a company that made the Nintendo 3DS a controller because it wanted consumers to buy both hardware systems, we will not adopt this idea unless connecting the two systems is the most natural thing to do. As for connecting multiple gaming devices, we actually did this in the Nintendo GameCube era. We connected the Nintendo GameCube and the Game Boy Advance and called it “Connectivity.” Over a period of more than ten years, Nintendo has proposed similar entertainment features several times, and we received a certain level of response, but we feel that something like this that has a high threshold will not really spread among consumers. At that time, there were other problems, like a cable sold separately was necessary to do this, so we would like to think of it as a possibility now that the communication can be done wirelessly, but even if we should do this, we would like to develop this service so that we will not receive comments from consumers saying, “Why does Nintendo force us to buy both systems?”

I’m never quite sure what to make of Wii U. I love what I got to play at E3, and the massive third-party support sounds promising, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying about how Nintendo will handle it once it’s out in the wild and whether it’s really going to be as revolutionary as they say. Wii managed to do extremely well, but can they repeat that success with their next console? Only the software will tell.

Source: Nintendo Shareholder Q&A

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