CSR Report > CSR Report2017 - The Challenge of Creating Something Never Seen Before

CSR Report

Pursuing the New Potential of Video Games / The Challenge of Creating Something Never Seen Before

CSR Priority Areas

Pursuing the New Potential of Video Games

The Challenge of Creating Something Never Seen Before

  • Yoshiaki Koizumi (Left)

    General Producer, Nintendo Switch
    Entertainment Planning & Development Division
    Nintendo Co., Ltd.

  • Kouichi Kawamoto (Right)

    General Director, Nintendo Switch
    Entertainment Planning & Development Division
    Nintendo Co., Ltd.

In our pursuit of new gaming possibilities, we, at Nintendo, rise to a challenge: creating something that has never been seen before by combining new technology with existing efforts. In this interview, two of the people involved in the development of Nintendo Switch discuss the thought processes that went into developing a video game hardware system that had never been seen before.

Q1:Could you talk about the development process?

Koizumi

 It all started when then-president Satoru Iwata called the two of us into his office. Both of us had been involved in software development up until that point, but Mr. Iwata told us that he wanted us to be in charge of creating a platform, and to create something that had never been seen before. During that meeting, he also instructed us to go beyond simply building the platform, and instead begin by freely imagining everything that could be involved, including the direction and value proposition for the platform, the development framework and production methodologies.

Kawamoto

 After receiving this assignment, we began to deeply discuss the areas where previous platforms exceled, and where it would make sense to consider revisions. Those involved in this project included many young people from a range of departments. When it came to the development framework, we went forward with methodologies that included the ability to ensure we were on the right track even when an actual product was not available, by creating as close a prototype as possible to physically touch and evaluate what we were working on, and the ability to make prompt decisions with a limited number of people.

Q2:What were some of the most important considerations for you?

Koizumi

 As we developed Nintendo Switch, there were several concepts that we had in mind: Can we play full-fledged games on it? Would we feel safe letting children play with it? Will everyone have fun playing it together? It was that last concept of everyone having fun playing it together that came to the forefront in our minds.

Kawamoto

 I think one of the drivers here was our realization that now even when people get together and go out in public places, such as restaurants, they all seem to be in their own separate worlds. We kept thinking, if only they could have more fun together. Nintendo has long been a company that has offered products and amusements, such as playing cards, that encourage people to have fun together. We wanted Nintendo Switch to be Nintendo's best way of bringing people together and having fun to date.

Q3:How did the hardware's new features come about?

Kawamoto

 There are teams within Nintendo's hardware division that research different ways to play games. They search for technologies that enable the new play styles that they conceive and, conversely, come up with new play styles that arise from technologies. We examined those new play styles and technologies, evaluated how surprising and interesting they were, their future potential and whether they were feasible in terms of cost before making our selections.

Koizumi

 The newly incorporated HD rumble and IR Motion Camera features had already been under research before the Nintendo Switch project began. Software developers have considered and will consider a wide variety of uses for these new features, both for titles available from the Nintendo Switch launch and ones coming in the future. It is exciting to imagine how these technologies will be used.

Q4:Did you need to use any secret strategies to bring your ideas to life?

Koizumi

 There were so many ideas in the mix, but when we came up with the idea to have two controllers that could be connected to and removed from the system, it was as if a light bulb came on over my head. This idea would not only enable users to enjoy full-fledged games, but it would also make the hardware easily portable and enable two users to play with each other as soon as they take the system out of the box.

Kawamoto

 We started using the word "sharing" from the beginning, and it had a powerful impact. However, we had never used controllers like Joy-Con before. Among other things, we were concerned about how they would feel to users, their durability and the costs involved. We wanted to make sure we maintained the notion that different grips would facilitate different play styles, which proved to be a particularly difficult puzzle to solve for the employees within the hardware division. Nonetheless, they stuck to the task and really applied themselves to produce many new ideas. Now and then we all sat down together, as everyone wanted to get all the details correct.

Koizumi

 I am really impressed that we were able to incorporate all the key elements, including sharing, into controllers that are as small and as thin as these. Our secret strategy might simply have been our refusal to give up.

Q5:What visions were shared between the hardware and software teams?

Koizumi

 Most of the employees on the hardware and software teams worked under the same roof. This enabled everyone to come together quickly and talk over ideas, test prototypes quickly, exchange opinions and propose improvements. In that sense, it was easy to develop a shared vision.

Kawamoto

 A good example of this was the cycle we had where the hardware team would design controllers, prototype them using 3D printers, and then employees on the software teams, who constantly use controllers to check their games, would test these prototypes and offer advice. We repeated this cycle over and over again. The same was true for the system software. I believe Nintendo Switch was made possible because there was such close interaction among the teams for every aspect of the project.

The strong vision of people having fun together was our focus

The strong vision of
people having fun
together was our focus

Q6:Is there a particular software title that embodies the notion of everyone having fun together?

Koizumi

 A good example is 1-2-Switch. Even people who have never played video games before instantly understand the rules as they watch other people play. They start having fun and laugh even just by watching from the sidelines. So many people have watched Westerns, for example, that even if there was no explanation for how to play Quick Draw, players would instantly understand what to do after witnessing the scenario. And then there is Samurai Training, which, we think, players will immediately find fascinating.

Kawamoto

 As we developed the mini-games for 1-2-Switch, we heard players say things we had never heard before during the development process, such as "It's the first time I've seen so-and-so move like that!," "I didn't know so-and-so could dance like that!" and "It's been a while since I looked at someone in the eye that long." We hope that our consumers will have similar reactions, particularly if they have the opportunity to play with their family and relatives when they are home for the holidays.

1-2-Switch

1-2-Switch is a software title developed exclusively for Nintendo Switch that was released on March 3, 2017. This diverse game is enjoyed by players looking each other in the eyes and includes 28 mini-games. It is a completely new type of software that everyone can enjoy together and enables not only the players to have fun, but also encourages people watching to get involved.

Quick Draw

Samurai Training

Q7:What were you considering as you developed the play styles and gaming situations?

Kawamoto

 We wanted Nintendo Switch to be a video game system that our consumers would feel comfortable taking anywhere with them, and that would enable full-fledged gameplay. The software and hardware teams worked hard together to find new ways to cool the console to avoid any low-temperature burns, while maintaining performance.

Koizumi

 We also decided to make the rails metal; the controllers connect to the console through these rails. Using metal makes it harder for the rails to degrade as a result of repeated removal and attachment by users. Degradation of the rails could be problematic if, for example, a user was playing in handheld mode and the controller suddenly became detached. The solution, however, was not simply to make the parts sturdier. We needed to preserve the experience that enables people to share and have fun playing together, and maintain a design and size that was easily portable. A great deal of trial and error went into the process because there were many components other than the controllers that also required our consideration.

Kawamoto

 Regarding the environment, as we were designing the product to comply with the EU's Energy-related Products Directive*, as well as the laws and regulations in each of the countries in which Nintendo products are distributed, we needed to not only continue to avoid the use of banned substances, but also find ways not to package printed operations manuals with the product, reduce other paper within the box and make the packaging more compact.

Koizumi

 One of our core concepts was providing parents and guardians with peace of mind when letting their children use the system. As with preceding platforms, Nintendo Switch offers Parental Controls that enable parents and guardians to set restrictions on gameplay and according to their children's ages from within Nintendo Switch itself. However, we also felt that having to take a console away from a child to configure those settings imposed a burden on both the parents or guardians and the children. That was the impetus for the development of Nintendo Switch Parental ControlsTM, which enables parents and guardians to configure those settings remotely, using their own smart devices with which they are already used to using. Parents and guardians can decide unilaterally how much gameplay time their children should be allowed, but we hope they will discuss these limits with their children and decide together. That is why the only notification that will be seen is "You have reached the play-time limit." We wanted this functionality to encompass the notion that communication is needed for parents or guardians and their children to discuss gameplay time together.

*The Energy-related Products Directive is a European Union regulation that requires products to be designed in a way that promotes energy efficiency (eco-design).

Q8:Were there any innovations that arose from interactions with business partners?

Koizumi

 We had unprecedented levels of information sharing, both within Nintendo and with external partners. Team members would fly out to make presentations on the system at partner sites. Everyone involved was astonished. We were able to hear a variety of opinions and suggestions from an early stage. Sharing ideas in such venues and working actively to increase our number of collaborators served to bring the entire project team together.

Kawamoto

 This was something that Yoshiaki (Koizumi) implemented as part of the software project. We created a website for all involved parties on which we shared the content of our discussions, including photographs, and the reasons why decisions were made. In doing so, we made it easier for people to understand and realize how their work fit into the grand scheme of things, why their work was needed and where our priorities lied.

We want Nintendo Switch to be a tool for connecting people

We want Nintendo Switch to be a tool for connecting people

Q9:What do you envision the impact of Nintendo Switch will be in the future?

Kawamoto

 We made Nintendo Switch according to the concept of it being a system that enables full-fledged gameplay. Therefore, we expect that people who have played video games before will really enjoy it. We also made Nintendo Switch to be a system that people can enjoy together, so we hope that these interactions will help us reach new consumers and lead to more people having fun.

Koizumi

 We will remain focused on incorporating into our products keywords and experiences that everyone can relate to, and on valuing gameplay that can be understood without any verbal explanations. Beyond that, however, we want gameplay to lead to new connections, as users gain a better sense of the other people with whom they share gaming time. Nintendo Switch is probably the best game system in the world for bringing people together. We want it to serve as a tool for connecting people.

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