July 21, 2006 - Nintendo game master Shigeru Miyamoto, speaking with Japan's monthly Nintendo Dream as part of the magazine's 10th anniversary festivities, has shared a few intriguing details on the Wii, its controller, and his upcoming games.
Miyamoto first spoke about the origins of the system. "It was very important to have it become 'something that would be best to have there,'" he said, speaking of Nintendo's desire to make the Wii an attractive machine for households. Miyamoto feels that game machines had the status of a desirable household item at one point, but they lost it. The change happened when games "lost their fundamental nature as pure entertainment."
Wii development started with thoughts of "what kind of machine would make for a console that one wants to keep in the home?" The answer was something that doesn't get in the way, something "not frightening." The Wii project also began with the notion of making something "anyone can play, simply using one hand."
Of course, every Wii includes, in addition to the Wii-mote, the nunchuck accessory. Miyamoto explained the origins of the secondary device and its name. When Nintendo first made demo units, the development staff referred to the device as a nunchuck simply because it looked like one. American staffers referred to the device as nunchuck as well, so it became a development code for the device. Eventually, Nintendo investigated the copyright status of the term "nunchuck," learned that it was free to use as a standard word, and went with it.
Nunchuck isn't the precise name for the analog expansion unit that will ship with every Wii, though. Anything that's attached to the Wii-mote in similar fashion to the analog expansion unit is said to be in a nunchuck style position. Anything that's fixed to the remote similar to the gun expansion that was shown at E3 is said to be in zapper style position.
Earlier in development, the Wii-mote was referred to as the "Core Unit." The devices that attached to it were referred to as the "Peripheral Unit." This naming originated when Nintendo came up with the idea of splitting the controller into separate units. The biggest cost to the controller comes from wireless functionality and power consumption. Nintendo realized that by placing these costly capabilities into one device, the Core Unit, they would then be able to make and release a variety of Peripheral Units at cheaper cost to users.
Miyamoto also touched upon one of the last areas of the controller's functionality, its speaker. "We had a lengthy discussion on the matter," said Miyamoto about the decision to include either a speaker or a microphone in the controller.
There was apparently even some consideration of including neither in order to keep the controller from becoming too complicated, but this was vetoed. "Because you're using a wireless, rod-shaped remote control to play, it's important to have feedback and reaction to the actions that you take," said Miyamoto. "Controllers until now have used rumble, but we felt that rumble would be insufficient, and ended up keeping the speaker in."
He let out one bit of information, confirming first if it was okay to reveal it. Nintendo is making a game in which four players play together by passing a single controller around. The controller calls out player names in order to indicate whose turn it is.
He also suggested another idea, a game where the controller quietly gives out secret information to individual players as their turn comes about.
One of the main driving forces for the inclusion of the speaker was third parties. Nintendo actually considered removing the device for cost reasons, but found third parties requesting that it be left in.
Interest wasn't as high inside Nintendo from the start. "When we first started talking about the speaker, there was absolutely no reaction," revealed Miyamoto. This changed when people heard the sound effects generated by the speaker while swinging a sword in Zelda and noted that it sounded like swinging a Light Saber.
Asked about reactions from E3 which claimed it difficult to go back to using a standard controller after having used the Wii controller, Miyamoto said, "That's because once you've gotten used to free style using the remote control, going back to a controller where you use both hands, you're unable to move your hands and end up feeling a lack of freedom. However, I have absolutely no intention of being negative about current controllers. We are, after all, preparing a standard style controller in the form of the Classic Controller."
Miyamoto feels that some games will actually work better with the classic controller. He mentioned F-Zero as one such game.
The dialogue turned at one point to, of all things, left-handed and right-handed gaming. Miyamoto is left-handed, and he said that he's recently been trying to get used to using the remote/nunchuck pair in the "reverse" way -- that is, the remote in the left and the nunchuck in the right hand. While he's been getting used to playing like this, he feels lefties who've grown accustomed to playing games the current way will have an easier time of playing Wii games like everyone else.
In practice, regardless of game, you'll be able to play with either device in either hand. Miyamoto actually expects kids who've never played a game before to hold the remote in their left hand and the nunchuck in their right hand.
One of Nintendo Dream's closing questions for this interview asked Miyamoto to list the games in whose development he's directly involved. "Wii is the main [platform]," he said, "and I'm working on a number of titles, but there are some that have yet to be announced so I can't give an exact number." Pausing to think for a bit, he concluded that he's working on "a lot of games." "Of the games that have been announced, I'm working fully on Zelda, and also working on Mario Galaxy and Wii Sports. I'm also working on the product that was referred to as 'Remote Pointer Demo' at E3."
Finally the man has said something! It's been a while!