Nintendo veterans reflect on the risks and rewards of hardware development

"Even among our developers there are often doubts! When the Wii remote was first introduced as a concept, the reaction was: what is that? Is it real? Will it actually work?"

For better or worse, Nintendo is intent on boldly going where no hardware maker has gone before. Consoles like the Wii and Switch prove that innovation is sometimes the way to our hearts, while others such as the Wii U highlight the inherent risks of trying to break new ground. 

According to veteran Nintendo developers Shinya Takahashi and Hisashi Nogami, speaking during a recent interview with The Guardian, the Japanese outfit is always looking for that next 'wow' moment, but it's a quest that can sometimes leave Nintendo's own employees confounded. 

When it comes to hardware, for instance, creating something that'll leave jaws on the floor isn't exactly straightforward. Just look at the Wii. The remote-waving system was a huge hit with consumers, who took to motion controls like ducks to water, but it was actually a tough sell internally.

"Even among our developers there are often doubts. When the Wii remote was first introduced as a concept, the reaction was: what is that? Is it real? Will it actually work? But once we'd all tried it, we were surprised and delighted by it, and that made us realize that it was going to work out," said Takahashi, recalling what happened when Nintendo's wider dev team were first shown a prototype Wiimote controller.

"With the Nintendo Switch, we all knew the concept, but when we picked up the prototype for the first time and saw Mario Kart running perfectly on the smaller screen, we were flabbergasted. Even people who are well aware of the concept and design can’t always tell if something’s going to work."

Nogami agrees with Takahasi, and claims that putting hardware into hands is the only sure-fire way to know if it'll click. You can talk all day about how something works, but hardware is all about the feel. 

"It’s not good enough to put your idea into words; you have to give people a concrete example to show them how it works,” chimes Nogami. “It’s on us to create things that allow players to experience that ‘wow’ moment."

To hear more from the pair, be sure to check out the full interview over on The Guardian.

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