Iwata Asks: Miyamoto on 3DS
Iwata: The Nintendo 3DS system has AR Games, Face Raiders, StreetPass Mii Plaza and much, much more. In other words, just having the Nintendo 3DS system will allow you to play a variety of games.
Iwata: In Nintendo’s past history, (Hiroshi) Yamauchi-san has said, “The hardware is just a box you buy only because you want to play Mario games.” Those were his exact words. (laughs)
Miyamoto: I remember that! (laughs)
Iwata: Though the way he said it may be a bit rough around the edges, it was a very easy-to-understand explanation of the business model at the time.
Iwata: And beyond that period, when the Nintendo DS system was released you had PictoChat built-in on the hardware for the very first time. The Wii console also had various other built-in features added, while the Nintendo DSi system even had cameras and sound. And this time, for the Nintendo 3DS system, it will have a variety of built-in software. What were your intentions when you decided to do this?
Miyamoto: Well, basically speaking, over half of the built-in software was not planned by me from the beginning. Many people within the company suggested and researched many things, which made it happen in its current form.
Iwata: Oh, right. For example, in AR Games, you can add various objects to the real scenery seen through the camera. This will allow you to mix the virtual world with reality. And this is something members of the Entertainment Analysis & Development Department (EAD) have been working on for some time.
Miyamoto: Yes. It started off like their science fair project, for which we did not have any specific hardware to run. (laughs)
Iwata: And when you first saw it, you knew it would be a great idea for a new game?
Miyamoto: No, I didn’t! At the time, I said, “We can’t use that kind of stuff as a new game.” (laughs)
Miyamoto: I said something like, “You can’t let trends decide what you do.”
Iwata: (laughs) You are very strict on not following current trends.
Miyamoto: But as the basic features of the Nintendo 3DS system started to become fixed, all the ideas from here and there started to make a lot more sense.
Iwata: You’re exactly right about that.
Miyamoto: Once we decided on taking it to 3D, it all happened very quickly. Suggestions like “we have a camera on it, so let’s make it possible to take 3D photos” started to be made one after another. Even the projects I felt doubtful of in the beginning, when the prototypes were completed, we all felt very convinced that it would work.
Iwata: Yes. When they took a 3D photo themselves, just looking at it on the spot made them feel very happy.
Miyamoto: That’s right.
Iwata: Of course, 3D photo-taking existed in the past, but it had never been so readily available to so many people and they would be able to so easily pick it up and enjoy.
Miyamoto: You don’t have to buy a special camera or use a special printing process. You can take the pictures and see them on the spot to get surprised. That entire experience is a fun entertainment.
Iwata: Yes. You can enjoy using the Nintendo 3DS system even just as a viewer for 3D photos.
Miyamoto: If you just look at it that way, it’s like a very easy-to-use 3D photo frame. In that sense, I thought it would be better to keep it built into the Nintendo 3DS system so everyone would be able to use it together. I felt the same way about the AR Games, Face Raiders and Nintendo 3DS Sound software. They were all included under the same philosophy.
Iwata: I see.
Miyamoto: Among the built-in software of the Nintendo 3DS system, the one we put the most focus on is Mii Maker application.
Iwata: To confirm what we discussed in the previous interview, Mii characters would never have come into being if Tomodachi Collection hadn’t been made.
Iwata: You had tried to accomplish that feature ever since the time of the Super Famicom and Nintendo 64 systems. Because you thought caricatures was fun, it was like a dream of yours to “put your virtual self into the game.”
Miyamoto: Yes. No matter how many setbacks I experienced, I never gave up. (laughs)
Iwata: Yes. (laughs) And one day, when I saw the Tomodachi Collection in development, I showed it to you and asked if this was what you had wanted to do all along. That’s how the Mii character started.
Miyamoto: Right. It all started there. We went on to add Mii characters into the Wii console. Then we made Tomodachi Collection for the Nintendo DS system, and now it’s built in on the Nintendo 3DS system.
Iwata: It’s such a strange turn of fate. No, it would be more accurate to say that your unrelenting tenacity was what gave rise to it.
Iwata: Now, let’s talk about Mii characters for the Nintendo 3DS system.
Miyamoto: Yes. For Mii characters this time around, we maintained two main themes. One is the compatibility with the StreetPass function. In other words, just passing by people who also have a Nintendo 3DS system will allow them to expand the world of Mii characters.
Iwata: In the past, the Tag Mode feature required people to have the same game, whether it was nintendogs or Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, inserted in the system while passing by each other. But for the Nintendo 3DS system, as long as you’re holding onto the system itself, StreetPass communication will be activated. Granted, this doesn’t mean the player’s Mii characters will expand without knowing. But only if you have activated the StreetPass Mii Plaza at least once and when you turn on the StreetPass function, your Mii character will continually expand.
Miyamoto: Yes. Simply put, I want to spread Mii characters all around the world.
Iwata: Right. (laughs)
Miyamoto: Exchanging it with people close to you is a given. Whether you use StreetPass or through the network, I want to implement Mii characters in all sorts of ways. Ultimately, I want Mii characters to be the world standard for avatars.
Iwata: That’s your ambition. (laughs)
Miyamoto: Yes, an ambition. (laughs) I hope that in the future, when you have to go to the city hall for some formality, they’ll ask you to submit your Mii character too. (laughs)
Iwata: (laughs) What an ambition that is!
Miyamoto: If it becomes a worldwide format, it’ll be fun. Purely and simply, I just want everyone to use it in a variety of ways.
Miyamoto: Well, that ambition about the city hall thing might be a bit extreme, but I do want Mii to be more widely used. And for when that time comes, doing something about the editing application for Mii is the second theme.
Iwata: In other words, you want to power up the function of creating a Mii character.
Miyamoto: Yes. Mii originally had some restrictions, but it had a very simple editing application that could create a virtual self for someone. That was fun in itself. But then I started to see what we should add in terms of functions, such as the creation of facial features of people overseas.
Iwata: Yes. It seemed we had a lot of variations for Japanese people, or Asians rather, making it easy to make avatars for those people.
Miyamoto: Yes. All in all, it’s very easy to understand when it comes to us. (laughs) But I won’t be able to fulfill my ambition if it’s left as it is.
Iwata: Because you’re aiming for the world. (laughs)
Miyamoto: Right. And another thing is that it’s hard to make uniquely different good-looking men and women with distinctive characteristics with it.
Iwata: Oh. You mean like everyone starts looking the same?
Miyamoto: Yes. We’ve improved on that a little bit. Also, without just adding too many different parts you can use, I wanted to be able to make Mii characters look closer to the person. We made it so you can adjust the length and width of the eyes, mouth and other parts. With this feature, you can have more variations in your Mii character, even with just a few parts.
Iwata: I see.
Miyamoto: That’s why you’ll be able to create a Mii character that looks a lot more like you than was previously possible. You can make a lot of fine adjustments now, but I’m sure there are some people who don’t want to do that.
Iwata: I completely understand. When you get more things to do, everything seems more complicated.
Miyamoto: The best thing about Mii characters is that they are relatively easy to make. That was a rational decision we made in deciding its direction. So, during the development, while we were thinking about providing the ability to fine-tune the faces, we also researched another way we could easily create a Mii character. One idea came up about taking a photo of someone’s face, having it analyzed, and a Mii character would be automatically created from it. I was very skeptical of the idea at first and said, “Yeah, but that’s not going to work as planned.”
Miyamoto: But we didn’t need a mechanical image analysis that was exact to the smallest detail. We thought it might work as long as we could automatically caricaturize the portrait just enough for each player. We kept talking about that and kept researching, and we started to get something that was very viable.
Iwata: When taking a photo of someone, you’ll automatically get several variations of his or her Mii. And you can select from among the list and even fine-tune from there.
Miyamoto: Yes. That’s why, if you really wanted to make it look like yourself, you would still have the option to adjust it. But if you want to make it quickly, you can leave it to the image-analysis feature. So, just taking your Nintendo 3DS system everywhere with you and creating Mii characters of lots of other people can potentially be lots of fun. And considering how it’s much more fun for everyone to have access to it, we had to pre-load it into the system instead of having the consumer buy a separate cartridge.
Iwata: Yes. There is intrinsic value in something when everyone has it.
Miyamoto: Right. And to make it a world standard, we had to include it in all Nintendo 3DS systems from the beginning.
Iwata: So, it’s still based on the fact that you wanted to make it a world standard. (laughs)
Miyamoto: Yes. I want to. I really do! (laughs) We included PictoChat in the Nintendo DS system in the past, but this has a slightly different meaning to it. We wanted to include PictoChat because it is something you can’t play alone but will be convenient if every Nintendo DS owner has it.
Iwata: Oh, right.
Miyamoto: But for Mii characters, I want to expand and branch out even further. That’s the idea behind including it in the Nintendo 3DS system. StreetPass is something everyone can do under the same conditions.
Iwata: So, everyone who bought it can enjoy it equally.
Miyamoto: Yes. And this might be getting really specific, but you can also output a Mii character as a JPG image. We also made it so you can convert Mii into QR codes*. So you’re now able to do things like placing your Mii on New Year’s greeting cards, and read the QR codes of other’s Mii from magazines and business cards on your Nintendo 3DS. After Mii characters debuted on the Wii system, all the suggestions about how it should be could then be implemented.
Iwata: When I hear you talk, it seems to me that the Nintendo 3DS system isn’t just filled with built-in software for no reason at all. You put all these things in because you wanted the system to be played in certain ways. That part of your desire is reflected in it.
Miyamoto: Yes. The Nintendo 3DS system is sometimes said to just be a “Nintendo DS system with higher specs.” But it’s really much more than that. It’s a game system with an entirely different charm. That’s why, for the customers who purchase it, I want them to fully enjoy the features of this new machine.
Iwata: A charm that they can understand even without purchasing other games for it.
Miyamoto: That’s right. I want them to first feel the draw of the game system itself. That’s something I really want to happen.
Iwata: It really made a lot of sense. Ultimately, what we really want to do is first of all we want people who purchase the Nintendo 3DS system to experience something they can’t anywhere else. Then if they find it surprised or impressed, that experience can be conveyed to other people around them spontaneously. I hope it can really expand to newer and greater experiences everywhere.
Miyamoto: You’re exactly right.
Iwata: It would be the best if it happened that way. The greatest charm of the Nintendo 3DS system, including the 3D images, is very difficult to convey just through the TV or the Internet. Of course, we tried very hard to do so, and we did our very best in the demonstrations. But I think it would be most ideal for the people who purchase it to try to tell others what they liked about it.
Miyamoto: And to do that, we wanted to build in all the basic attractions that we want them to experience.
Iwata: Yes. That in itself really makes the hardware of Nintendo 3DS a part of the Touch Generations. Whether it is for AR Games or Face Raiders, they are certainly very worthwhile titles. When we organized demos for people to play them, I saw them happy, surprised or smiling all the way through.
Miyamoto: Yes. I really saw that, too. It’s like the hardware itself is an eloquent orator.
Iwata: You’re right. It’s an eloquent hardware.
Miyamoto: Now it’s a matter of how far we can reach beyond that.
Iwata: Yes. I want to as many people as possible to experience the joy they can feel by themselves with the 3D images, as well as enjoy the emotions they can get only through StreetPass with countless other people.
Miyamoto: I agree!
Iwata: That feeling is very distinct. Don’t you remember how StreetPass happened between us just the other day?
Miyamoto: Yes, that’s right! (laughs) I got your Mii character on my Nintendo 3DS system before I knew it. We did walk past each other somewhere in the company, so it wasn’t unexpected in any way. But it made me happy nonetheless! It made me say, “Oh, look! It’s Iwata-san!” (laughs)
Iwata: I wonder why it made me so happy. (laughs) Right now, lots of employees are StreetPassing inside Nintendo. It’s a very interesting phenomenon.
Miyamoto: Once you StreetPass someone even once, your interest in it grows exponentially.
Iwata: It’s because someone very close to you has a Nintendo 3DS system, just like you do. There’s a different kind of charm to it compared to exchanging data online with someone halfway across the world on the Internet.
Miyamoto: There really is.
Iwata: It makes you feel that you’re sharing the space and time together, on the spot.
Miyamoto: People will understand what we mean once they experience it. I really want everyone to see for themselves. I’m sure that if they get to StreetPass in a huge country like America, it’ll be even more fun.
Iwata: I agree in that I want everyone to experience it at least once. Whether it’s with StreetPass, 3D images, AR Games or Face Raiders, I just want everyone to try it out.
Miyamoto: When you do an exhibition, all the preconceptions about previous exhibitions stick with you. That’s why we keep thinking about how to line up the good packaged games. It always ends up with questions about whether they can play Mario or Zelda games. The built-in software becomes completely secondary. But as a company, we believe the best way to get people to understand the charms of the Nintendo 3DS system is through the built-in software. That’s why we decided to push forward in showcasing them.
Iwata: That’s right. We decided to show this and that and other things, too. We change the floor plan of the exhibition spaces drastically to make this happen.
Miyamoto: The scale of development may be small, but each one of the built-in software is crucial in conveying the ideas and charms of the Nintendo 3DS system as a new machine.
Iwata: Yes. And looking at the reactions of the guests who came to the exhibitions, I think that choice wasn’t wrong after all.
Miyamoto: That’s right. It’s very obvious when we see them play. (laughs)
Iwata: Exactly. (laughs)
Miyamoto: Some people holding the Nintendo 3DS system look very serious while pacing around the table. (laughs) Some are playing Face Raiders by shooting their own face on the screen and keep screaming happily, “It’s my face! It’s my face!”
Iwata: Such reactions of the players are the best way to get the message across to other people.
Miyamoto: That’s right. We have them start off like that and then go into the deeper end through individual games. If we can have them play like that, it’ll be great.
Iwata: I agree.