Nintendo talks Switch – origins / creation, going with one screen, name, online play, January event, much more
Your recommended software, and plans for the future?
With the Switch launching, have there been any changes to the company’s internal organization?
Takahashi: There was an organizational change during the fall of two years ago (2015), but it wasn’t directly related to the Nintendo Switch’s development. The EAD, headed by Miyamoto, and the SPD, which was overseen by the late president Iwata before I took over, were merged together to become the EPD. Furthermore, the IRD and SDD were merged into the PTD in order to make sharing technological intelligence and allocating human resource smoother. While I do think it had a positive effect on the Switch as well, the changes weren’t made for its sake.
EAD: Entertainment Analysis & Development
SPD: Software Planning & Development
EPD: Entertainment Planning & Development
IRD: Integrated Research & Development
SDD: System Development
PTD: Platform Technology Development
Koizumi: The Switch project was one that transcended departments from the beginning, you see. We took in staff from both software and hardware development, particularly younger members, in order to work on it. Kawamoto and myself are both from the software side, so we received assistance from the younger hardware and system specialists, along with input from other software staff, and brought all of that together to form the Switch. Our internal structure allowed us to bring everyone together as a whole to create this hardware.
Why did you decide to include many younger staff members on the team?
Takahashi: To rejuvenate the company, and to make absolutely sure we’re adopting the opinions of younger people.
Koizumi: It was a good opportunity. Launching a new platform is a massive undertaking, and I think it’s an incredible learning experience for younger staff to be a part of it. We want our staff to have that experience while they’re young, so we purposefully brought them on board the project.
The teaser video, promotional campaign, and pretty much every aspect of the Switch’s PR have a different atmosphere from Nintendo’s products up until now.
Takahashi: We were very adamant about making that change. Koizumi and the team shared that desire to change even the promotional materials, so when we received mockups for the Switch’s packaging design that followed traditional guidelines, we would tell them “no”, and send them back to be revised.
Koizumi: I don’t think Nintendo’s products are known far and wide to this generation, unlike the past. We made it very clear to the staff that our intentions with the Switch had to come across in an understandable manner. It’s the same as when you have a good game. There’s a chance it won’t catch on even if it’s interesting. So we built the Switch while considering how we could make it a gateway to allow everyone to get know Nintendo. We chose each part of it very specifically, taking into consideration not only the physical appearance, but how we would frame the photography and what kind of people would buy it.
The Switch unveiling presentation took place in Japan. Considering the large number of announcement events that have emphasized foreign markets recently, what kind of reaction did you get from having it in Japan?
Takahashi: There haven’t been many events of that size in Japan lately. When we make announcements at E3, it’s difficult for us to gauge the reaction from the Japanese market. Of course, having events in America is still important, and we did have Miyamoto and Aonuma (Eiji Aonuma, Zelda series producer) in the US for an event, but I feel it’s important to hold events in a variety of places. We were able to witness families enjoying 1-2-Switch at the event, where parents would look on fondly and snap photos of their kids as they played. As I thought, it was good that we had that opportunity to see reactions from people playing prior to the launch.
Koizumi: The Switch was developed in full secrecy, so although it was frequently subject to internal testing, there weren’t many chances to have a wide variety people try it out. So we were very concerned about the kind of impact it would have on the average consumer. Starting with the event in Japan, we then went around countries in Europe and America to watch the excitement in everyone’s eyes as they tried it for themselves. The hype surrounding it was more readily apparent overseas than it was in Japan, but Japanese people had the same sparkle in their eyes as everyone else. We circled the world, and finally validated our own feedback.
Takahashi: I expected Zelda would be well-received, that Splatoon 2 would do well, especially in Japan, and I had a feeling ARMS would do well too. These titles all had positive reactions, as I expected, but I was nervous about 1-2-Switch and Snipperclips. It was a relief to see them receive very warm welcomes as well.
Koizumi: There are certain things that their creators will think are great, but they aren’t well-received or don’t grab people. It was our job this time to make sure that even those kinds of things would catch on, so I was very worried that they might not. But we returned to Japan after confirming they had caught on for ourselves, so I was really happy.
It seems everyone who played 1-2-Switch had a twinkle in their eye.
Koizumi: Adults and children alike were really giving it their all.
Takahashi: They were frantically squeezing the milk out, watching their opponent’s face instead of the screen.
It’s impossible to take your eyes off your opponent’s when you’re playing “Quick Draw”. (laughs)
Koizumi: And when you lose you feel really bitter. It’s a very primitive reaction, so I’m really glad.
Nintendo’s two big titles at this launch are Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and 1-2-Switch (Note: this interview took place before Snipperclips was announced as a launch title). Can you tell us the reason you’ve chosen them for launch?
Takahashi: Those two will be there at launch, but we also have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe coming in April, along with games like ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey after that. There are also numerous unannounced titles that we’re working on. We weren’t only focused on the launch lineup, our release plans are more of a continuous line. And that line doesn’t just cover when and what we’ll be releasing for this first year, but the next two or three as well. We took all of that into account when selecting our launch titles. We also have both unconventional and flagship titles coming that have yet to be announced.
I think the biggest selling point of Nintendo’s hardware is the ability to play Nintendo games on it. There seemed some periods of the Wii U’s life where you weren’t able to meet player’s expectations due to title shortages. Can you tell us about your current software strategy beyond what you just explained?
Koizumi: Our strategy regarding what tiles to release and when are based not just on our own internal software, but third-party titles as well. So we’re taking what, when, and how we market software into account as a whole, with our own software, other companies’ software, and indie software all flowing along a single line.
I see, so the output of your own company and other companies share equal weight in your decision-making.
Koizumi: Yes. I think our customers will enjoy Nintendo’s own games, but they also have various preferences outside of just those. Essentially, this console is one that players can shape to their own tastes. So we plan on continuously releasing new titles that meet those tastes, whether they be from Nintendo or another company. We’re hard at work making the kind of games we’re known for, of course, but we’re also keeping in constant contact with the public relation divisions of other companies about our own software strategy.
So, you want to have even more software than was on the Wii and Wii U.
Takahashi: Of course. That’s why we made sure to include support for development tools such as Unity and Unreal Engine 4 from the start. We worked to add support for these from the early days of development based on third-party opinions. Thanks to that, it was possible to have games like Snipperclips available right from launch.
It’s a good game. There’s a unique indie-like concept behind it, it’s very interesting.
Takahashi: It’s quite good (laughs). Snipperclips started development by a team in England, with only five or six people initially.
Koizumi: We didn’t disclose anything about the Joy-Con to them at first, but their game already had a two-player co-op mode .
Takahashi: Yes. And it was running on PC initially.
Koizumi: So I showed them the Joy-Con and told them, “Look what we’ve got!” and “They fit perfectly”. There are a lot of indie teams with fresh and unique ideas, and I hope the Switch’s new environment will facilitate even further uniqueness. I’m happy that we have Snipperclips as a great example of that.
But I would imagine that a lot of younger indie developers or small indie teams might feel that there’s a high barrier of entry in approaching such a big industry name as Nintendo.
Takahashi: It’s really not that high, and we’d like to let them know that. We’d like to find some way to spread that information in the future. Our dev kits are also not very expensive.
Are we also likely to see more multi-platform titles available on the Switch?
Takahashi: That’s right. The Switch will support local wireless even with multiplatform games. I’ll be happy if people react positively to our exclusive features, like being able to share the fun.
Koizumi: The same game could feel completely different on the Switch even just by removing it from the shackles of the television. You’ll be able to play it anywhere you want.
Out of all of the games currently in development, can you tell us which you two would personally recommend?
Takahashi: There are various different ones, but I can’t talk about them (laughs).
Koizumi: I can’t talk about titles that haven’t been announced yet, but there are a lot of teams working on some really great things. Out of the ones we’ve shown so far, I’d say it’s Super Mario Odyssey. Though that’s self-flattery (laughs).
Takahashi: Koizumi is now going to switch over from the producer of the Switch, to the producer of the Super Mario series (laughs).
Koizumi: We’ve been talking about going “over the top” in Odyssey, which is something characteristic of the Switch, but we’re also finally returning to the sandbox format. You’ll understand from watching the trailer, but it’s a very whacky game.
Takahashi: The HD Rumble is also nice.
Koizumi: Yes. We’re making ample use of it.
I see. I’ve been wondering about that, since it’s not something that can be understood through a video.
Koizumi: That’s right, it’s quite difficult to convey.
Takahashi: There are a lot of ways to play with this console, and 1-2-Switch shows those off in simple ways. But feeling the HD Rumble while watching the screen and playing a more conventional game has a distinctly different feeling.
Koizumi: It has a huge impact on the realism, so I’d like to show it off soon, but… Anyway, I recommend this feature!
I don’t think Mario has ever gone anywhere like that, so the trailer was quite shocking.
Takahashi: Koizumi’s always making Mario do crazy things (laughs).
So what game would you recommend, Mr. Takahashi?
Takahashi: It’s a little difficult to say, due to my position (laughs), but at the moment I’d recommend The Legend of Zelda and 1-2-Switch. They’re two wildly different titles, and everyone will be able to play them right from launch.
So Zelda for core gamers, and 1-2-Switch for those who want to play with lots of people.
Takahashi: You should bring 1-2-Switch if you want to make friends with various people, and definitely bring it if you’re going drinking.
Koizumi: We made it so you can play it even while drunk (laughs).
That sounds amazing (laughs). We’re big gamers, so we’re really happy that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is available at release. Our editors have been saying that Breath of the Wild is the ‘best Zelda game in the series’.
Takahashi: It’s got a lot of meat to it.
Koizumi: I think it could take up to a whole year to complete everything in it (laughs).
The Switch also has a Parental Control feature, for parents who are worried their children might be playing too much.
Takahashi: Yes. It doesn’t simply restrict access, so parents and their children will need to communicate with each other. I’ve heard kids say to their mothers “You should buy it since it has that” when we showed the parental control video at various events. And the mothers would respond “Oh, is that so?”. I really hope that parents don’t force the console to stop, but instead talk about it with their children (laughs).
Massive thanks to Gessenkou and iYakku for their help with this translation!
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