Nintendo's head of European marketing sheds more light on next-gen device
16.09.2005 - 15:25
After months of speculation, Nintendo finally revealed their top secret Revolution controller at the Tokyo Game Show today. With its TV remote design and motion-sensing functionality, Nintendo looks set to continue apace on its crusade for making gaming accessible to, well, absolutely anyone and everyone.
We managed to speak to Nintendo's Jim Merrick - the man responsible for the company's European marketing - to find out more about the controller, how it will work and where it fits into Nintendo's master plan...
It would have been nice to actually see some of the games that the controller will be compatible with featured in the video presentation.
We went to great lengths not to show games in the trailer! It's more about keeping the focus on the interface. If you show the game then everybody gets distracted by the graphics and what we really wanted to focus on was the human interface with the game and the machine.
Is the motion-sensing aspect of the controller going to be compatible with all Revolution games?
Like the Nintendo DS, which offers many different input devices such as voice and touch-screen, not every game is going to use every capability of the controller. The Revolution controller can sense not only where you're pointing, but where your relative position front to back, how close you are, whether you're tilting or rolling - it senses all of these things. Those may or may not be appropriate for different games, so there's no absolute requirement that all games should use it.
The current controller design does work reasonably well for certain types of game - we're not going to throw it all out, but we wanted a fresh start and a fresh way of thinking to bring new consumers to the console.
How is movement of the controller detected?
We use Bluetooth technology to communicate between the controller and what we call a 'sensor bar', which has two little sensors on it that are maybe a foot apart. These sensors can be detached from the bar and they can be above the TV or below the TV - it doesn't really matter.
There's really no set-up other than just putting the bar by the TV. There's no calibration for size or type of TV or anything like that.
So presumably the controller will be compatible with all TVs?
It works with any kind of television set - it doesn't matter if it's LCD, plasma, projector or CRT.
And the gamer won't have to sit in the same position every time they're playing a title that uses the motion-sensing function?
Absolutely not - the relative angle in front of the sensor bar is about the same as the viewing angle of the TV. So if you can see the TV, the controller is going to work.
Are the three central buttons on the controller as self-explanatory as they seem?
Well, 'Start' and 'Select' have preconceptions as to what they do - they've been around for years, so that's okay. What exactly the 'Home' button will do, well, we don't really know yet as we've never had one before, so we'll have to see.
How will the controller be powered?
We don't have any specifics on it yet. There are always the pros and cons with the rechargeable batteries, yes they're nice, but then you have to dock it somewhere to charge it up. Disposable batteries are readily available, so… but I don't know, we haven't got there yet.
How will the controllers be bundled with the hardware?
What we call the 'freehand' controller - the basic controller that looks like a remote - and the 'nunchaku-style' controller will be packaged with the hardware and is really an amazing combination.
The third type of controller will be the 'classic-style' expansion controller, which Mr Iwata spoke about in his speech - but there was no visual to go with it because we haven't got the design finalised - we haven't decided how we'll market it.
Can you explain a bit about the classic controller?
It's effectively a shell like a standard controller with a hole in it and you slot in the freehand controller. So for games that are well suited for a traditional style controller, well, there you are.
The classic controller is important for us for our virtual console games. When I'm playing my favourite game - the N64 version of Goldeneye - it's built for that kind of controller.
How do you envisage people using the freehand controller - will it be a true one-handed device given the position of the d-pad and A button?
The problem is that in the past we spent years trying to figure out how to move forward, back and side-to-side using our thumbs. Now, I move the whole controller. If I want to bank my aeroplane - I bank the controller. Suddenly I don't need all the buttons that I needed before to approximate what I want to do - I simply do it. It's much more intuitive. I point just by pointing my hand at the screen. The problem with the analogue is that you're always trying to move it in an analogue fashion, not just slam it up against the edge. This is much more natural.
What can we expect in terms of additional peripherals that will plug into the controller?
We can envision all kinds of possibilities. We were joking the other day that bongo drums for Donkey Konga would've been great with a wireless controller. If you built a set of bongo drums with a slot in it and you just slot in the freehand controller and you're online - that would be great.
When we briefed the guys from Sega they immediately thought of Samba De Amigo. You could have a relatively inexpensive dance mat with a slot in it and you just slot in the freehand controller and you've got a wireless dance mat. So there are all kinds of ways you can go with it.
Will there be any proprietary technology that will eliminate third-party peripheral developers?
We haven't really decided what we're going to do working with third-parties on additional expansion controllers or other things, but it is fair to say that Nintendo will aggressively protect its intellectual property.
Shigeru Miyamoto recently stated that Nintendo was still adding and removing various functions of the controller - can you explain the transitions the device has undergone during development?
We spent a lot of time puzzling over what types of human interface we can do that will be really beneficial to both new gamers and existing gamers, and we've considered all kinds of ideas.
You've seen all the different kinds of technologies that are out there and we needed something that was accurate, reliable and relevant for our audience.
Mr Miyamoto is correct that the design is not 100% final. It is basically complete, but we reserve the right to move buttons and round corners. However, we have not shared everything that there is to know about Revolution or its controller.
So there are still some secrets to be revealed?
C'mon, we're Nintendo - we like to hold things until the very end!
Is this controller a definite statement of Nintendo's intent to broaden gaming horizons for a new audience?
If we can use the DS as an analogy where we have a similar thing happening and a bit of experience, we know that a lot of the consumers who bought 'touch-generation games' - which are really those games designed to reach out to new consumers - we know that those consumers have come back and bought WarioWare and Mario and more traditional games, so they are becoming active gamers again.
What they need is that entry point, but gaming is a bit of an addiction once you get started, you just have to get started. I think they will converge. Certainly there will be games written to address new consumers or written to address all consumers, and at the same time we'll continue to build those games for the existing market, for those core gamers today who got us here in the first place - we can't abandon them. Nintendo is in a unique position in that we've always had the ability to write games for everybody. Zelda, Pokemon, Mario 64 or whatever, we've had the ability to reach the broadest range of people all along, we're just going to expand on that.
Do you think the Revolution is going to distance Nintendo even more from Microsoft and Sony?
We're following our own path, to be sure. We have a different business model than they do, we're not trying to be the centre of your home for the digital distribution of music and movies and things.
We're an entertainment company and we make hardware and software to provide our product, which is entertainment. If that means we go down a different path to our competitors, then so be it. We don't measure our success the same way as they do.
When will we be able to get hands-on with the Revolution and its controller?
I don't know when that's going to be yet. We really want you to experience the games in a complete form and we tend to wait until then.
The example that we have with the DS is that in January 2004 when we first announced it we said it had two screens because that's pretty easy to understand. We didn't say anything about the touch-screen until you could touch it and experience it at E3 and I think we're going to go the same route with Revolution.
We've explained as much as we can and now we need to show you with nearly finished games so that you can really get a sense of the overall experience.
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