Could you please introduce yourself?
Koh Shiota (from now on called Shiota):
My name is Shiota, the head of the Technology Development Division, which is responsible for hardware (1) development. I’ve been part of home console hardware development since joining the company. In the past I had the opportunity to take part in the “Iwata Asks” interview series to talk about the development of the Wii (2) and Wii U (3), but I was also part of the console development before that. In fact, the first console development project I was involved in was “AV Famicom” (4). I got to know Nintendo’s way of developing products through the example of older Nintendo employees.
Toru Yamashita (from now on called Yamashita):
My name is Yamashita from the Technology Development Department. Since joining the company, I’ve been involved in home console hardware development in a variety of ways. For Wii, I was involved in developing the built-in functions such as the system menu. For Wii U I was involved in the development of the Wii U GamePad (5). I was the hardware development manager at Nintendo Switch, and at Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, I coordinated the developers’ suggestions and opinions on the experiences we can offer our customers.
What initially motivated you to develop Nintendo Switch – OLED Model?
In the early stages of Nintendo Switch development, we thought about the evolution of the hardware variants and our idea was to expand the Nintendo Switch platform in a number of ways. So we thought about releasing a new model of Nintendo Switch sometime after the Nintendo Switch was first released. At this point, however, we hadn’t made up our minds exactly what specific features we were going to update, and while we were developing Nintendo Switch Lite, we were hoping to bring a new model not just to people who buy one for the first time, but to those too who are thinking of buying another model after purchasing the original.
As Mr. Yamashita mentioned, I also wanted to launch a new model of Nintendo Switch. In the concept phase, however, we had no concrete ideas about which functions we wanted to integrate. Since the Nintendo Switch was released in 2017, we’ve come up with different ideas, done some technical tests, gathered these results and finally developed the new model that you are now seeing and that we can finally bring to market. The backstory is during the trial and error phase, we considered a few different technologies and based on our customers’ play with Nintendo Switch, we decided on the ideas and technologies that were carried over into the new model.
You said you hadn’t decided what to include in the development of the new model, but while you were developing ideas for the features to be integrated, did you have criteria for selection?
In deciding what to include in the new Nintendo Switch OLED mock-up, we drew on the reactions from our worldwide customers who have played Nintendo Switch. Fortunately, I think the Nintendo Switch concept and experience was well received. So instead of creating something completely different, we decided to keep the current shape and provide a better experience. In other words, we wanted to “refine” the existing features and design. That perspective led to the technical decisions we ultimately made.
Because we wanted to “refine” what we already had, we made sure we weren’t adding new features that couldn’t be used with previously released software. For example, if we’ve added a new button or feature to the Joy-Con controllers, you won’t be able to use it in previously released software or games unless we’ve updated them as well. Instead, we thought it would be better to improve and expand on the features our customers are currently experiencing.
So the idea was to further increase the satisfaction of the gaming experience while retaining the existing functions.
Yes that’s right.
It’s not that some customers didn’t ask us about other functions or features. Fortunately, however, I felt that the gameplay with the current Joy-Con controllers and the gameplay in the three modes of Nintendo Switch – TV mode, tabletop mode, and handheld mode – were widely accepted. So we thought if we could introduce new features based on the existing playstyle without changing it and making the gameplay more engaging, maybe we could make Nintendo Switch even more accessible.
As you just mentioned, you’ve listened to customers’ suggestions and decided how to improve the product, but is this unique to Nintendo Switch – OLED model? Or is that something Nintendo did for video game consoles in the past?
Dedicated video game consoles have a relatively long product life cycle after their launch until production is finally completed. Therefore, we continue to offer our customers products with the same functions over the years. As we continue to offer products with the same features during this long period of time, we also have the opportunity to hear a lot more input from our customers. Nintendo developers have a strong desire to always be open to customer feedback, and technology advances also occur during the product lifecycle. By combining it with customer feedback, we can improve the product even after it’s released.
Such improvement efforts have continued not only for Nintendo Switch – OLED model but also for previous platforms, and we have considered many ideas and technologies to improve even the current models. In fact, there are many examples where we have adopted such ideas and technologies to make improvements before introducing this new model. So I think that it is the “fate” of game consoles that the improvements will continue after launch.