A portion of a Guardian interview with Nintendo’s Hideki Konno…
TG: But you felt you had to make prototypes showing the 3D and different elements of the hardware, which you pushed around the Nintendo building on push-carts, to demonstrate to people that it worked?
HK: Truthfully, we had had the NES experience and Virtual Boy. There’s a proverb in Japanese which translates something like: “The third time is the actual one” or “The truth emerges the third time around”. But even though we had that proverb, it wasn’t enough. We had to show them something to get them to believe that yes, we can do this. You know, if you have a couple of non-successes and you stick to your guns and want to try a third or fourth time, I don’t think there are a lot of people out there who do that. But if you do, you’re going to have to bring some proof to the table. But Mr Iwata and Mr Miyamoto still had this idea of 3D.
Mr Iwata makes these videos which go online called “Mr Iwata asks”. In one episode, there is a conversation between Mr Iwata and Mr Miyamoto, in which they are talking about the former president of Nintendo, Mr Yamauchi. In relation to 3D, he said to them: “This is going to take off some day.” So maybe that provided some of the impetus for them never giving up on it. Actually, when I first started at the company, I was always the demo guy, called on to demonstrate new technology to people, and Mr Yamauchi was always interested in seeing new 3D technology. I remember coming to him with books that came with the red and blue glasses, and Mr Yamauchi sitting and looking at them, so I also have that experience.
TG: What precisely does 3D bring to gameplay – you can see how it could help depth-perception when, say, playing a sniper game, or could help with the sense of speed in a driving game?
HK: To sum it up really simply, it makes it easier to perceive distances more accurately. So that’s depth, width and height: they all become easier to grasp. For example, in StarFox, there’s the mode where you’re flying through rings: on a 2D screen, sometimes that’s hard to do, because you can’t understand how far one ring is from the other. But now, with the 3DS, it’s easier to see where they are. Also, with a golf game, you can see how the green undulates much easier – because that’s so hard to do in 2D, usually in a golf game, when you go into putting mode, you’ll get that grid; with 3D, you can see that yourself.
TG: When Nintendo 3DS was announced, you received some criticism for not having an eShop at launch, but instead via an update later in the year. Why was that not available at launch?
HK: Let me address eShop specifically. We had a version of eShop on Nintendo DS and Wii, but we weren’t really satisfied with what we had. It was a browser-based tool, and the responsiveness and ease of use weren’t up to what we had hoped. Another thing was that the actual location you went into to make purchases, and the area you had to access to see promotional materials were two different spots. I think everyone is the same: when you see something you want in a promotion, you want to buy it straight away, and you weren’t able to do that. Obviously, we wanted to bring those together, so that’s something we are planning to do.
In terms of ease of use, we want to take it out of being in a browser, and make it work as a native operating system application. Our thought process was that we really want to take the necessary time to make this into the eShop that we want, and that’s what’s taking us this amount of time.