interview

The Switch's Architect On Why Nintendo's Consoles Are Different

by Ben Reeves on Feb 28, 2017 at 08:00 AM

Nintendo gave the world its first look at the Switch in October, followed by an in-depth presentation in January. This left the company with only a couple of months to inform gamers about its newest console/handheld hybrid – a situation that has left consumers extremely curious about Nintendo's next big step forward in the gaming space. We chatted with the deputy general manager of Nintendo's Entertainment Planning & Development division, Yoshiaki Koizumi, about the initial vision for the Switch, how this new console is an evolution of Nintendo's previous hardware, and why the right Joy-Con is red.

When did you first start dreaming about the Switch and what was the initial vision?
We are always thinking about new hardware, and we started working on this plan about three years ago. Since then, there have been a lot of discussions between our staff, and we tried a lot of different things. Nintendo's concept of a social experience for the game systems we have developed in the past has been to provide a chance to play games together in your living room. To adjust that to the world as it is today, we decided that an unfettered experience that can be enjoyed anywhere would ultimately maximize the number of people who can enjoy our games and be the most fun, and so we decided on this design.

During the Switch reveal press conference in January, you guys talked about the DNA of Nintendo's previous consoles and how they worked their way into the Switch. How is the Switch a natural evolution of everything that has come before?
Yes, I do think Switch can be seen as the next step in this evolution. Although people have been able to take their games on the go since the Game Boy, I think everyone would have loved to be able to take their console systems with them as well. We were never able to do that, due to a number of reasons. I think we have been able to take a step forward in that area, so Nintendo Switch is a type of evolution in that respect.

Why do you feel it was important to build off everything else the company has done previously?
We wanted to take a more flexible approach to hardware design this time. For example, previously we have always used a custom "system on a chip" CPU and GPU, but this time we wanted to use more well-established technology, partly so that it would be easier for third-party developers to create games for the system. In that respect, Nintendo Switch represents a break from some of our traditions. However, our previous designs gave us valuable experience and provide insight into what the important parts of a system are, and this is reflected in the design.

Nintendo rarely tries to develop the most powerful system on the market. Why do you feel GPU speed is less important than a console's other features?
For Nintendo, the axis of improvement for each new generation is the system concept. To make it possible to play a game system at home or on the go seamlessly, we had to take a different perspective and consider factors such as the battery usage of the "system on a chip." This is a different axis than simply improving processing power, so we selected design elements that fit the type of product we wanted to produce. This was definitely the case for Nintendo Switch.

What kinds of iterations did the Switch controller go through and how did you settle on the final design?
We always have to go through a number of iterations for every product, and we did go through a lot of trial and error this time. The process of development was much different from the Wii Remote, although with the same focus on fun. We want to provide a different entertainment experience than what's out there.

Why are only the Joy-Cons different colors and not the entire console? Why red and blue?
The theme of Nintendo Switch is the ability to be able to take it with you and play with someone else, so we wanted to differentiate the colors when playing with two people. As for the specific colors chosen, everyone had various feelings and there were many discussions, including wanting to have red be the right controller, because they both start with 'R.' I think we finally arrived at the best option.

Check back in tomorrow for our hands-on review of the Switch. For all of our coverage for the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, click the banner below.