Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has expressed in detail the company’s evolving approach to creating new hardware formats, ruling out any early successor to the DS - and suggesting that the traditional five year cycle of new console generations may no longer be relevant.
Following the company’s record half year sales results, an extensive interview with Iwata has been translated into English
on the company’s website. With input from other Nintendo executives, including Shigeru Miyamoto and Shinji Hatano, the questions range over a wide number of topics.
These include maintaining the quality and quantity of software products, the possibility of Nintendo software appearing on mobile phones and a definition for the term “Nintendo-esque”.
Perhaps the most interesting question relates to a potential new generation of portable console after the Nintendo DS. Although Iwata refused to answer the question directly he did discuss the topic in some detail, starting by saying:
“Whenever we have developed one hardware system, we start to discuss what we should do with our next hardware. In the past, we had a kind of common sense understanding of the video game industry’s platform cycles, like , say, 5 years for home consoles and a little less time for portable devices.”
“I’m quite doubtful that such a notion of platform cycles can be applied in the future. As I said at the end of my presentation today, what was believed in this industry to be common sense is not actually an unchangeable truth,” he added. “So, as we continue our research and study for new hardware, when we will be able to launch a new kind of hardware will actually depend on when we can change entertainment completely, and so have a strong impact on people around the world. Or, there will certainly be a time when we have to say that we have done everything possible with the current machine, that we can never propose anything new.”
“Lately, I cannot say I’m making video games on the frontline of development, but as a person who used to develop software, the availability of new hardware means that we possess a new weapon,” said Iwata - who worked as a developer on Nintendo franchises such as Mother
before becoming president.
“We long for a new weapon whenever we cry that we cannot fight anymore with the current weapons. But today’s situation is such that we are not desperate for any new weapons at all. Whenever we are working on so-called next generation hardware, we are always thinking in terms of the future,” continued Iwata. “We need to forecast what the future will be like with the expected evolution of new technologies which are available at any given time, and try to identify the so-called ‘sweet spot’ of technology over the next few years.”
“We are always preparing for new hardware so that we can launch whenever we determine we should do so. However, scheduling for a rather fixed launch date four years from today, regardless of future changes in the industry and the market, appears to be too inflexible an approach to us,” said Iwata.
“We are always studying and working on what the new hardware must become in the future, but we are also monitoring changes in circumstances in order to act flexibly. Also, since Nintendo’s hardware engineers and software creators are always communicating closely, only when both teams agree that it is time to challenge the market with new hardware that we will launch it.”