TOKYO--Though it seems like Nintendo unveiled just about everything concerning the Revolution's controller at September's Tokyo Game Show, there are still some surprises in store, according to one of the company's most significant strategists.
At the Digital Interactive Entertainment Conference held in Kyoto, Japan, Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's chief game designer and creator of the Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises, gave the keynote speech. He talked about the history of controllers for Nintendo's various consoles, from the pre-NES systems to current consoles like the GameCube. He ended his lecture with words toward the future, specifically the Revolution, stating that there's more to its controller than what's already known.
"The [Revolution's] controller still has another secret," stated Miyamoto. "But it's something that we'll reveal next year."
As a southpaw, Miyamoto takes into consideration gamers who "are in their right mind," as the saying goes. One of his first game projects at Nintendo in 1979 was to design an Arkanoid-style game machine called Breakout. Although he had had only two years of work experience at Nintendo at that point, he made sure the machine was designed to accommodate both left- and right-handed players.
Sharing a piece of Nintendo history, Miyamoto explained that the cross-shaped direction pad that's used for Nintendo's game consoles was originally created for the Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong in 1982. Up until then, Nintendo's Game & Watch series had used just two buttons for controlling the character. Donkey Kong required more-complicated controls since the original arcade version used a joystick. As a solution, Nintendo came up with the cross-shaped pad, which offers a similar control to the arcade version but comes in a flat compact design that allows the Game & Watch to be folded and closed.
Miyamoto said that the rise of complex controllers was one of the factors that contributed to video games' increasing complexity. Looking back at the SNES, he explained that its interface featured six main buttons, a vast difference from the two-buttoned NES. According to Miyamoto, the number of buttons on the SNES's controller was influenced by Capcom's arcade hit Street Fighter II. To simplify the controller as much as possible, the L and R buttons were set on the controller's sides.
Nintendo's first solution to the complication of controllers was introduced with the GameCube, which featured a giant A button that overshadowed all the others. While the console's controller has been a target of criticism, Miyamoto explains that it was Nintendo's way of saying that gamers should be able to play games by using only a single button.
Nintendo's challenge to simplify game controllers reached a new level last year with the launch of the DS, which featured a touch-sensitive screen that users could intuitively control with just a stylus. Miyamoto commented that the handheld gained a lot of female players in their 20s, and the DS succeeded in expanding its audience beyond gamers, which was Nintendo's long-term goal.
With the Revolution, Nintendo is trying to make a console that fits in with the living room, rather than a machine that focuses on high hardware specs. Miyamoto revealed that the Revolution's controller is purposely shaped in the form of a TV remote because it's something that everyone in the family will touch. He hopes the controller will introduce a more effective and fun way to play games. As an example, he pointed out that its nunchaku add-on can be used for first-person shooters. Players would use their left hand to move and their right hand for actions.
In addition to Miyamoto, the Digital Interactive Entertainment Conference featured a number of other big-name guests, including "the father of video games," Nolan Bushnell; Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima; and Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani.
Bushnell, founder of Atari and creator of Pong, criticized the current game industry on the same two points often stated by Nintendo. He said that the rise of development costs is not allowing game makers to take on new challenges or delve into new innovations. He also said that today's controllers are getting as complicated as a PC's keyboard, and general consumers are reluctant to use them. Bushnell complimented the Revolution's controller during his lecture, saying that it's "on to a good idea."
Kojima also complimented the Revolution's controller during a discussion at the end of the conference. Speaking with Miyamoto and Valve Software's Robin Walker, he praised the controller, saying that he had a hard time restraining himself from leaking information before its official announcement. He added that the idea of making a game controller out of a remote control struck him completely by surprise.
Iwatani, whose speech preceded Miyamoto's, didn't comment on the Revolution or its controller directly. Instead, he shared his thoughts that the future of gaming may lead far from the living room, which goes against the visions of Nintendo. Iwatani explained that more and more people are starting to have a PC in their own room; as a result, he believes that in the future, games will be played on PCs rather than living room TVs. Iwatani speculated that PCs may soon come with a universal gaming chip in their motherboard. The chip would have all the functions needed to play games. Users would simply download games, and they wouldn't have to worry about compatibility problems, since all hardware functions would be embedded in the chip.