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Miyamoto Speaks: Wii Fit, Design Challenges And More

Q: You mentioned that it took some convincing to get the development team on board with this weighing yourself as a game idea. Have there been other instances in which a lot of convincing was required, and even where you weren’t able to convince the development team?

Miyamoto: First, I don’t want this to be misconstrued, because there were in fact some people on the development team who agreed with me that this would be a very good idea. But the majority of people did not. [laughs] I think maybe the other best-case example would have to be the DS hardware itself. In the process of developing the Nintendo DS, for a very long time there were a number of people who continued to believe that it was not a very good idea. But I think internally at Nintendo we have a very good balance between people who have been there for a long time and who are more conservative in their views of what we should be focusing on, and people who are younger and newer and a little more excited about trying new things. I think that’s created a good balance that leads to some interesting discussions.

Q: Obviously, Wii Fit is a very different game than you’re used to publishing. I’m curious to know what kinds of unique localization challenges you had in bringing this to America, for instance, just the basic fact that Americans tend to be less fit than the Japanese.

Miyamoto: Generally, when I’m creating games, I don’t really think about individual markets or how individual countries might view the game that I’m working on. Typically, when I’m trying to develop a game, I feel like I’m working more on gameplay ideas that are based on senses or feelings that, in my mind, are common to everyone, everywhere, regardless of where you live. That being said, I will say that in the case of Wii Fit, it is true that Americans typically are bigger than Japanese people, particularly when it comes to their feet. In that sense, we did early on, in terms of developing the Balance Board, have a rather large American named Reggie stand on the Balance Board and measure whether or not our early prototypes were big enough for his feet and made changes based on that. And then of course changing the units of measurement from kilograms in Japan to pounds here in United States and into stones in the U.K., which was kind of strange to me. Other than that, there’s not really a whole lot of specification differences between the different versions.

The one other point that I probably should explain is that, in Japan, you might notice on the Wii Fit box that the Balance Board is rated to 136 kilograms, or 300 pounds, whereas here in North America if you look at the Wii Fit box it is rated to 330 pounds, which is 150 kilograms. So, looking at the boxes, you would think that the Balance Board was made stronger for here in the United States. In fact, Japan has a law called the law of weights in measures, where scale manufacturers have to submit their products for certification from the government, and the standards that they were using at the time, 300 pounds was the standard for a household scale. So in order for the Balance Board to receive certification from the Japanese government under this weights and measures law, we had to certify it at a level of 300 pounds. Because the United States does not have that law, we’re able to state that it functions at 330 pounds, despite the fact that the boards are exactly the same in the two countries.

Also, because when you’re standing on the Balance Board for some of the activities you don’t quite jump but you squat and exert different amounts of pressure on the Balance Board, the actual physical structure of the board is able to withstand much greater weights of around probably 660 pounds. The weight that it can accurately measure is 330 pounds.

Q: In the Iwata Asks site, you mentioned something about a DS program that would track user’s diets. Is that something that’s still being worked on, and if not, is it something you’d be interested in revisiting?

Miyamoto: Yeah, we were working on a product like that. The challenge with working on something like that, as I mentioned trying to design for a worldwide audience, is trying to design a game that allows you to enter the food that you’ve eaten for everybody in the world is obviously quite challenging. We’re still experimenting with some of those ideas.

Actually, we also during the development of Wii Fit thought quite a bit of trying to incorporate some form of DS connectivity with Wii Fit, which we didn’t actually implement. We have designed the game in such a way that by updating the Wii Fit channel we can add future upgrades that would allow us to incorporate that kind of connectivity. Or, in fact, potentially we could look into upgrading the Wii Fit channel to add some kind of functionality that still takes advantage of all the Wii Fit data you been saving over time, where you could have a third-party developer who might make a fitness game and then the Wii Fit channel could read the fitness data from their game and incorporate that into their Wii Fit data as well. We are thinking about other potential ideas that we could look at.

Q: You talked about Wii Fit’s success in Japan and how well it’s doing there, specifically who in the family is initiating the purchase of the game. How do you think that will translate to American families, and do you think it’s going to be different?

Miyamoto: I guess my assumption would be that it might be somewhat similar. America, I think, has more households where the parents are living apart than Japan does, so that might potentially play a role. Also, I think you would have a lot of cases where the entire family decides together to purchase it. My hope is that people will realize that buying Wii Fit is cheaper than taking the family to Disneyland and might choose to do that instead.

One thing that we found in Japan is that people were coming to the store hoping to buy Wii Fit but didn’t necessarily understand that it’s part of an existing video-game system that they can purchase alongside it. So one thing that we found is that we don’t really know who’s going to come and buy it. That was one of the things that surprised me.



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