1. Suddenly Had to Stop

Iwata
Well then, would you all mind introducing yourselves in turn.
Shimomura
I’m Shimomura from the Network Service Development Department. I’ve had experience in both the development of software and hardware in the past, and so with the Personal Trainer: Walking game, I was in charge of overseeing creation of both the Activity Meter and the software as well as bringing the project together as a whole.Activity Meter™ Accessories
Mizuki
I’m Mizuki from the Network Planning Group of the Network Service Development Department. I joined this project in the middle of development in a supporting role, doing similar work to a producer.
Morimura
I’m Morimura, from the same Network Planning Group as Mizuki-san. I was the director of the Personal Trainer: Walking project. Before this, I worked as a programmer, but I transferred departments and this is the first software I have been in charge of.
Akita
I’m Akita from the Mechanical Design Group for the Network Service Development Department. I was in charge of the mechanical design1 of the Activity Meter accessory. 1. Mechanical Design is the carrying out of the development, design and evaluation of the mechanical parts found in the exterior components (casing) and switches etc.
Iwata
Well then, first could you tell me a bit about the Network Service Development Department? It’s a slightly strange department, even for Nintendo.
Shimomura
Well, originally in Nintendo, we had people making hardware and people making software mixed up in the same department, and those people would work together to make things.Shimomura
Iwata
In other words, an integrated software/hardware business was being carried out within a single department. For example, while someone was working on the Game Boy hardware, someone at the next desk along might be working on its game.
Shimomura
Yes, but cases of similar types of development being carried out by two different departments at the same time were increasing and the scale of development was also getting bigger and bigger. The development system in its traditional form had become inefficient and so the company went through a large-scale reorganization. As a result, Nintendo was restructured into two hardware development divisions and two software development divisions.
Iwata
The fundamental idea of an integrated software/hardware business hasn’t changed, but this idea is now realized through cooperation between departments. And only the Network Service Development Department isn’t assigned to any of the development divisions.
Shimomura
Yes, it’s only in our department that the traditional development system has remained. As a result, we have people like Mizuki-san and Morimura-san who make software, people like Akita-san who work on mechanical design and also programmers and so on, so it’s a bit of a unique department for Nintendo now.
Iwata
So since you’ve been working in that department, Shimomura-san, could you tell us a little about the products you have been involved with up to now?
Shimomura
Recently, I was involved in MAGKID2, which is a sliding controller similar to a mouse. Akita-san was also in charge of the mechanical design for this product. I also worked on Pokémotion3 with the previous incarnation of the Network Services Development Department. 2. MAGKID is a Nintendo DS game called Slide Adventure MAGKID released in Japan in August of 2007. It is an action game which you play by attaching a sliding controller like a mouse onto the DS. 3. Pokémotion is a communication tool released in Japan in August of 2003. Through the flashing of LEDs and the afterimage left in your eyes, it allowed you to see all kinds of Pokémon and words. (Released by the Pokémon Company)
Iwata
That product was a stick with lots of LEDs lined up along it and when you waved it back and forth images of Pokémon and things would appear, didn’t they? Didn’t you also work on Pokémon mini4 ? 4. Pokémon mini was an ultra-compact handheld system released in North America in November 2001. (Released by the Pokémon Company) Approximately 10 pieces of compatible software were released.
Shimomura
Yes, that was a very small handheld game system, and while it had a black and white LCD display, it actually allowed you to change software. I was also involved in the development of the special cartridge for WarioWare: Twisted!5 5. WarioWare: Twisted! is a Game Boy Advance game released in North America in May of 2005. It is a twisting action puzzle game.
Iwata
A gyro sensor was included in the cartridge, so you could play by spinning the actual Game Boy Advance system around. I think that your team prepared the hardware, and Ozawa from Rhythm Heaven made the software and then together with your superior, Sakamoto-san, you came and presented it to me. After that…. weren’t you involved in the Mobile Game Boy Adapter6 too? 6. The Mobile Game Boy adapter was released in Japan and was a peripheral for connecting the Game Boy Color or the Game Boy Advance to a mobile phone. You can battle with far away friends and receive data. Iwata
Shimomura
I was. Isn’t that enough yet? (laughs) With the Mobile Game Boy Adapter, you could connect to the internet through your mobile phone to download data and have online battles. I was also involved in the development of Satellaview7, which attached to the Super NES and allowed you to download games from satellites. Although that was quite a long time ago. (laughs) 7. Satellaview was a peripheral for the Super NES for receiving data broadcast from satellites. It was possible to play games for free. The service began in Japan in 1995 and ended in 2000.
Iwata
So why after working on all these projects did you decide to start developing an Activity Meter?
Shimomura
This wasn’t an idea that we originally thought of ourselves. There was a request from Europe for us to make something fun for the DS using an Activity Meter. And at about the same time we received a proposal from Creatures8 saying that they wanted to make a health tool for the DS using an Activity Meter. So with that we made a start on the development of the Activity Meter. 8. Creatures Inc. is the developer who made games such as Pokémon Ranger Shadows of Almia (DS) and Nonono Puzzle Chalien (GBA) as well as making the Pokémon Trading Card Game. It is based in Tokyo.
Iwata
Once you had decided to make an Activity Meter, how did you start development?
Shimomura
Ummm…
Iwata
It looks like the development took so long you’ve forgotten. (laughs)
Shimomura
Well, it’s something we began about two years ago…. The first thing that we did was to find out just how many pedometers are sold each year in Japan.
Iwata
So how many are sold?
Shimomura
We found it was about 4.2 million in a year. This was about two years ago though. So we thought that if 4.2 million are sold every year it wouldn’t hurt for us to make one too. That was the real beginning of the project. So from there we began research into the internal structure, things like the circuitry design.Shimomura
Iwata
In the past, pedometers used a mechanical switch, like with Pokémon Pikachu9, but that isn’t true any more is it? 9. Pokémon Pikachu is a pedometer that lets you become closer friends with the Pikachu in the screen the more you walk. It was released in Japan in March of 1998.
Shimomura
That’s right, in the more recent pedometer, they usually use accelerometers and shock sensors, but back in the time of Pokémon Pikachu they used a mechanical device and so had the drawback that if you had it sideways it wouldn’t count your steps.
Iwata
That’s why you had to fix it to your belt to make sure it stayed the right way up.
Shimomura
That’s right. In order for an Activity Meter to count your steps no matter which way up you have it, you need to use a dual axis accelerometer or two shock sensors. Thanks to this you can just put it in your pocket or your bag without worrying about which way up it is. Considering elements such as battery life, we decided to pursue a development path using shock sensors which have a low power consumption.
Iwata
When did Akita-san, who was in charge of the mechanical design join the project?
Akita
It was when the internal components such as the circuitry had been decided on. Since you can’t run tests carrying around a bare circuit board, my first task was to build a case to contain it. Then, when the specifications for the circuitry had just about been finalized, the official design began. After that, it becomes quite a long story…Akita
Iwata
That’s fine with me. (laughs) I had you come here today because I wanted to hear that story.
Akita
OK then. I considered how to connect the Activity Meter to the DS software, and thought that using the Game Boy Advance slot on the DS would probably be the most obvious way.
Iwata
In other words you tried to make a Game Boy Advance cartridge function as an Activity Meter.
Akita
Yes. After carrying around the cartridge you could return home, put it in the DS and then the DS game card would be able to read the data from it. And this is the design we made.Prototype
Iwata
It seems like it’s twice the size of a normal Game Boy Advance cartridge.
Akita
Since we anticipated people walking around with it in their pocket, if it was a normal cartridge then the connections that go into the hardware would be exposed.
Iwata
That could easily lead to a malfunction. There might be lots of dust in your pocket, and if you are going walking you might get sweaty too.
Akita
Yes. So then having the Activity Meter fold in three was proposed and we looked into a design like this which would encompass the cartridge. It ended up a bit bigger than a normal cartridge, but we were able to guarantee a certain amount of water resistance. And so the design was finished, the explanation to the Manufacturing Division had taken place, and right when we were about to start the design for mass production…we suddenly had to stop.Prototype
Shimomura
For a reason that nobody could have anticipated, we had to upturn the tea table10 and start again from scratch. 10. “Upturning the tea table” is a phrase used by developers at Nintendo to refer to a sudden and dramatic change of direction suggested at the latter stages of the development process.