Why Nintendo has its act together

Check out this surprisingly candid roundtable interview of some of the key figures responsible for developing the Wii. The interview is conducted by Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata, and there are some love-fest moments, but for the most part it’s very detailed and honest (and long).

The two things I kept thinking as I read the interview: First, Nintendo completely has its act together. They’ve had a vision for Wii (and DS), a clear strategy and idea behind what they wanted to do (even if, as the interview shows, it took them a while to figure out how to translate the vision into the final product), and they’ve done everything right to follow through with it.

And second, it’s unimaginable that Sony would release an interview like this. Not because company culture wouldn’t allow it (I have no idea if that’s the case), but because the Playstation 3 itself wouldn’t support such a thoughtful, open discussion. Instead of having ideas of how to change the way people look at video games, expand the gaming audience, and generally try something new — ideas which allowed Nintendo to explore and eventually come up with the Wii — Sony had one idea: Get people to buy Blu-ray DVDs. Okay, two: Also make a powerful graphics chip that might have other uses to earn more licensing fees.

That’s why Sony has appeared so bumbling. Every decision and delay and piece of news was shaped and determined by the Blu-ray obsession rather than by a clear set of ideas about how to make a better video game experience. That’s also why Nintendo will have 1 million Wiis available at launch in North America (according to Nintendo of Canada’s vice president; there hasn’t been an official announcement), while Sony will be lucky to have its stated goal of 400,000.

— September 26, 2006

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