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Nintendo discusses “integrated” handhelds and consoles with investor

Satoru Iwata Wii U

During the investor Q&A session that took place last week, we gleaned a lot of new information about Nintendo and the direction its planning to take as a company. It’s very apparent that Iwata realizes the trouble his company is in, as he’s opted to take a pay cut and has directly admitted that the Wii U is not in the best place it could be. Despite that, rumors are circling that Nintendo’s next generation of console and handheld will be integrated and called the Nintendo Fusion.

From the information gleaned from the investor’s meeting this past week, we know that information as presented isn’t exactly true. While Nintendo is hoping to create a handheld that has architecture more similar to their home consoles, the reasons are vastly different than a transformer like home console that can also become a portable.

Originally Posted by Investor

You have explained your concern about users being divided by hardware. Currently, you have both a handheld device business and a home console business. I would like to know whether the organizational changes that took place last year are going to lead to, for example, the integration of handheld devices and home consoles into one system over the medium term, or a focus on cost saving and the improvement of resource efficiency in the medium run. Please also explain if you still have room to reduce research and development expenses.

Originally Posted by Iwata

Last year Nintendo reorganized its R&D divisions and integrated the handheld device and home console development teams into one division under Mr. Takeda. Previously, our handheld video game devices and home video game consoles had to be developed separately as the technological requirements of each system, whether it was battery-powered or connected to a power supply, differed greatly, leading to completely different architectures and, hence, divergent methods of software development. However, because of vast technological advances, it became possible to achieve a fair degree of architectural integration. We discussed this point, and we ultimately concluded that it was the right time to integrate the two teams. 

For example, currently it requires a huge amount of effort to port Wii software to Nintendo 3DS because not only their resolutions but also the methods of software development are entirely different. The same thing happens when we try to port Nintendo 3DS software to Wii U. If the transition of software from platform to platform can be made simpler, this will help solve the problem of game shortages in the launch periods of new platforms. 

Also, as technological advances took place at such a dramatic rate, and we were forced to choose the best technologies for video games under cost restrictions, each time we developed a new platform, we always ended up developing a system that was completely different from its predecessor. The only exception was when we went from Nintendo GameCube to Wii.

Though the controller changed completely, the actual computer and graphics chips were developed very smoothly as they were very similar to those of Nintendo GameCube, but all the other systems required ground-up effort.

However, I think that we no longer need this kind of effort under the current circumstances. In this perspective, while we are only going to be able to start this with the next system, it will become important for us to accurately take advantage of what we have done with the Wii U architecture. It of course does not mean that we are going to use exactly the same architecture as Wii U, but we are going to create a system that can absorb the Wii U architecture adequately. When this happens, home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different, and they will become like brothers in a family of systems.

Still, I am not sure if the form factor (the size and configuration of the hardware) will be integrated. In contrast, the number of form factors might increase. Currently, we can only provide two form factors because if we had three or four different architectures, we would face serious shortages of software on every platform. To cite a specific case, Apple is able to release smart devices with various form factors one after another because there is one way of programming adopted by all platforms.

Apple has a common platform called iOS. Another example is Android. Though there are various models, Android does not face software shortages because there is one common way of programming on the Android platform that works with various models. The point is, Nintendo platforms should be like those two examples.

Whether we will ultimately need just one device will be determined by what consumers demand in the future, and that is not something we know at the moment. However, we are hoping to change and correct the situation in which we develop games for different platforms individually and sometimes disappoint consumers with game shortages as we attempt to move from one platform to another, and we believe that we will be able to deliver tangible results in the future.

This is the full Q&A from the briefing, so we have a clearer vision about what Iwata hopes to achieve when it comes to integrated hardware between handheld and consoles. What do you think of this new direction?

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  • Yen

    I don’t know if it’s a mistranslation or something, but I think it’s pretty cool that they’ve experimented with porting between Wii, 3DS, and Wii U.

    • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

      It’s not a mistranslation, we have real world examples of it. Donkey Kong Country Returns was ported to 3DS after its success on the Wii. There have been rumors of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon making it to Wii U as well.

      • Simon Stevens

        I hope we get dark moon, playing Luigis mansion on a handheld just never appealed to me, DKCR was on the Wii btw I have it for the 3DS too, it translated well :) I still think a 3DS adapter for the Wii U is still the way to go though, at least it would give initial owners something to play.

        • JuleyJules

          If they do start to have two gamepads available that might help or a gamepad/3DS combo for those who already have 3DS it might get some people to upgrade to Wii U. In any case, Luigi’s Mansion on WIi U would be fun. Another update would be great for spring too before the summer one with the speed boost menu.

          • Simon Stevens

            I always figured they’d try to integrate the 3DS/DS somehow with the WiiU, I never saw it as a one off, more of a test run for future hardware, I expect many more ideas and practices to come into play over the next few years, especially now that Nintendo are exploring the online functionality in greater depth, a 3DS adapter would be one step forward in that direction considering the system is so perfectly set up for it, expect much more from them :) hold onto your seats, the Nintendo revolution is coming!

      • Shota

        donkey country returns was for wii not wii u -_-

        • http://about.me/overlordror Ashley King

          Yeah, I type Wii U so much it’s become a reflex. Sorry.

          • http://ejercitogeek.net/ Mercurio2054

            you’re so lovely

  • https://www.facebook.com/BlueLightningTechnicalServices Bob Wilkerson

    So it sounds like that in the next generation he would like to retain backwards compatibility which is good. I know it is years away but I am looking forward to what Nintendo has planned for our gaming future

    • Andrew Clear

      More than just compatibility, but also unify the underlying software development technologies as well. He pointed out iOS, and Android, 2 operating systems, so it sounds like he wants to be able to put the same OS on each system going forward, which would make software development near seamless on each platform.

      • https://www.facebook.com/BlueLightningTechnicalServices Bob Wilkerson

        Yes I understood that part.. Just happy that his goal is not to break the compatibility with previous consoles when making a new one. You know kind of like the “other guys” do.

        • Andrew Clear

          Their handhelds have always seemed to be backwards compatible, and since the GC they have maintend compatibility, so I doubt they are going to go the greedy MS and Sony route. Plus, MS and Sony are not doing well financially (their game departments), so removing backwards compatibility and forcing people to buy older consoles makes sense for them.

      • e_rocket

        And that would be really good

    • RyuNoHadouken

      it will come sooner than you think..they will definitely cut the Wii U’s lifespan short by 4 years…i’d say a new system will be here by 2016…2017 at the latest.

      • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

        as long as it’s back compat so all my Wii U games weren’t for naught, I’m good

      • DragonSilths

        Nope. 2018 the next Home Console will show up. Remember the Wii went 2 years with basically nothing except Skyward Sword and the 3 localized games. Wii U will last till 2018.

        • RyuNoHadouken

          Wii also sold 100 million units…U wont do a fourth of that

          • DragonSilths

            Wii U will make 30-40 million.

          • RyuNoHadouken

            doubt it

      • Kaihaku

        I think that the timetable for the integrated console launch will be set based on where the 3DS, not Wii U, is at in it’s life cycle. So I’d guess 2017-2018…only sooner if the 3DS starts to lag.

        • Jeffery02

          And who knows? The Wii U may become something that will make people happy that they don’t have to give up the Wii U on Nintendo’s next gen. You know, like they had to do for the PS4 and Xbone.

  • JuleyJules

    It would be good I think if Nintendo had one system to promote that is a home console and a portable that you can take anywhere to continue your games like the rumoured fusion we saw recently. Every game would be available to play anywhere – Pokémon, Monster Hunter, Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Zelda, Metroid and hopefully 3rd party would be back like AC, COD, Batman etc. They’d only have one system to promote and focus on as well. Right now with two it seems they don’t know where to focus attention even though it’s pretty obvious to the gamers.

    If they can get it so two controllers/portable units could be used with the base then maybe they could sell it separately as well for those who just want to have a portable unit like 3DS.

    • Simon Stevens

      Would certainly be the best option, one big install base all under one roof, considering people who love Nintendo games couldn’t give a monkeys over hardware specifications, I imagine there’d be no real hiccups, I imagine they’d still continue to sell the most handhelds but a micro console version would probably do well too.

  • Re-Master

    Sounded good until the iOS/Android analogy. Those products work, but ONLY mobile-wise. Look at Ouya. Yes it’s a console, but it’s games are STILL mobile games. The same architecture would be so difficult, unless they made an insanely strong Handheld or an insanely weak console.

    • https://www.facebook.com/BlueLightningTechnicalServices Bob Wilkerson

      I think you missed the point. Having the same OS structure across platforms means easier development across platforms. It is no different than any other OS that can run on a range of hardware specs and it can still have an indicator of what platform it is so the game cannot run if the requirements are not met.

      • Barters

        Yep, and when he spoke of possibly more form factors I’m thinking with a single unified OS……Nintendo may have a handheld, a premium handheld with more power extracting better graphics from the same games……they may also have two types of console. With the premium being something with PS4 like specs. All made possible by a unified OS.

    • asymptoteman

      A better comparison might be the windows OS. Windows 8 and windows mobile integrate seemlessly between a PC and a windows phone or windows tablet, even though the PC is vastly more powerful than the phone or tablet. However, the apps and programs work well on both. This then gives rise to being able to use more form factors such as one like the 3DS or a gaming tablet that can be used on the go and the synched to the console to be used like a game pad. The possibilities of what Nintendo can do really open up when they do something like this.

  • RichM

    I think many people were hoping they could just take their Wii U gamepad on a family trip to keep playing their games. Not the case. In most instances, I can’t leave the room the console is in before I lose connectivity.

  • GregoryTheRainMaker

    How about you talk about games more?

  • Viktor Araujo

    You have to admire that. They are in a tough spot and instead of goin for a less risky move (a default black box/power house) they want to try something
    different.

  • readypembroke

    What is up with the thumbs down trolls!?!?!?!?!!?!

  • Magnus Eriksson

    Yeah, well no thanks. This is the last Nintendo product I’ll ever buy. Too many lies from you Nintendo.

    • LightofHonor

      Care to explain the lies? Wii U and 3DS do everything they claimed they would. Lack of games aren’t lies, especially since they just said “we know we need more games.”

      • C4

        Right now they need to focus on 3DS and Wii U. It’s nice to talk about the future once in a while but IMHO Iwata overdid it, while trying to please as many investors as he can. Losing money at some point was inevitable as they need R&D purely for their console business to step up. Maybe the health stuff makes these losses easier to digest for investors I dunno.

  • Justin Carlson

    I like the idea of one unified hardware standard and operating system with different features for mobile or home console.
    They could both run the exact same games. The home console could be more powerful to support higher resolutions, more graphic filters/effects, split screen multiplayer, etc. but the core game experience would be the same. So you only have to buy the game once for both home and portable, and developers will have a much larger user-base to get sales on.

  • TheHaydenator

    Fuck me the downvote trolls have hit a new high

  • steveb944

    I hope the next console does not have Wii U architecture as that was the reason the Wii U was a bit hindered, because of Wii support. If they had dropped Wii support we’d have better hardware and possibly easier 3rd party support for them to port games.

    Regardless, I’m looking forward to this as I buy everything Nintendo offers. I’d love a portable and home console together. I was hoping 3DS and Wii U would have some compatibility, but the only thing I’ve been able to see is Mii transfer and Monster Hunter data transfer. If we could at least screen all our 3DS games on the big screen through our Wii U, that would be amazing.

  • Michael

    I see a lot of downvoting Trolls…

    By the way, this sounds great. A uniform OS could create something unique. Something I would like is if I could play a game on the console and then continue on the handheld one when I sit in the bus to downtown.

    • Prizm

      If that was possible, then there’d be no point to having both a console and handheld. You might as well just make a handheld with a HDMI port so you can plug it into the TV when you get home.

      • Jeffery02

        At that point, the difference of a console and handheld will not be gameplay potential but feature potential. Imagine if there was a single console that could be used as a central hub for multiple portables. What if the console was powerful enough to run the game at a high fps as well as full HD while the portable could not? Maybe the console could have more internal storage as well as multiple GamePads going. You would need one portable for each player of a multiplayer game but only one console for everyone. Maybe it could even allow you to use a portable as an extra controller. What if you could take your portable to a friends house with your profile and all your saves so that you could log-in as a guest on their console?

        I am not saying that Nintendo will do all, or even any, of these things. I’m just saying that the potential is out there and that there would still be plenty of justifiable reasons to still make a console and portable separate. These are just reasons that I came up with in 10 minutes, imagine if you gave a group of people months to come up with more. I am optimistic, but also trying to take things as Nintendo announces them. I like the potential, but I won’t get my hopes up on a particular feature or ability. All I can do is voice my opinion on what they can add and see if anything sticks. Until then, I’ll keep my eyes peeled and my ears open.

  • Geoffrey Tasker

    Please Call it the Gameboy and make this old 28 year old man happy

    • Kaihaku

      Personally, I want to see ‘Nintendo Entertainment System’ again.

      • Geoffrey Tasker

        I’m not against that Since it will be a hybrid

  • Jonathan George Anaya

    Did anyone else sense that Nintendo is pulling the plug on WiiU? When talking about making a NintendOS, Iwata explains how the WiiU can not be apart of that future…. It’s too late to change the Power PC hardware.
    So, instead, Nintendo is prepping the Fusion of Handheld and Console capability. Perhaps Handhelds in the East and Fusion Consoles in the West? Hmmm…. Nintendo wants to unite their programming code and make it playable on ANY Nintendo Capable Device. Genius!!!

    • C4

      Did they pulled the plug for Wii in 2008? No.

      R&D has always to think ahead, and that is what he is referring to. The Wii U OS won’t change (it also kinda looks like the 3DSs…)

  • DragonSilths

    We knew lke a year ago that the next Nintendo consoles would have similar architecture. Iwata said so in a Iwata talks or whatever. This is nothing new, just more confirmation.

  • Rinslowe

    So Nintendo are talking the next evolution of handhelds and integrated software and apps.
    Pretty standard fare…

  • brian cox

    Mario fps,real world graffix,dark colored Nintendo characters.real weapons jets tanks choppers,and throw in giant mushrooms mini mushrooms so u can get larg and punch down jets or go mini to go under tanks and place c4 under them!frogsuit for navy battles.shrink to mini strap on a tanooki suit glide around shooting.a Mario fps would rule.

  • iamserious

    Sounds like same OS, environment and account for home and handheld console. They should make the new home console capable of playing the new handheld games locally and then being able to continue game progress on handheld (then back to home console and so on). This should shut people’s mouths about whether Nintendo will be going all software.

  • BGhp

    Good read

  • Brandon

    Im guessing their next console wont be as powerful as the “fusion” rumor proposed, but a bit better then the ps4.

  • Soltera

    The more news that comes from Nintendo the more I think that the rumor of Nintendo Fusion isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. Whatever the case may be, whatever the future holds for the Wii U and Nintendo, I am at least glad that they have admitted to their mistakes and are taking strides to remedying the situation.

  • Josie the Sketcher

    But…but…but the Wii U is barely 2 years old.Why are they thinking about a new console now? They really should be focusing on improving the Wii U marketing.

    • JuicieJ

      Companies start planning for their next generation hardware LONG before said generation rolls around.

      • Josie the Sketcher

        That is true. I just worry if they mention anything about a new console, people wouldn’t bother buying the Wii U anymore.

  • Jeffery02

    Makes sense. If Nintendo could figure out how to make it so that a single game can play on both a handheld AND a console without losing quality on the console and being able to do it without developing the same game twice, then they may just give themselves a much needed advantage. I just hope that they can integrate the 3DS, in-part at least, as well so that all of the 3DS software will painlessly transfer to the new handheld. Essentially, if they are going to base it off of the Wii U’s architecture, then I hope they at least throw a dab of the 3DS in there as well.

  • C.S. Bailey

    And here lies the problem. N64,Gamecube, Wii, Wii U…….. all great systems at the end of the day (Wii U is barely hanging in there). All had games that the media still adores, but they all could have been so much more. Each of those systems were about $100 retail away from being on par or better than the competition. Unless they plan on buying AMD or Nvidia, they aren’t going to be able to put out a system that’s profitable on it’s own at launch ever again. The Wii U is there first boat ride in that ocean, let’s hope they upgrade vessels next trip. Yeah, you can cross the ocean in a sail boat, but you can do it faster and have more fun on a cruise ship.

  • shaun

    They should call it the “new” Nintendo Entertainment system and make it look like a retro version of the original. PS that would have boosted sales of the wii U

  • Oni

    Whatever they decided, i hope they don’t stop making home consoles.

  • bugart19

    It would seem that Nintendo will attempt to profit as much as possible from the Wii U to at least break even before a new console is introduce. The new console is clearly going to have an operating system very similar to its new portable version, which is clear Nintendo is already planning its next home and portable consoles. Depending on the performance of the Wii U and 3DS, will determine how soon the next new consoles will be announced, with major moves by Nintendo to integrate its hardware devices, it sounds like Nintendo maybe ready to introduce new hardware sooner than we think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brent.mccardell Brent McCardell

    this is getting more and more painful to watch every day…its a slow motion train wreck spread over two years…