I think lots of improvements have been made with the Nintendo DSi, but one thing that really made me happy, even though it's subtle and doesn't stand out, is that the sound is much louder and the sound quality is better.
Yes, that is a big improvement. The designer will be pleased to hear that. (laughs)
When I tried playing Band Brothers DX (available in Japan only), I couldn't have been happier. The DS Lite possessed a lot of improvements over the original DS, but one thing that was sacrificed was the sound. It's hard to notice in the specs, but when you actually use it, you feel like it needs a little more volume. The Nintendo DSi represents a drastic improvement in that area. Technically, how did you achieve that?
Well, there's something called a Codec IC. It does things like amplify sound and convert digital signals into analog signals. That's new this time. In other words, the peripheral…around the CPU…uh…how should I put this?
You upgraded the IC responsible for sound output. (laughs)
Right, it's been upgraded. (laughs) The output increased, and depending on the mode, the sound quality improved.
This time, everyone who listened to the sound demo said it sounded great.
I appreciate hearing that.
And the Nintendo DSi's speakers are not a series of holes like for the DS Lite. Why is that?
Well, the Nintendo DSi has more elements such as cameras and buttons that would normally be round. Lots of round holes would have been overdoing it. We wanted to keep the DSi looking neat.
Keeping it neat was something you really focused on.
The more elements you incorporate, the more likely the user will feel overwhelmed. When you see the final product on its own, there may not be anything immediately striking about its appearance, but a lot of work was put into keeping it simple. However, while any number of simple outward designs can be imagined, if a significant effort isn't put into making the internal design work, they will never be realised. (laughs) With the DSi, there's a strong sense that we designed in full cooperation with those in charge of the internal design.
The speaker apertures make quite a different impression than the two groups of holes in the DS Lite.
Yes, they really do. I'm not sure whether I should say this, but when you compare the DSi with the DS Lite, the way it looks hasn't changed all that drastically. It's almost like we tried not to change it.
But the speakers were an area where we could make an obvious change and keep the unit looking neat. It would look different from its predecessors and cut down on confusion in stores. I'm not usually very insistent, but when it came to this, I pushed pretty strongly.
When you see the final product, you can see the point, the benefit, of making the speakers like this, but you might not understand it immediately upon simply hearing the concept. At first, did the designers wonder if it was really necessary?
From the standpoint of design, six small holes would have been easier, but Ehara-san spoke to the designers again and again, and they said they would give it a little more work. The end result was the speakers as they are now.
So even though there are more components, it looks neater.
I want to make Nintendo DS a kind of icon. What I mean is a symbol - two rectangles, top and bottom, with each half containing another rectangle inside - that even an elementary schooler who isn't very good at drawing could draw so that anyone would recognize it and say, "Oh, that's a DS!" I want to make it as simple as possible. Also, as the software becomes increasingly original, I was afraid incredibly distinctive hardware would clash with it. The console exists for the software, so I designed it not to stand out too much.
Whenever you offer a new version of something, one common approach is to design it so that it hits people over the head with how different it is, but with the DS you didn't want to take that road.
The people in sales might get mad, though, saying it's hard to sell. (laughs) We think it's more like the DS, however, to design it so that it melts seamlessly into the customers' lives, rather than focus on a hardware design that merely makes a flashy appearance in stores.
Nintendo doesn't want to treat the products that are already out there as "old" and say to consumers, "Now you've got to buy our latest product!"
Is there anything else that has changed despite its simple appearance?
Hmm, it's a small thing, but the liquid crystal screen is bigger. It's gone from 3.0 inches to 3.25. If you see it on its own, it isn't easy to tell the difference, but if you're someone who's used to playing the DS Lite, and then you take the DSi in your hands, you'll realise it immediately.
I see. It's only a 0.25-inch increase, not the kind of change we can shout from the rooftops, but in terms of how you feel when you play with them, it's something to be happy about. There was quite a desire among players for a larger screen. The LCD unit's weight is proportional to its area, so in making the screen bigger, there was a possibility that it would become heavier. But you gave a lot of thought to weight as well slimness in the design, and it ended up being a little lighter than the DS Lite.
And whereas fingerprints tended to show up on the black DS Lites, we changed to a texture that prevents this. But again, that's not really something that will reach out and grab customers in stores.
So you've used a matte surface that is less likely to show fingerprints.
Truly, the Nintendo DSi is full of changes that users will discover little by little once they get their hands on one and start playing.
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