2. ''I Want that!''

 

Please note: As of 01/11/2013, SpotPass functionality in Nintendo Letter Box has ceased. Please see the statement about the Nintendo Letter Box SpotPass service for more information.

Iwata:

Something was needed to make sure people wouldn’t give up on their picture diary in three days.

Imai:

Yes. That was a big theme early in development. Around that time, (Masaru) Shimomura-san4, the general manager of the department told me it didn’t feel right for a department with the word “network” in its name to release software without a network function. 4Masaru Shimomura: General Manager, Network Business Department, Nintendo. He appeared in the session of “Iwata Asks” covering Walk with me! Do you know your walking routine?

Iwata:

It was software for the Network Business Department, so the general manager approached you directly with giving it a network function.

Imai:

Yes. We had originally intended to make it in three months, so giving it a network aspect would take more time. But he said that was okay, so it was actually a good idea that I definitely wanted to give a shot. That way you wouldn’t just record your feelings and sentiments, but would be able to share with your family and friends what was important to you. It wouldn’t just be your own picture diary anymore.

Iwata:

Then it became a diary that you could swap around.

Imai:

Yes.

Iwata:

But after development started, it took a little while before you showed me a sample.

Imai:

Yes. I thought we could find something for a diary on Nintendo DSi which would be difficult for a normal diary, and we tried a number of things, like including a daily log or displaying a graph. At the same time, we were making Nintendo Zone Viewer for accessing Nintendo Zone.5 5Nintendo Zone: A wireless service allowing users at hotspots like retail locations across the country to make use of a number of free services, such as downloading original content or trial versions of games to their Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DSi XL, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo DS Lite or Nintendo DS. This service is currently not available in Europe.

Iwata:

The viewer for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo DSi systems.

Imai:

Yes. That time as well, we developed together with Denyu-sha, and there was a demand even then to watch videos with Nintendo Zone Viewer. But we thought it would be great not to just put up videos, but to make it so you could do things like draw graffiti on them. After inquiries within the department about technology we could use, several engineers made suggestions. One involved the letters you had written wriggling around.

Iwata:

The handwritten letters sort of danced around.

Imai:

That’s right. What was special about that technology was how when you later looked at what you had written, it didn’t just show up on the display all at once, but you could play it like a video.

Iwata:

You could watch the writing process.

Imai:

Exactly. I thought, “What if...” and stopped it from wriggling. I doodled something, and played it, and...how should I express it? It’s hard to put into words, but it felt warm.

Iwata Asks
Iwata:

It was like watching yourself write.

Imai:

Yes! It wasn’t like something written was just sitting there, but rather, you got a strong sense of someone actually writing it. I thought that rather than using that technology for Nintendo Zone Viewer videos, it was more compatible with the exchange diary and would be more fun that way. I said, “I want that!” to one of the engineers and took it to Denyu-sha right away. That was a big turning point.

Iwata:

What did you think when you saw it, Takenouchi-san?

Takenouchi:

The order of the strokes showed up, and that made me remember the feeling I had as I was writing it. It felt like I was re-living my experience. So it was really fun to look at something after you wrote it.

Iwata:

And instead of just what you wrote yourself, it’s also fun to watch what others wrote up.

Takenouchi:

Right. It gives you an impression that someone is actually writing it. You wonder what they’ll write, so you can’t help but keep watching.

Iwata:

You make discoveries about how they write, too. Including things like how their stroke order is weird. (laughs)

Imai:

Yes. (laughs) Of course, it’s fun to watch someone who’s good at writing, but you can also sense personality in the writing of someone who isn’t. No matter who wrote it, you never get tired of looking at it.

Iwata:

Kitai-san, you came in towards the end of development, so I doubt you saw that until much later, but when you first saw it, what was your reaction?

Kitai:

I thought you would be able to do a lot of fun things with it. For example,

Video: the strokes become animation

Please note: As of 01/11/2013, SpotPass functionality in Nintendo Letter Box has ceased. Please see the statement about the Nintendo Letter Box SpotPass service for more information.
the strokes become animation , so you could hold back the punchline of what you’re writing only to reveal it at the end.

Iwata Asks
Imai:

You can’t see at first glance what kind of things they have written, so you could stick a punchline of sorts at the very end.

Iwata:

You’re like, “Oh, so that’s what this was leading to!” In other words, it isn’t just about the final content, but the process of writing.

Kitai:

Yes. I found that really interesting.

Iwata:

Until when were you making it for the Nintendo DSi system?

Imai:

About the end of 2009. It was almost done then. We just needed to debug it and then we could release it.

Iwata:

Two years ago, you were displaying the writing process, had established the network function, and begun testing it in the department.

Imai:

Yes, about ten people had begun testing it. In particular, the female staff were exchanging a lot of messages only among themselves. (laughs)

Iwata:

Making sure the guys didn’t find out about it? (laughs)

Imai:

Yes. I gather they were sending quite a lot behind our backs.

Iwata:

Back in our schooldays, we would pass around little notes in the classroom.

Imai:

Like drawings of the teacher. (laughs)

Iwata:

It’s like a modern-day version of that.

Imai:

Yes. This software has that appeal to it.

Iwata:

So if you had wanted, you could have released it as downloadable software for the Nintendo DSi system at the end of 2009.

Imai:

That’s right. Even then, it was shaping up quite nicely. But it had a few weaknesses. For example, the Nintendo DSi system itself didn’t have the Friend List6, so we put that function into the software. But you could only register 18 friends. 6 Friend List: It allows users to exchange a code generated for each Nintendo 3DS system to communicate over the Internet and play games against each other.

Iwata:

With the Nintendo 3DS system, the maximum is 100, but at 18, you could only exchange with a limited number of people with whom you were close.

Imai:

Right. Another big weakness was that you had to manually access the server all the time to check whether you have received a diary from others or not. It was unavoidable that sometimes you would think, “Did it come in? Argh! It didn’t!”

Iwata:

Most of the time it hadn’t.

Imai:

The disappointment from that was a big problem. All the testers had negative things to say about that. The software itself was mostly complete, but while we were thinking over that, development of the Nintendo 3DS system began at Nintendo and we heard that Nintendo 3DS would have something called SpotPass.