Early revisions of the Wii Balance Board would only let you balance left and right. But with four sensors, you could balance left, right, forwards and backwards, and not only did the specifications change greatly because of this, but it seems the design also underwent a long process of trial and error.
Since the basis of this plan originally began with scales, the first Wii Balance Board concept was almost perfectly square, like bathroom scales. I tried getting on it and doing a few exercises, but it just didn’t feel right. After I tried doing press-ups on it, I told the staff that I wanted them to change the dimensions to make it roughly shoulder-width, but they immediately responded with excuses like “it’ll cost more if we make it bigger, you know.”
Since it comes bundled with the software, there must have been a strong desire to reduce the cost wherever possible, even by a single yen.
Well, it was me who was telling them to reduce the costs in the first place, so I can’t really blame them! Though the square version of the Wii Balance Board really did feel uncomfortable, the design had already come pretty far, so we knew we really had to pull our socks up... (wry smile)
Ah, here it is – your last resort, upending the tea table11! (laughs) 11 This is a reference to the classic Japanese comic and animated series, Hoshi of the Giants. The father in the series once upended the tea table while the family was eating a meal. Shigeru Miyamoto's working style has been compared to this because of his tendency to make last-minute suggestions that leave everyone else scrambling to implement them before the deadline.
(laughs) When I asked them “Can’t you choose a size based on the width of a person’s shoulders?” they told me “But if we do that, the strength will change and it’ll end up making things very difficult.
I remember the stunned look on the face of the hardware planner when the size of the Wii Balance Board changed.
Well, I was hoping he’d start to smile in the end, but... I am truly sorry about that, though.
Still, if you try it out for yourself, you can see why the Wii Balance Board became the size it is now.
There’s even a game known as Snowboard Slalom 12 included among the Balance Games in Wii Fit, and now that the Wii Balance Board is a rectangular shape, it does feel more like a real snowboard. It wouldn’t feel right if the Wii Balance Board were square now, would it? That’s why I thought something more snowboard-like might be better than something square, like bathroom scales. The problem was that, if you made it too big, it wouldn’t fit comfortably into the living room. We settled on a size close to that of a person’s shoulder width, though the result might be a bit small for bigger people from other countries. We measured the shoulder width of all sorts of Japanese people and finally decided on the current size after making a set of trial models of varying sizes. 12 A snowboarding balance game played on the Wii Balance Board.
You also went as far as investigating what percentage of people you could cover by doing such things as adjusting the size of the Wii Balance Board based on the average size of Americans’ feet, didn’t you?
That’s right. Since Reggie13 at NOA was scheduled to come to Japan to attend meetings of overseas executives, we had him get on the Wii Balance Board and even measured his shoulder width. (laughs) 13 Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America Inc. Also appears on stages and makes presentations when Nintendo holds press events in the US.
There were people with bigger feet than Reggie too, weren’t there?
Yes, and we even found lots of people with large feet in our Japanese offices. By the way, didn’t you upend the tea table this time as well?
We’ll get to that later... (laughs)Originally, the Wii Balance Board had a cord that connected to the Wii Remote, which it used to send wireless signals to the Wii console. With this setup, the costs were kept down.
Well, I’m quite frugal that way! (laughs)Also, attaching new peripherals to the Wii Remote is one of the Wii concepts, so I was hoping to do something like that, until you told me it would be awkward…
I just couldn’t see myself kneeling down to plug it into the Wii Remote just to measure my weight. I also thought it was better not to force our customers to do so, either. That’s why I insisted on this point. You could probably say that was the extent of my influence on the specifications of Wii Fit. (laughs)
Indeed. But thanks to that influence, we ended up with deluxe specifications! (laughs) When we made it so that you plugged the Wii Balance Board into the Wii Remote, we also had an additional safety concern of what would happen if you accidentally stepped on the Wii Remote. So that issue was resolved, and the appearance of the Wii Balance Board became much more streamlined as well.
This way, it really is easy to weigh yourself every day. I think if you had to attach or remove the Wii Remote every single time, it would detract from the simplicity.
That’s right. Bearing in mind that grandparents may also use it, it’s got to be the kind of shape that makes it user-friendly so that when they feel like just giving it a little try, there are no unforeseen complications. Since they’ll be weighing themselves, it has to be more fun and simple than using bathroom scales, doesn’t it? To achieve this, we devoted a lot of our attention to what kind of interface we used and what you had to do in order to start playing. We’re about to release an accessory unlike anything anyone’s ever seen before, and one that connects to the TV at that, so it was really worth working on.
There are no scales without a display, let alone any that use wireless signals to display information on the TV.
It is a truly special piece of hardware. I thought it would be better to use wireless signals since people weigh themselves in the bathroom in the first place. But if we made it so that you’d weigh yourself in the bathroom, you wouldn’t be able to see the TV – so after discussing some things, we decided the more practical approach of doing it in front of the TV would be more interesting, and that’s how it became the way it is now. Additionally, we also thought it would be nice if all sorts of software supporting the Wii Balance Board other than Wii Fit came out. Wii Fit has games featuring snowboarding and skiing, and we initially thought that might be enough, but it would be nice if other software came out for people who’d like to challenge a variety of courses and so on.
I think it’d be nice if some new, simpler software that used the Wii Balance Board came out as WiiWare14. I think if you suddenly released new software for the Wii Balance Board at full price, the publishers would find it a bit difficult to market as packaged software to be sold in shops. That’s why I think it’d be good if you could download less expensive software onto your Wii instead of just relying on boxed games. 14 A service only for Wii allowing paid downloads for new software.
Yes, that would be nice. Maybe I could make that? I could make a version of the Snowboard Slalom with improved courses, or maybe 1080° Balance Boarding15! 15 This is a reference to the 1080° snowboarding games released on the N64 and Nintendo GameCube.
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