Sugiyama-san, when I asked you earlier about whether you thought Nintendo would give Wii Fit such a strong push, you replied, “Of course not!” At what point did you realise that Wii Fit was being geared up to be a massive product?
I think the people who worked on this project thought for the whole time that it was going to be a minor project.
I never considered Wii Fit to be a minor project, but…when did you realise that it wasn’t?
I think it was once our team started getting bigger. For most of the time, we were working in a small team, but when more members were added to the team, I started wondering, “Could it…?” But I didn’t know for sure until I saw the response to Wii Fit at this year’s E3.
Even before seeing the response at E3, surely you should have known it wasn’t a minor product when Miyamoto-san decided to present it himself on stage?
Well, that’s definitely true! (laughs)
How about you, Matsunaga-san? When did you know?
Until the size of our team increased, I just couldn’t help but feel that it was a minor project. It wasn’t until October’s Nintendo Conference that I…
That was just a month ago! (laughs)
I’d definitely heard about its high reputation at E3, but even then I wasn’t entirely convinced that it would be a major product.
So you’re saying my promotional skills need polishing! (laughs)
But when I saw the scale of the preparations for the Nintendo Conference, I started suspecting that it might in fact be a major product.
You must have realised something was going on when you saw a large number of playable booths featuring Wii Fit! (laughs)
You must have been working so hard that you didn’t even notice what was going on around you. I’m sure there were certain points towards the end when development was pretty rough, especially because the final development stages of Wii Fit happened to coincide with the final stages of Super Mario Galaxy.
During the final stages of Super Mario Galaxy, we stopped getting any feedback from Miyamoto-san. That made us pretty nervous, and we felt like we’d been abandoned! (laughs)
Miyamoto-san’s desk was in a room just across the hall from our development room, so we had an arrangement in which we would either approach him at his desk or he would come here to give his suggestions. But then he seemed to suddenly vanish off the face of the planet, and we were worried that he wouldn’t come back to help with our project anymore. But the minute Mario Galaxy was completed, he buried us in an avalanche of suggestions! (laughs)
People are so fickle! (laughs) If you abandon them, they get worried, but if you give them too much attention, they want you to leave them alone.
In the end, though, he gave us a lot of suggestions that I think helped bring everything together cohesively.
Did you think he went too far with any of the suggestions?
I’d like to hear that answer myself! (laughs)
There wasn’t a huge “upending of the tea table” right towards the end of the project this time around. If anything, there weren’t enough dishes on the tea table to start off with! (laughs)
Well, you did end up preparing a new tea table in the form of Aerobic Exercises. And Miyamoto-san did add another dish on that table in the form of Jogging! (laughs)
The menu screen for Aerobic Exercises is composed of nine spaces in a three-by-three grid, but we originally only had eight menu items. We knew from the start that we would be told to eventually fill that missing space, but we were so busy trying to complete the game that we just pretended not to notice! (laughs)
I said that it would be fine to keep it at eight, but Miyamoto-san wasn’t about to let us off the hook. So that’s how we ended up adding Free Jogging to fill up the empty space in August.
It really wasn’t until the last minute that everything came together, was it? At the Nintendo Conference, Miyamoto-san said that the development room had turned into a “healthy workplace”. Healthy, but a bit smelly! (laughs)
Everyone was moving around and being active, and since it was summer the smell of sweat was pretty strong! (laughs)
I heard the debug team room was particularly bad. Just imagine a bunch of guys exercising in a single room all day long... (laughs)
Still, it must have been really difficult for the debug team11, because testing all those exercises really required a lot of stamina. I’m really grateful that they managed to focus on their work until the very end. 11 Debug team: A team of individuals that repeatedly play a game to find programming errors.
They definitely did a great job. Now, I’d like to end this interview by having each of you make one final remark about Wii Fit.
First, I’d like everybody to grab a Wii Balance Board and play Wii Fit. Or rather, step on a Wii Balance Board and play Wii Fit! (laughs) I think once you first try stepping on the Wii Balance Board, you’ll have a new and surprising experience that you wouldn’t expect at first glance.
You wouldn’t normally ask consumers to “step on” a new home console product as soon as they get it! (laughs)
We put a lot of time and effort into designing an interface that would encourage users to play Wii Fit every day, with a lot of help from Miyamoto-san. I think that the more you use Wii Fit, the more you’ll fall in love with it, so I’d like everyone out there to please give it a try.
As someone who played a non-finalised version of Wii Fit every day, I can say that it helped me discover so many new things about my own body. The Wii Balance Board is, of course, similar to bathroom scales, but at the same time it has many features that you’d never find in ordinary scales. Everybody involved had to pretty much grope in the dark throughout the development process, with the software development team on the verge of being broken up at one point, and yet you all managed to create this totally unusual product. How did you do it?
This product would have never seen the light of day if only one person had been working on it. I think it’s because so many different people contributed to this project that we were able to create a product such as Wii Fit.
There were a lot of people who would take the time to seriously discuss Wii Fit with us, including, of course, Miyamoto-san. Whenever I was stuck on a certain aspect of the game, I would ask the people around me and they would do their best to give me some good advice.
Do you think that if those people hadn’t helped out during those times, Wii Fit would have never been created?
I honestly think so. Especially when we went to talk to all those scales manufacturers, and nothing seemed to be working out…
They don’t normally find themselves considering the entertainment market, so they must have found it difficult to follow what you were talking about. (laughs) Colleagues really are lifesavers, aren’t they?
The make-up of the Wii Fit team was really varied. The design and sound staff, for example, were brought in directly from Twilight Princess. I was a little afraid at first that a group of people who’d worked on something like that wouldn’t take a completely atypical project like this as seriously, but in the end I had nothing to worry about because they all worked very hard on Wii Fit.
No one would say, “I didn’t join Nintendo just so I could work on something like this.”
Instead of just handing the game over to a team of novice designers because of the game’s relatively simple look, I decided that the nature of the game itself required the kind of people who’ve worked on games such as Twilight Princess. That’s why the team members were all really experienced people, and I’m really grateful that they all worked together to create this great game.
Well then, in my next interview I’ll be talking to the development staff for Wii Fit, including those who came from the Zelda team.
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