When the prototype model for Wii MotionPlus arrived and you all got a chance to use it, what did you think you’d do with it?
That’s exactly what we thought: “What are we going to do with this?” (laughs) Actually, the idea of developing a sequel to Wii Sports was one that we’d considered a long time before this. We’d even had discussions about which new sports to include, but we weren’t able to see how we could come up with new ways to enjoy the game, so it was temporarily put on hold. When Wii MotionPlus came along, we thought that we might now be able to revive the plan.
So you hadn’t settled on a plan to develop the sequel to Wii Sports right from the start. It was rather that you sat down to consider what you could develop that would utilise this new device and you subsequently concluded that the best thing would be to use it in a sequel to Wii Sports.
That’s right. We thought that Wii MotionPlus would be well suited to Wii Sports. Miyamoto-san had also spoken to us…
Was Miyamoto-san expecting a sequel?
Um, no… Well, he actually spoke about an island. It was known as the “Island Concept”.
The “Island Concept”? What does that mean exactly?
I think that Miyamoto-san might be the best person to ask about that one...
Miyamoto-san, could you explain the “Island Concept"?
Certainly. I had been thinking about the “Island Concept” in one form or another for more than ten years.
You’d been thinking about it for that long?
Well, one part of Nintendo’s business has been creating a whole host of characters which we have then licensed out.
Characters like Mario and Donkey Kong.
That’s right. But I’ve always thought, seeing as we are a games company, that in addition to characters resembling people, why couldn’t we also turn the actual stages of games into characters?
So now that we’ve turned people’s caricatures into characters by way of the Mii, you thought about actually turning the island that forms the setting for the game into a character?
And also licensing it out as a franchise.
Licensing an island! (laughs)
We’ve discussed ideas like this for a long time, with suggestions such as: “Let’s create Dream Island!” We also experimented on Wii Fit by making a large island.
Ah, yes: “Wii Fit Island”. Is the island in Wii Sports Resort the same island as Wii Fit?
It’s called Wuhu Island , but the concept is more or less the same. We really polished up the island, turned it into a resort and actually made the location into a kind of character. This will then lead to a range of island series…
So you’ll be releasing a range of series?
You could have adventure games, role-playing games, city-building simulation games... It will be fun to see all the ideas that we can come up with, won’t it?
So the idea is basically to use the same island as the location and then afterwards develop games covering all sorts of genres. Shimamura-san, how did you react when you first heard about the “Island Concept"? Did you have any reservations about it?
Well, I was really taken aback. In fact, I was at a loss for words! (laughs)
Well, that's not surprising considering you’d just heard someone suggest turning an island into a character and then licensing it out! (laughs) Having just heard the explanation, I understand the concept but under normal circumstances, I think anyone would find themselves thinking: ”What on earth is this person talking about?”
Absolutely! (laughs) Using an island as the setting for a game is very common, but the idea of turning it into a franchise...
So how did you end up coming round to the idea?
Well, I heard an explanation that really made everything fall into place. If you see a street on TV that you’ve been to before, even if it was just once, you’ll always say: “Hey! I know that place!”
We thought it would be a fun idea to have a location that everyone knows and then have all sorts of stuff going on there. It would mean that players would already know the town like the back of their hands by the time they came to buy the next adventure game. Everyone could play in a location they were familiar with which would truly turn it into a miniature garden.
So the player would already know the terrain and the layout of the streets.
If you play Wii Sports Resort even once, you’ll get a good feel for the lay of the land. That means that if you buy a new game, you could be dropped anywhere on the island and it wouldn’t take you long to work out where you were.
That’s why Miyamoto-san suggested we make symbols. If you have symbols and landmarks on the island, it will be a lot easier to pinpoint your location.
When you put it like that, it occurs to me that there were various memorable landmarks dotted around the island in Wii Fit. Was that intentional?
Indeed it was.
This time, the mountain is also in the dead centre of the island, but it wasn’t like that originally.
There were just a few fairly small rocky mountains but that was all.
We decided to go all out and created a huge volcano. Then we put ancient ruins behind it.
We were instructed to make the island large with plenty of open space so that it could be used for other titles in the future.
And all these ideas came courtesy of Miyamoto-san?
Yes, they did. We received instructions such as: “Make it so it will become like a familiar street corner!”
And things like “Make it so we can reclaim the land if we have to!”
The kind of island someone from an industrial design background comes up with is always going to be a bit different, isn’t it?
But it’s not as if Nintendo is getting into the real estate business! There may be people out there who could get the wrong idea, so I thought I'd better make that clear from the outset!
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