How do you switch between the TV and the Wii U GamePad screens?
We actually had a lot of debate over this exact topic, and we ultimately focused on the factor that it needed to be simple and easy to understand, so we made sure that both screens will show the same images. The idea is that when you use it with your family, you can use the TV screen and when you’re using it alone, you can use the Wii U GamePad.
Tamiya-san, what did you decide to start with when it came to adding a video chat system to a game console?
For my part, I thought that the most important thing was not what you would do during the video chat, but the step leading up to it. Before you establish a chat connection you’re waiting with bated breath, but the moment you’ve connected and you meet the other person’s eyes, you feel so glad. So I wanted to offer that experience directly, without any annoying fiddling around.
Functions for video chatting are available in all sorts of different systems these days, but if it’s too much trouble to get a chat going, people will decide against using it. And of course, for customers of Wii U, there will be people wanting to use the system that don’t know much about these kinds of functions.
Exactly. So we wanted Wii U Chat to be something that those people could use without any trouble, which meant that we wanted to make the process as simple as we could. Within the development team, we call it the “Two Step Connection”.
Could you give me the specifics of those steps?
First, when you boot up Wii U Chat, you’ll see a list of all the Mii characters you have registered as a friend. Step one, you pick the friend you want to talk to. Step two, you push the Call button and then you’re connected!
Just select a Mii character and push Call? That’s it?
That’s all there is to it.
How do the Mii characters show up?
The Mii characters are listed in order of video chat frequency. A Mii character of the person you video chat with most often will be displayed at the front, so when connecting to the people you regularly chat to, you don’t even need to scroll around to look for that person’s Mii.
That’s staying true to the idea of keeping it very simple.
Yes. We could have added more functions like listing them in alphabetical order, or use a “speed dialing” function, but we decided not to. We figured that the people you used video chat with would most likely be the people you were closest to, so we wanted to just make things simple.
That’s true. We do use video chat at our house, but it’s usually with a limited number of people that are closest to us, like our immediate family, relatives, close friends or partner.
That’s right. In keeping with that, before beginning development, we held an “Ask Takeda-san How He Feels” meeting, where we listened to him talk about all kinds of things.
An “Ask Takeda-san How He Feels” meeting! (laughs) Takeda-san comes across as a very calm person, but he actually has a very freewheeling sense of imagination and he’s quite energetic. What did he tell you about?
Takeda-san said, “I want this to be a console that brings a family happiness.” And he continued to say two other things, which were “Since this is being made by Nintendo, there has to be some element of play”, and “I want everybody to be able to use this from day one.”
“Family happiness?” That’s quite a big task he put upon your team!
It was. So the development team took that idea and thought, “What makes a family happy?” The conclusion we came to was, “being together”. So the feeling we wanted to create with Wii U Chat was that of two separate living rooms connected through the TV screen. Of course we want all sorts of people to use it, not just family members, but we took this direction because to begin with, we wanted to give people who were really close something that was really easy to use.
That makes sense. By the way, I’m imagining all sorts of possible situations, like what if the other person is playing Wii U? Or what if they aren’t using their Wii U? What happens in those cases?
Firstly, when the other person is online with Wii U and you call them, their Home Button will flash to let them know a call is coming in. If they open the Menu, they’ll get a message telling them they have an incoming call and if they answer it, the Wii U Chat session begins.
But they have to end the game they were playing, yes?
Yes, they will have to end the game.
There must be technical hurdles involved, but I hope this is an area that we can improve on in the future. What if the other person’s Wii U isn’t turned on, or if they aren’t logged in?
They wouldn’t be able to tell without the Wii U being turned on, but you can leave them a message that appears in the messages list on Wii U Chat and also through a message on Miiverse.15 15. Miiverse: A network service for enjoying games even more with people all over the world through Mii characters, which is integrated into Wii U on a system level.
Tamiya-san, what did you think when you tried out Wii U Chat for yourself?
It made me happy when the person’s face appeared and our eyes met on the big screen TV. I thought “Wow!”; it was like a door had opened to connect me to somewhere far away. (laughs) When we connected for the first time, we got excited and talked a lot among the team members, and even as we continue development now, we naturally begin smiling as we talk.
Video chatting has already become pretty commonplace these days, but this does feel a little different, doesn’t it? Something about seeing the other person on my huge TV screen felt really new to me. When I first experienced it I thought, “Wow! They’re huge!” And until then a video chat with multiple people on each end was something I had only experienced on a business video conference session, so being able to have an experience like this in my own living room felt very fresh.
The large screen does make it feel like those two faraway living rooms are connected. It makes us feel as though we are spending time together in the same place.
I think that the same thing can be said for the game-related functions of Wii U in general. On the other hand, what the smart devices16 of the past few years are really offering is basically something personal. Video chat has become very popular, but there’s never really been a way to allow one large group to talk to another large group. But Wii U Chat allows multiple people to chat at the same time, which is fun. That uniqueness really shows when we use Wii U Chat by utilising large TV screens.16. Smart device: A collective name for items like smartphones and pad-like devices.
So Wii U Chat isn’t really “video chat,” it’s a “TV phone.”
Precisely. It really is a “TV phone.” Maybe this is the “family happiness” that Takeda-san wanted to be able to realise with the game consoles in everyone’s living room.
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