Did you know that the DSi was originally supposed to have two DS game card slots?
Iwata Asks is back for another edition, and this time the Nintendo CEO interviewed the DSi development team about their thoughts, opinions, and the development of the latest DS redesign.
The DSi story begins with Masato Kuwahara, from Nintendo's Development Engineering Department. At the end of 2006, roughly two years ago, his boss had assigned him the task of doing yet another redesign of the DS hardware. The caveat: Kuwahara needed to have the proposal completed by the end of December. Listening to the story, Iwata remarked that it was "quite short notice," to which Kuwahara quickly agreed, "I'll say!" Kuwahara and the rest of the team also had to move at top speed in order to meet their second goal, producing the internal chip for the DSi.
While developing the system, Kuwahara needed to keep in mind how they were going to market and sell the DSi since it wasn't a brand new handheld system, but rather the third edition of the DS line. Kuwahara admits that this problem caused "some frustration," but he persisted nonetheless.
Iwata revealed that the idea for the cameras began early on, when a coworker mentioned how the DS already had ears (the microphone) and a sense of touch (the touch pad). The only thing lacking was for the DS to have eyes.
According to Iwata and the team, two cameras were created in order to make the DSi more versatile. The outer camera is used to take general pictures and/or videos, whereas the camera on the inner side of the DSi is used to photograph a person during play. When the camera idea began, the development team considered inserting a rotating camera instead of two separate ones, but due to the extra cost of production of such a camera and the possible durability issues, this idea was ruled out. The camera pixel count was another concern of the team. As such they decided on an ample 0.3 megapixel camera to avoid increasing the DSi's physical size and reduce possible processing times associated with higher megapixel cameras. Iwata claimed that there was nothing to be worried about in regards to the clarity and quality of the pictures.
The other DSi hardware upgrade was the new SD Card slot. According to Iwata, the feature was heavily questioned by the development team, but was strongly "pushed for" by Shigeru Miyamoto.
According to Kuwahara, the hardest part of building the DSi was physically designing it. Back in October of 2007, while the molds were being prepared, the DSi team held a meeting with producers from Nintendo's EAD division to finally unveil the new product to the company. After the presentation, the DSi team asked the representatives from EAD if they would want a DSi of their own. Of the twelve questioned, only three felt they would actually want one. Kuwahara remarked that they seemed to "[hold] back their true" opinions since "one of the designers was standing right there." This lukewarm response was due largely to the DSi's huge size at the time. The original design featured two DS cartridge slots due to the many requests Nintendo had received from gamers and in-house employees as well.
Due to the negative reaction the developers decided it needed to be changed. Unfortunately, at the time of unveiling everything was already done for the DSi including the parts configuration, durability and assembly checks, and prototype evaluations.
Physically redesigning the DSi pushed back the release date and forced the development team to abandon the dream of having two DS cartridge slots in the system. According to Kuwahara, "it was more important that lots of people who would see the Nintendo DSi would want one." Since the internal structure of the DSi was complete, the deadline to create its new outer design was on a very strict schedule. Yui Ehara, designer of the outer shell of the DS Lite, was put in charge of redesigning the DSi's structure. Ehara stated that he wanted to make "Nintendo DS a kind of icon" instead of drastically redesigning a new version. He wanted to keep its general concept (the two top and bottom rectangles) the same so that anyone would be able to recognize it.
Ehara had three goals while redesigning the DSi structure. The first was to make the unit slimmer than the preceding DS Lite. The second was to make a strong outer shell that could withstand a decent amount of force and that was also not too stressful on the moulds in order to ensure easy duplication. The final goal was to design the casing with affordable materials in order to keep cost down.
Ehara also made some other cosmetic changes from the DS Lite to give the system an even cleaner cut look. The original speaker design featured six small holes. This was discarded in favor of a single horizontal slit. The shiny material used to create the DS Lite casing was also discarded in favor of a matte finish. This prevents fingerprints from showing on the casing, and gave it a distinguishable look from the DS Lite.
The response after the unveiling of the second version was much better received, with everyone in agreement that it was much better than the original design. The EAD team also appreciated the larger LCD screens that were built into the DSi. Though Kuwahara admitted that the feature was not something that would cause people to "shout from the rooftops," he believed that the new screens, now measuring in at 3.25 inches across, was a great update.
A reset button was also added so players could return to the menu. From here they could play a different game without having to turn off the DSi thanks to the extra system RAM.
Another feature that was updated was the quality of the handheld's sound. In the DSi the team upgraded the IC codec, which is responsible for amplifying sound and converting digital into analog signals. This upgrade allowed for a much louder and better quality sound. Developers, and Iwata himself, were very pleased that this aspect was improved.
Kentaro Mita, the go-between for the software and hardware DSi development teams, told Iwata that the true "turning point" of the DSi, the point where it was separated from its predecessors, was achieved when the Shop functionality was implemented. The concept of a personalized "My DS" image was a concept conceived by Nintendo prior to the inception of the DSi project, and the shop brought the DSi one step closer to realizing it. The DSi shop could allow players to purchase various games and applications to make their DSi unique to their own tastes.
The DSi Shop also works in Nintendo's favor, allowing the company to market and sell items that wouldn't have been practical to sell previously as software packages. These applications include things such as maps and calculators. With low-cost downloads like an Animal Crossing clock, Link calculator, and even a simple version of Tetris, players can customize their DSi to their liking. In order to accommodate the shop functionality, the hardware development team incorporated internal memory to store players' downloaded content, similarly to the Wii.
Kuwahara expressed his hopes that everyone's individual personality will be reflected in their DSi systems. He said it would be great if the DSi was an integral part of its owner's life, something they couldn't leave home without. Iwata echoed this sentiment stating that he hoped it would become "something [people] carry around with them at all times."
Iwata closed the interview by stating that the DSi is "full of changes" and users will come to discover all of them "little by little once they get their hands on one and start playing."