When Nintendo set out to design the Wii, they started with the approximate size they wanted for the console. 3 DVD cases. That’s it.
For the 3DS? Nintendo actually built a minimum size model. Here it is:
In the latest update from Iwata Asks, an incredible interview column done up on Nintendo’s website, Iwata talks to the designers of the 3DS about their prototyping process, the decisions they made and the approach to E3 2010.
Coming up on E3 was mega crunch time, apparently. The designers were pressed to make snap decisions and get everything working so that players would get a good idea of what they were seeing. It wasn’t final, but it was something. Nintendo prepared hardware that would closely resemble the release product, but the team admits that they’ve been revising things like the control circle since the convention.
And that’s probably the coolest part of this entire feature; the control circle. Nintendo spent a lot of time deciding on the location of the nub. PSP players know that a joypad on a portable unit can be frustrating. The location, the size, the flex and the feeling all make up for a roster of indispensable qualities. Screw up on one portion and the entire gaming experience can be greatly hampered.
Nintendo’s solution was to build a prototype that allowed play-testers the ability to swap the positioning around. That’s what you see above. And that’s how Nintendo reached the location decision that they did: d-pad below, control circle up top.
And they’ve nailed it. When I walked away from the Nintendo booth at E3 last year, the first thing I thought about the hardware was that Nintendo had done what Sony had been doing wrong for years, they properly positioned a control circle. After an hour of playing, no cramps at all. I can’t say that for any form of the PSP.
There’s more info concerning the build and decisions that went into the 3DS. I honestly can’t recommend the Iwata Asks feature enough, so dive in as often as you can.