New Wii U development details in latest Iwata Asks

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Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has released another exciting segment of “Iwata Asks” which discusses how Wii U came into being what its final design shows. A lot of details were displayed but here is a vast summary of the interview.

Iwata “never imagined” Wii would have a six-year hardware cycle.

Ko Shiota is the Deputy General Manager of the Product Development Department of the Integrated Research and Development Division. In simple English, he supervises the development of new hardware.

Wii U development felt like making a home console and handheld system at the same time.

Yasuhisa Kitano also works in the Product Development Department of the Integrated Research and Development Division. He was responsible for the mechanical design of Wii U. He made the casing for the system, as well as the cooling system and the connectors and cables.

Nobuyuki Akagi worked on the SDK (dev kit) software.

Development of Wii U really kicked off when HD hit a high point in terms of adoption rates in Japan and the United States. They wanted to make sure that everyone could enjoy the jump to HD without a disparate experience between users due to HD being a fairly new resolution.

Iwata: “In some respects, it was inevitable that if televisions changed, the video game consoles paired with them would also change.”

One of the aims with Wii U is shared with Wii – low power consumption, but high performance. (Versus high power to achieve high performance.) This is a strategy they’ve embraced since the GameCube.

The use of a multi-core CPU helped them lower power consumption. They’re also embedding it onto an MCM alongside the GPU in order to reduce cost and speed up the exchange of data while minimizing overhead. (In simple terms, it’s cheaper, faster, and wastes less processing power.) With GameCube and Wii, the CPU and GPU were separate. The MCM also takes up less space on the main board

The GPU and CPU are manufactured by different companies, so it was difficult to narrow down defects. In the end they needed to really pressure each company to narrow down potential problems.

They intentionally designed the Wii U system itself not to stand out. Instead, the focus will be on the GamePad.
Wii U generates about three times the amount of heat as Wii. Naturally, it comes with a more robust heat sink and larger ventilation fan.

There was a bit of a debate about whether the console should stand vertically like Wii or lie flat. The shape was settled upon pretty early on, and the focus on it being a horizontal system was introduced to distinguish it from Wii. They’re offering a stand so people who want it to be vertical can stand it up.

Even for Nintendo’s hardware and software engineers, it took a long time to optimize the performance of the CPU and GPU due to the hardware configuration! This is an encouraging sign for those who are hoping to see a substantial leap over last-gen’s HD systems.

Some defects weren’t detected until they performed an aging test (a test that requires that you place the hardware under sustained stress – i.e. leaving it on all day – before examining it).

Nintendo saw a lot of cooperation from its hardware partners in terms of optimizing the computer parts they used. They were able to take advantage of the engineers’ familiarity with Wii thanks to the backward compatibility. This familiarity helped lead to smaller parts that consumed less power.

They’ve made it easier to access USB ports and the Sync button on Wii U by putting two USB ports on the front of the system and placing the Sync button on the outside rather than behind a door. This time, the door for the SD port actually folds into the system instead of opening out.

Iwata: “No matter how great the numbers are that you can boast, can you only draw that out under certain conditions, or can you actually draw out its performance consistently when you use it? Insisting on the latter way of thinking has always been at the root of hardware and system development at Nintendo.”

Wii U not only allows the game system to not be a leech off the TV, it allows you to use it in many different ways even without turning on your TV.

The next Iwata Asks will focus on the Wii U GamePad.

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