Game News

Ask the Developer Vol. 2, Nintendo Switch – OLED Model

12 October 2021

Content pre-recorded in accordance with current COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

This article has been translated from the original Japanese content.

In this volume of Ask the Developer, an interview series in which Nintendo developers convey in their own words Nintendo’s thoughts about creating products and the specific points they are particular about, we’re talking to two people who led the development of Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, now available.


Gaming consoles are destined to be continuously improved, even after launch

Could you please introduce yourselves?

Ko Shiota (referred to as Shiota from this point on):

My name is Shiota, the head of the Technology Development Division, which is responsible for hardware (1) development. I have been part of home-console hardware development since I joined the company. I have had opportunities to participate in the interview series “Iwata Asks” to talk about the development of Wii (2) and Wii U (3) in the past, but I was also part of console development even before that. In fact, the first console-development project I was part of was “AV Famicom” (4). I learned Nintendo’s way of creating products by example from more senior Nintendo employees.

Toru Yamashita (referred to as Yamashita from this point on):

My name is Yamashita, of the Technology Development Department. I have been part of home-console hardware development in various ways since I joined the company. For Wii, I was part of the development of the built-in features, such as the system menu. For Wii U, I was part of the development of the Wii U GamePad (5). I have been involved with Nintendo Switch as the manager of hardware development, and with Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, I coordinated the suggestions and opinions from the development staff on what kind of experience we can offer to our customers.

(1) The main consoles and controllers for dedicated game machines.

(2) Released in 2006. A home console that uses the Wii Remote as a controller and features games with intuitive controls.

(3) Released in 2012. A home console that features games that link the screens displayed on both the TV and the handheld Wii U GamePad.

(4) An improved model of the Family Computer released in 1993. In addition to changing the look of the console and controller, it was equipped with an AV port that enabled composite-video output. The Family Computer (Famicom) was released in Europe and North America as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

(5) A controller unique to Wii U equipped with a touch screen in addition to analogue sticks and buttons.

First of all, what motivated you to develop Nintendo Switch – OLED Model?

Yamashita:

In the early stages of development of Nintendo Switch, we were considering the development of the hardware variations, and our idea was to expand the Nintendo Switch platform in various ways. Therefore, we were thinking of releasing a new model of Nintendo Switch at some point, after the first release of Nintendo Switch. However, at that time, we hadn’t decided exactly what specific functions we would update, and while we were developing Nintendo Switch Lite, we were hoping to offer a new model not only for people who are buying one for the first time, but also for those who are thinking of buying an additional model after purchasing the original. 

Shiota:

As Mr. Yamashita mentioned, I also wanted to launch a new model of Nintendo Switch. However, at the conceptual stage, we didn't have any specific ideas about what features we wanted to include. Since the release of Nintendo Switch in 2017, we came up with various ideas, did some technical testing, gathered those results, and finally created the new model that you see now, which we are finally able to launch. The backstory is during the trial-and-error period, we considered some different technologies, and by referring to how our customers played with Nintendo Switch, we decided on the ideas and technologies adopted in the new model.

You said that at first, you had not decided what to include in the development of the new model, but while you were coming up with ideas for features to be included, did you have any criteria for selecting them?

Shiota:

During the process of deciding what to include in the new Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, we referred to the reactions of our global customers who were playing Nintendo Switch. Fortunately, I believe that the concept and experience of Nintendo Switch has been well received. So rather than creating something completely different, we decided it would be better to keep the current form and deliver a better experience. In other words, we wanted to “refine” the existing functions and design. That perspective led to the technical choices we ultimately made.

Yamashita:

Because we wanted to “refine” what we already had, we made sure that we wouldn’t add any new features that couldn’t be used with previously released software. For example, if we added a new button or function to the Joy-Con controllers, you wouldn’t be able to use it in previously released software or games, unless we updated them as well. Instead of doing that, we thought it would be better to improve and enhance the functions that our customers are currently experiencing.

So the idea was to further enhance the satisfaction of the gameplay experience while keeping the existing functions. 

Shiota:

Yes, that’s correct.

Yamashita:

It’s not that we didn’t have some customers asking us for different functions or features. Fortunately, however, I felt that the gameplay using the current Joy-Con controllers and the gameplay in the three modes of Nintendo Switch - TV mode, tabletop mode, and handheld mode - were widely accepted. So we thought if we could introduce new features based on the existing playstyle without changing it and make gameplay more captivating, we might be able to bring Nintendo Switch to even more people.

As you just mentioned, you listened to the customers' input and decided how to improve the product, but is this unique to Nintendo Switch – OLED Model? Or is this something that Nintendo has been doing for videogame consoles in the past?

Shiota:

Dedicated videogame consoles, once released into the market, have a relatively long product life cycle until the production is finally over. Therefore, we continue to provide products with the same functions to our customers over the years. Also, continuing to provide products with the same functions during that long period means that we have the opportunity to hear much more input from our customers. Nintendo developers have a strong desire to always respond to the customers’ feedback candidly, and technological progress also occurs during the product life cycle, so by combining that with the customers’ feedback, we are able to improve the product even after its release.

Such efforts for improvement have been ongoing, not just for Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, but also for past platforms, and we have considered many ideas and technologies for improving even the current models. In fact, there are many examples where we adopted such ideas and technologies to make improvements before the launch of this new model. Therefore, I think it is the “destiny” of gaming consoles that improvements will continue even after the launch.

“Destiny” is a weighty word.

Shiota:

For example, even the main semiconductor of Wii, which is like the “heart” of the console, has had three major changes by itself. At that time, there was great technological progress in semiconductors, and by taking in such new technology and making improvements after the product was released, we were able to reduce power consumption because of it. It was a change you couldn’t tell just by looking at it, but I think it was a meaningful improvement.

Have such changes been going on since the Famicom times?

Shiota:

Yes. Because the product life cycle of game consoles is relatively long, and we continue to offer products with these same functions, I think this culture of improvement has taken root in us. Even while developing the “AV Famicom”, we continued to use the basic parts of the Famicom, but we adopted the new technologies and ideas at that time, and improved on things like adding the AV port (6), making the console smaller, and making the controller more comfortable to hold.

Also, during this time, I looked into the original Famicom again and realised that it too continued to incorporate various technological advances since its first release in ways that were not so obvious—like the circuit boards and components inside. I was surprised there were so many different versions, and it got to the point that we had to create a work process called “lotcheck.”

(6) An analogue output port that connects a TV and an external device. The white, red, and yellow cables support audio and composite video.

Lotcheck?

Shiota:

We have to make sure that all new software being released works properly on the hardware, no matter what hardware version. Lotcheck is the process of actually checking if new software works on the numerous versions of hardware that are out there due to improvements being made. It’s a big problem even if it doesn’t work on just one version. Since we had to check on every version, even back then, we kept many different versions for the verification process. So improving the contents of every product has been ongoing since the Famicom.

In other words, it may look like there are only two types of Family Computers to the customer, the “Famicom” and the “AV Famicom”, but when you consider the changes of the parts inside, there are actually many types. By the way, are there still many versions of hardware in the product-testing area?

Shiota:

Yes, we have different versions of the hardware that’s currently on the market.

Yamashita:

Versions that have had a significant content change must be included in the lotcheck process. That’s why it’s so important to keep all those different versions in the testing area.

I see. So lotcheck is a process used with game consoles that are being continuously improved even after the launch. Now, I would like to go back to talking about Nintendo Switch – OLED Model. What are the specific features of the new model?

Yamashita:

First of all, when it comes to "visible changes" that customers will immediately notice, there are changes in the display, which can be said to be the “face” of the console. By installing an OLED display, colours are expressed more vividly, black is expressed deeper, and the screen size is also increased. In addition, the stand on the back of the console can be freely tilted and adjusted, so you can play in tabletop mode at any angle you like. This improves the visibility of the screen and the stability while playing. 

Shiota:

On the other hand, when it comes to "invisible changes" that you can't immediately see when you pick it up, the console’s internal storage has increased, and the onboard speakers have changed. These are the changes made to offer a better, more enjoyable gaming experience.

Next, I would like to ask you more about the “visible changes” and the “invisible changes.”


The visible changes to Nintendo Switch – OLED Model

So there are the “visible changes” and the “invisible changes.” Could you please tell us more about the “visible changes” of the OLED Model?

Yamashita:

Of course. First, the newly adopted OLED display is able to express colours vividly, and the screen size was increased from 6.2 inches to 7 inches. I think that you will immediately see how large the screen is as soon as you pick it up.

However, the development of this model was not actually decided solely based on adopting the OLED display, even though it is the most distinctive feature of this model. The OLED display technology itself existed in the Nintendo 3DS (7) era, and we were continuously investigating its technological trends, but it did not quite match with our conditions, and it was never adopted for Nintendo game consoles. However, the number of products equipped with OLED displays is increasing around the world, and the technology has been improving. So upon verifying and reinvestigating with our partner companies on what conditions were possible for what we needed for our game console, we determined it was the right time for us to adopt the technology.

(7) A portable gaming system released in 2011 that allows you to experience stereoscopic images with the naked eye.

Were you thinking of increasing the screen size from the beginning?

Yamashita:

Originally, we did think about making the display larger. On this model, we made the screen larger, and in turn made the bezel surrounding the screen narrower. So one of the biggest challenges in making improvements to reach this new model was trying to increase the screen size while maintaining the console’s size and product strength.

Shiota:

This OLED display uses organic material that enables display of vivid colours. Also, a deeper black can be displayed, so there’s a stronger contrast between white and black, and it’s now possible for a crisp colour display. However, we needed to fit all the peripheral parts necessary to display images on the OLED screen – like the integrated circuits and cables – into the narrower bezel. It would’ve fit in the bezel width of the existing model, but it wouldn’t work in the same way this time around. So we consulted with the display manufacturer, and ultimately, we put the integrated circuits on a film and folded this film back into the bezel.

Yamashita:

Also, even though the colours have gotten more vivid with the OLED display, some customers may feel like the colours look too vivid. Taking that into consideration, we made it so that the player can select a standard colour mode, to make it look like the conventional LCD display. If you prefer the vivid colours of the OLED display, you can keep it in the vibrant colour mode that is default out of the box.

I see. So you can choose your preferred colour style as you like. So it seems it’s not just a simple matter of a brighter or bigger screen with this OLED display.

Yamashita:

It was important not just to make the display more vivid but also to make the display itself thinner. These are part of the “visible changes,” but it also enabled us to make the stand bigger. The stand is used for tabletop mode, where you play by placing the console on a table, but you may experience glare depending on the angle of the screen. So we made it so that you can change the angle of the screen, making it easier to see and to create your ideal playing environment. In order to fulfill this while maintaining its size, it was necessary to reduce the thickness of the display itself.

I see that the unit has actually become thinner, in order to fit the stand.

Yamashita:

It was made thinner, and to achieve the freely adjustable stand, we equipped large hinges, and we also calculated the space so that the hinge fit properly in the console. The console has gotten bigger by only 3mm horizontally, but it was determined that if we extended it just by these 3mm, the hinge and the stand would fit neatly in the back. This is the part of the design that we pushed the limit on.

As you mentioned, the console did not change in terms of height or thickness.

Yamashita:

Yes that is correct. The width of the console has increased by 3mm, but the thickness and height have not changed. Nevertheless, the display area has grown from 6.2 inches to 7 inches. It was a difficult task to fit two bigger hinges on the console under such circumstances. In order to establish this design, it was necessary not only to adopt a thin OLED display, but to also come up with a new layout so that the parts inside the console, such as the board, display, rechargeable battery, etc., are laid out in a tightly condensed form. Therefore, there was a lot of trial and error here as well, trying to figure out the configuration to accommodate both the hinges and the stand.

Shiota:

The thickness of the console hasn't changed from that of Nintendo Switch, so it was like the hinges and the display were fighting over the limited space (Laughs).

And you didn't want to change the thickness of the console?

Yamashita:

No, in terms of the compatibility of Nintendo Switch – OLED Model being able to fit in the existing Nintendo Switch dock, the thickness isn’t something we could easily change. Also, if we made it thicker, then there would be a gap when you attach the Joy-Con controllers. That wouldn’t be a good fit, so making the console thicker wasn’t an option. By the way, we changed the material for the stand from plastic to metal, and this is because compared to plastic, metal can be made thinner while still maintaining its strength. This is another thing that isn’t mentioned on the official website, but you might notice when you try it out.

Shiota:

We could make the stand thinner by using metal, but because the surface area of the stand was bigger, even with the thinner OLED display it still wasn’t enough. The people in charge of the stand and display discussed things like changing the thickness of the display screen cover, and in the end they worked together to make many adjustments, stretching the limits.

Is the device heavier because of the new metal stand?

Shiota:

To have hinges that can support the stand at any angle already makes it pretty heavy, but when you replace plastic with metal, even at the same volume, it will be considerably heavier. But, for the overall weight of the console unit, it’s an increase of only about 20g. To put it differently, it’s because we scaled down in other places. Even with the original Nintendo Switch, we naturally tried to scale down everywhere we could to make it as light as possible, so it was not easy to find something we could scale down even further. But thanks to the help of the mechanical engineers, they came up with various ideas of scaling down while still maintaining its strength, and I believe we were able to achieve our goal.

The stand is the fruit of great labour.

Yamashita:

Incidentally, we took into great consideration how much pressure was needed when opening the stand. Of course, you want it to be stiff enough so that it feels stable when it’s open. But on the other hand, if it’s TOO stiff, the customer might...

Have difficulty opening it?

Yamashita:

Yes, it may be hard to open, and they might worry and think “Should it be this hard to open?” So in order to achieve the right “stiffness” to play in tabletop mode while also making it feel comfortable opening and closing, we thought it should be on the “softer side” of the range. To find that right stiffness, we made a number of samples with various stiffnesses which would be feasible within the structural limitations and chose the right one through trial and error.

Even this kind of thing must be thoroughly tested...

Yamashita:

Lots of people were working on the design, like the ones responsible for the stand and for the display, but it’s not like all of them were independently coming up with separate approaches for improving each part. Rather we were cooperating together with the common goal of bringing out the best of Nintendo Switch while maintaining the console size and weight as much as possible, and we worked out the layout within the console through trial and error. As a result, elements like increasing screen size, using an OLED display, and strengthening and increasing the size of the stand all came together like pieces of a puzzle, and the prototype for this OLED Model started to come together.

Ah, I see. So this combination of different parts created the overall Nintendo Switch – OLED Model. By the way, are there any other visible changes, apart from the OLED display and the stand?

Yamashita:

Including the OLED display and the adjustable stand has improved the experience in handheld mode and tabletop mode, so we thought about whether we can also improve the experience in TV mode, when it’s connected to the TV. And so we included a wired LAN port on the new dock. Recently, even TVs and DVRs have started included wireless LAN connections, and there are situations now where too many devices at home are using a wireless connection. For these people, using a wired LAN connection will mean they can play comfortably online without any interference from all the other wireless devices at home. It’s a small change, but it should be an improvement to the TV mode experience.


Invisible changes to Nintendo Switch – OLED Model

So far we’ve talked mainly about “visible changes.” Next, could you talk about some of the changes in Nintendo Switch – OLED Model that can’t be seen from the outside?

Yamashita:

In terms of “invisible changes,” first of all I can talk about how the internal storage has doubled from 32GB to 64GB. We made this change because more users are choosing to purchase the digital versions of games, and we wanted users who have filled up their Nintendo Switch console’s internal storage to still have space if they upgrade to Nintendo Switch – OLED Model. You can also insert a microSD card in the console to increase storage capacity, but it’s always easier to have lots of storage from the moment you get it, so we’ve increased it.

One more “invisible change” you mentioned at the beginning was the onboard speakers. You only explained that they are new before, so what exactly has changed?

Yamashita:

The speaker parts themselves were changed. If you listen and compare them, you’ll be able to notice the difference. In order to make use of the changed speakers, we had to redesign the mechanism that leads to the produced sound and the structure around the speakers. The screen is bigger, but this means less space inside the console. So it was a lot of work from a technical perspective to work out how to make the audio better. However, for people playing multiplayer games in tabletop mode or for people playing in handheld mode, we wanted to make the audio much clearer, as well as making the screen much bigger and easier to see.

Were new onboard speakers part of the original plan for the new model?

Yamashita:

During the development of the new model, we wanted to achieve the same or better audio quality and acoustic pressure than existing Nintendo Switch models. When we tried using the open-type speakers, which we were using on our previous models, in the new model, we found that due to design restrictions, the sound ended up being quieter than before. We made some attempts to see if we could improve the design keeping the same speakers, but in the end we decided to use closed-type speakers, where the sound quality and pressure can be increased thanks to the back of the speaker being sealed.

But doesn’t the sound get muffled if it’s sealed?

Yamashita:

Speakers produce sound from both the front and back by their vibrations. Closed-type speakers produce a clearer sound by preventing the collision of sound coming from the front and back. These closed types are often used also in smartphones and tablets, but they are mostly using speakers that are already manufactured in a closed format and are incorporated as is. But, in order to adopt speakers that would be as big as possible within the limited space inside Nintendo Switch – OLED Model while producing satisfactory audio quality and acoustic pressure, we needed to use the structure of the console and design a sealed space at the back ourselves.

So using open-type speakers like before would reduce the volume, but in order to use closed-type speakers you’d have the difficulty of creating a sealed design in order to produce a clear sound.

Yamashita:

Yes. If the seal is not intact, then the audio quality would be reduced despite changing the speakers. So the biggest challenge was preparing a space to install the speaker while assuring there is space for the sealed area, to create clearer vibrations within a limited space.

We talked about the sounds from the speakers being louder, but did this change the power consumption?

Yamashita:

Strictly speaking, the maximum amount of power that can be sent to the speakers is higher than the current Nintendo Switch models. In actuality, however, speakers aren’t usually used in a way to constantly output their maximum volume, so overall there is barely any difference in power consumption.

Shiota:

Still, the maximum power consumption happens when it’s outputting at the maximum volume, so we have decided the settings by considering the balance of how much power we should allow it to use and by considering the circuitry as a whole. From an overall perspective, changing the speakers hasn’t led to a reduction of battery life.

Yamashita:

With this new model, we have challenged ourselves to adjust, without changing the circuitry itself, the various settings in order to create a clear sound while enabling as much volume as possible, and this setting adjustment was extremely difficult.

Shiota:

Rather than independently improving the speakers, mechanical design, and power, like with the OLED display, all developers combined many minor adjustments to increase the performance of the speakers overall.

Yamashita:

Speaking about the adjustments of the speakers, a developer who worked on the sound adjustments has noticed that he could more easily detect the abnormal sounds using the sound of a piano, so he was adjusting the sounds with the piano piece that he himself composed. He said he had never imagined that an engineer like him would ever compose music.

Ah, I see. It seems like there are lots of small ideas and tricks hidden here. Is there anything else you’d like to share that’s hard to notice but has actually changed?

Yamashita:

We’ve changed all kinds of other small things, but first I’d like to say that we have changed the location of the standards and regulations information that was on the back of the previous Nintendo Switch models.

It is indeed a cleaner and more straightforward design. Where did this information go?

Yamashita:

It’s on the inside of the stand. I personally think it’s pretty good. We display it in a way that people can refer to it when necessary.

Sounds like that’s one of the things you personally were particular about during the development, Mr. Yamashita.

Yamashita:

Also, even though it is a very small point as well, the central logo on the Joy-Con grip is engraved, not printed.

In addition to that, we changed the design of the Joy-Con strap as well, with white dots, so I would like to use this opportunity to casually promote this (Laughs).

The HDMI cable is also different. I quite like this change; please feel how flexible it is.

(Touching) Indeed, softer than the one that was previously included.

Yamashita:

Improving cables has been considered for a long time, and some of our staff had been working on it, and it happened to align with the release of Nintendo Switch – OLED Model.

Also, the back lid of the dock on the existing model had a gap that enables users to route cables for both directions, but many users do not know that...

We have even heard some users leave the back lid open.

If you keep the back lid open, the lid may get in the way.

Yamashita:

Yes. Therefore, we have made changes so you can remove the lid more easily, and we changed the shape of the groove so the cables can be a bit looser, as there is now an additional wired LAN cable (8) that can come out from the dock along with the HDMI cable and power cable. This is the part where we have asked the designer to redesign it to improve the ease of use without compromising the exterior design.

(8) LAN Cable not included.

Making it easier to organise the game console in the home is related to user satisfaction, right?

Yamashita:

Yes. For example, for those who need to remove the HDMI cable often because of the environment of their setup, I think it is more convenient for them to remove the back lid. These small changes might make you think they are just simply design changes for the look, but we made these changes to actually improve usability according to each individual’s needs.

It was surprising that there are many fine detail improvements, but they are all important for the user experience.


Continue working to create an even better gaming experience

So far we have heard that since the release of Nintendo Switch in 2017, based on user reaction and technological advances during the product life cycle, which is unique to dedicated videogame consoles, you have considered improvements, and those results have led to Nintendo Switch – OLED Model’s “visible” and “invisible” changes. However, at the beginning of the interview, you mentioned that there were improvement ideas that came from trial and error that are employed on the existing version of Nintendo Switch. Could you elaborate on that?

Shiota:

Sure. Something that has been improved after the launch in 2017, before the release of Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, is the battery life. Nintendo Switch is a “home console that you can take with you and play on the go,” and even after its launch, we wanted to reduce power consumption and extend battery life as much as possible due to its portability. There was also a concept of a device dedicated to handheld play like Nintendo Switch Lite. Therefore, we have continued to make improvements to the SoC (9) even after the release of Nintendo Switch. By adopting a new semiconductor technology, we were able to reduce the power consumption significantly. As a result, we have offered this model with extended battery life to our customers since 2019. This SoC with lower power consumption is also implemented in Nintendo Switch – OLED Model.

(9) SoC stands for “System on a Chip.” A semiconductor chip on which many of the functions necessary for system operation are built. In this case, this is the semiconductor chip that includes the CPU and GPU – the heart of the Nintendo Switch console – and other related functions.

The battery life is greatly influenced by the power consumption of the SoC, the CPU and other components needed to run the game programs.

Shiota:

That’s correct. The original power consumption during gameplay was about 12W but it has been reduced to about 7 W. Strictly speaking, it's not only the SoC, but the power consumption of the surrounding memory has also changed. With the advancement of the semiconductor technology, Nintendo Switch has also been making continuous progress enabling lower power consumption. That all results in an extended battery life, which is another value we were able to offer to our customers.

Yamashita:

As an example of battery duration, when playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, battery duration (10) was increased from approximately 3 hours to approximately 5.5 hours. So it almost doubled in duration. While we were developing the SoC, we also had the idea to implement this feature of longer battery life together with a new model, like Nintendo Switch – OLED Model, but we felt that there was no reason not to launch it immediately when it was technically ready and would benefit the customers. Therefore we have introduced these features as regular “improvements” to the Nintendo Switch console.

(10) Approximate length of time. The battery life will depend on the playing environment, including the games you play.

I would assume these were quite major changes, but still they were introduced as “improvements” of the existing Nintendo Switch console.

Yamashita:

Yes. As a result, this model was distinguished as “the model with extended battery life.” Even though it’s a long description, we felt the longer battery life was a big benefit we should let the consumers who use their Nintendo Switch console outside the home know about. Well, I remember the first time I saw the model being distinguished this way, I was surprised because it was a quite straightforward explanation. (Laughs)

Shiota:

By reducing the power consumption, we were able to create a dedicated portable model, the Nintendo Switch Lite console, which was among our original possible future ideas. For the handheld-play-dedicated model, the battery duration has an even greater importance. I believe the improvement of the SoC was very effective as well in making these things happen.

Another major characteristic of Nintendo Switch is the Joy-Con controllers. A big part of the user experience comes from the Joy-Con, but were there any improvements?

Yamashita:

Joy-Con controllers have lots of different features, so we’ve been continuing to make improvements that may not always be visible. Among others, the analogue-stick parts have continuously been improved since launch, and we are still working on improvements.

The analogue sticks at first release cleared the Nintendo reliability test using the method of rotating the stick while continually applying a load to it, with the same criteria as the Wii U GamePad’s analogue stick.

As we have always been trying to improve it as well, we investigated the Joy-Con controllers used by the customers and repeatedly improved the wear resistance and durability.

The parts of the Joy-Con analogue sticks are not something that can be bought off the shelf but are specially designed, so we have undergone a lot of considerations to improve them. In addition, we improved the reliability test itself, and we have continued to make changes to improve durability and clear this new test.

When the effects of our improvements were confirmed, we promptly incorporated them into the Joy-Con controllers that are included with the console, Nintendo Switch Lite, and the ones sold individually, that were manufactured at that time. This involves the internal components of the Joy-Con, so you can’t tell the improvements from the outside, but we use the new versions of the parts when we repair them. Also, similar continual improvements have been made for the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller as well.

Do you mean that, basically, wear is unavoidable as long as the parts are physically in contact?

Shiota:

Yes, for example car tyres wear out as the car moves, as they are in constant friction with the ground to rotate. So with that same premise, we asked ourselves how we can improve durability, and not only that, but how can both operability and durability coexist? It’s something we are continuously tackling.

Yamashita:

The degree of wear depends on factors like the combination of the materials and forms, so we continue to make improvements by researching which combinations are less likely to wear. We mentioned that the Joy-Con controller specifications hadn’t changed in the sense that we didn’t add new features such as new buttons, but the analogue sticks in the Joy-Con controllers included with Nintendo Switch – OLED Model are the latest version with all the improvements. Needless to say, so are the analogue sticks included in Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, separately sold Joy-Con controllers, and the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller that are currently being shipped.

I believe what you have told us is that these changes are not limited to the Joy-Con, and you are continuously making small improvements on various aspects of the hardware.

Yamashita:

Yes. This attitude is one that we’ve had in the past and will continue to have in the future. Hearing customers’ opinions, we have been thinking about what we actually wanted but couldn’t do at the release of Nintendo Switch in 2017 and what we think can make customers happy once realised, and one culmination of this process is Nintendo Switch – OLED Model. Having said that, we will have more ideas where we think “this will get even better if we can do this!” with regards to Nintendo Switch – OLED Model as well, so we won’t stop carrying out these investigations going forward. At Nintendo we tend to say that whenever we release new hardware, we immediately start thinking about the next one. But this doesn’t only mean that we’re always working on new-product development, but also that we are constantly working on what can still be done to products even after they are released.

Shiota:

The technologies Nintendo employs for its hardware are widely investigated and tested. And we have to think thoroughly about how to bring these technologies to customers. We sometimes apply new technologies to products that are already released to make them even better. When we feel that particular technologies have a potential to deliver a completely new experience to customers, then they may be applied to new products. What triggers this is often the engineers’ work on technologies born from their smallest curiosities. Their outlets differ, with some ideas going public as “improvements” and some others becoming new products. I believe that development members are thinking deliberately every single day about using technologies in Nintendo’s unique way.

Are customers’ opinions influencing this?

Shiota:

Yes. Regarding improvements in particular, we believe we have to listen closely to our customers’ opinions. There are many cases that the opinions of customers who are actually playing our products trigger improvements. Having said that, I think a different way of thinking is required when we create completely new products. What I mean by this: our mission is to offer new kinds of entertainment to customers. Thus, when we develop new products, we must keep the following in mind: “How can we deliver our ideas and technologies that we have been cultivating in order to propose new entertainment?” And to accomplish that, developing the hardware is not enough. We believe that we have to be united with the software development to create new entertainment experiences. We often say “integrated hardware/software approach” (11), but it is exactly what is happening at the development scene. It is perhaps one of Nintendo’s strengths that members with different strengths in both hardware and software fields are working together in a friendly competition, blending together.

(11) Nintendo’s business strategy aiming at offering customers new experiences by integrating hardware (gaming consoles) and software running on it.

Did this philosophy already exist at Nintendo when you joined the company, Mr. Shiota?

Shiota:

For as long as I’ve been at Nintendo, it’s never changed. These days, I have an impression that there is a tendency in many industries to outsource more and more design and improvement-related tasks. However, Nintendo continues to work in-house to achieve even better gaming experiences. As we have told you today, we can talk about stands and speakers ourselves because we are designing them ourselves. This reflects the Nintendo hardware-development culture, and we’re glad if by getting a glimpse of this culture, you could sense a little of that through this interview.

Thank you so very much.

Nintendo Switch – OLED Model is out now. Find out more about this new console at our Nintendo Switch – OLED Model website.