Iwata Asks: The Producers of Miiverse


Following this morning’s Nintendo Direct blowout of Wii U firmware features, Nintendo released a new Iwata Asks interview dedicated to Miiverse.

As usual, I combed through the interview and picked out all the juiciest details, which I’ve broken down in my favorite style: the bullet-point breakdown, designed for easy and quick reading! Read on to give the interview overview a look.

  • This interview is with the producers of Miiverse.
  • “Miiverse is a network service that’s integrated at the very core of Wii U. It allows people from all over the world to connect with each other through their Mii characters. In the plaza of their favourite games, players can share their thoughts, post hand-drawn illustrations, write comments and enjoy interacting with each other.And in addition to being able to exchange each other’s ID numbers as with the previous Friend Codes, Miiverse makes it possible to become friends with someone more easily.”
  • Nintendo brought on Kondo-san from Hatena, a company that focuses on network services, to help build Miiverse. He came up with the core concept for the network.
  • Mizuki-san is from Nintendo’s network business division. He served as producer and director of Miiverse.
  • The idea for Miiverse came from the Japan-only “Wii no Ma” service. To use the official description: “Wii no Ma was a ‘living room communication channel’ featuring three services: Shopping, Home Theater and Ironna Ma (Various Rooms). Users could use pay services to shop for gourmet items, daily necessities, fashion items, home decoration and original products only available through Wii no Ma. They could also rent movies, anime and classic television programs for viewing.” Both ideas started from doing something interesting with Mii characters and online services.
  • They could only produce a limited amount of Wii no Ma exclusive content, so it was a challenge to try to satisfy as many people as possible with that limited content. They were considering turning it into a user-generated content service.
  • Miiverse is designed so players can empathize with one another by sharing their gaming experiences. Because it’s integrated into the game console, it’s easy to compare play history and share screenshots and so on.
  • The plaza that appears when you boot up Wii U is called the “WaraWara Plaza” in Japan. “WaraWara” refers to bustling commotion. The official description for the WaraWara Plaza is: “A screen that shows game icons and the Mii characters of people playing those games when the Wii U console is turned on. The game icons may not be for games the console owner has played. Lots of Mii characters bustle around, while comments and such appear on the screen. It can be described as a home screen that also recommends games to the user.”
  • The idea was born out of the StreetPass Mii Plaza, but was more interactive and distinctive.
  • The Wii U menu was coordinated by Hisashi Nogami, director of Animal Crossing. He came to an agreement with Katsuya Eguchi, the Wii U hardware producer, about the general direction at a fairly early stage.
  • One of the big goals was to capture the sense of “live” community, something that couldn’t be done in the past with just official websites. They wanted players to be able to use the community more freely.
  • Iwata’s decision to get in touch with Kondo-san at Hatena was partly motivated by their partnership on Flipnote Studio. Kondo elaborates that the growth of the Flipnote community came with the addition of comments and likes. Combining this with the general feeling of communicating with others, even at a distance, was an important fundamental framework for Miiverse.
  • Kondo-san says: “Cooperating with my friends as a child to beat enemies in Mario. Bros. has stuck with me as a sort of a core experience of fun gaming for me.” Being able to take the game experience outside of actual gameplay helps keep the experience alive and is another part of the fun. Now that we have the internet, we can facilitate this communication through the game console.
  • At first the idea of introducing Miiverse communities wasn’t too hot for Mizuki-san, but Kondo-san convinced him. They wanted it to be easy to communicate both on an intimate level with friends while also providing a second level of interaction with strangers on the basis of shared interests. As a result, Miiverse is very open when it comes to both kinds of communication.
  • Part of the motivation in creating a gaming network was the idea that existing social network services and gaming social networks have a different social graph, meaning that people don’t necessarily want to talk to their social network friends about games, but might be more comfortable talking on a gaming network.
  • Iwata: “An American friend of mine said, ‘On the Internet, people are always watching, so you have to be consistent about what kind of a person you are – it’s difficult to let loose even in private time.’ In that respect, we all live in a visible world because of how common social networks have become. While that world may be convenient, it can also be constraining in ways that didn’t exist before.”
  • Miiverse allows people to separate their personal interactions from their gaming interactions.
  • Unlike Facebook, Miiverse has no intention of requiring that you display your real name. You can use a Mii nickname instead. The anonymity can be taken advantage of by people who want to misbehave, but a strong community tied together by empathy will be strong regardless of anonymity.
  • The idea of feeling empathy comes from Mr. Miyamoto.
  • “Liking” comments on Miiverse, because it is focused on game-based interactions, is more than just agreeing – it is acknowledging a shared experience.
  • Mizuki-san didn’t understand the concept of “shared empathy” at first. He originally planned to just focus on “social” elements.
  • Miiverse ditches traditional Friend Codes because Nintendo believes they did not serve their purpose: people exchanged them with strangers over the internet anyway. They realize now that people can become friends simply through shared experience, so they focused on making Miiverse fun to use so people could create those relationships via the network.
  • Hatena wasn’t particularly demanding, and wouldn’t ask for detailed specifications, but instead general goals to attain. The relationship felt like working with an in-house developer.
  • Hatena came up with the notification system, so when you get a like, you’ll know it. The function got great reviews by testers.
  • “When something evokes a reaction, making that known is something Hatena really focuses on.”
  • Wii no Ma was client-based, but Miiverse is Internet-based, so it has lots of room to evolve and grow. “And the browser that serves as the base for Miiverse runs really well.”
  • Both Nintendo and Hatena are passionate about making something that users will enjoy, not just fulfilling personal creative ambitions.
  • Some people within Nintendo might have thought the idea of developing Miiverse was a little crazy, that it would be too difficult to maintain, and so on. They were mostly very cooperative and helpful though.
  • Kondo: “Something I thought upon seeing WaraWara Plaza on the startup screen was “Oh, the Wii has become a town!” What was once restricted to the home had expanded on the Wii U console so that people you know as well as people you don’t know swarm all over the place.In that respect, WaraWara Plaza really was surprising. I think a lot of people will simply enjoy looking at the startup screen! People will enjoy it the way that some people sit in a coffee shop gazing at the hustle and bustle.”
  • Miiverse combines the fun of playing games with the fun of interacting with people on the internet. It’s also a nice way to interact with friends and family who may be far away in a digital space.
  • Being able to write or draw hand-made messages or change the emotions of your Mii characters helps Miiverse to transcend language barriers.
  • Iwata: “But with network services the fight starts after release, so the real development has yet to begin.”

Source: Iwata Asks: Miiverse The Producers

  • Majoras_Wrath

    Alex you’re awesome. I’ve been dying to get all this information and jumped straight to this site when I heard the news last night. Thank you for all your work!