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Nintendo Research & Engineering

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Nintendo Research & Engineering Department
Native name
任天堂開発技術部
Nintendō Kaihatsu Gijutsu Bu
Division department
IndustryVideo games
GenreHandheld game console development
FateMerged with Nintendo Integrated Research & Development
PredecessorsNintendo R&D1
SuccessorNintendo Integrated Research & Development
Founded1996 (1996)
FounderHiroshi Yamauchi
DefunctFebruary 16, 2012 (2012-02-16)
Headquarters,
Number of locations
1 (2012)
Key people
OwnerNintendo
Number of employees
150 (2012)
ParentNintendo Manufacturing Division

Nintendo Research & Engineering Department[a], commonly abbreviated as Nintendo RED, was the hardware development department responsible for developing all of Nintendo's major handheld game consoles, and its associated peripherals, from its inception in 1996 all the way to 2012, when it was disbanded. The department was under Nintendo's manufacturing division, and was led by Satoru Okada. The department was created in 1996 following Nintendo Research & Development 1's (R&D1) general manager and Game & Watch and Game Boy creator, Gunpei Yokoi's departure from Nintendo. Most of the department's team originate from R&D1's hardware engineers.

The department went on to create some of Nintendo's best-selling handheld game consoles such as the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS. Following the retirement of Okada in early 2012, the department was merged into the Nintendo Integrated Research & Development division, effectively merging Nintendo's handheld and home game console development teams.

History

Background

In 1996, following the commercial failure of Nintendo's first virtual reality headset, the Virtual Boy, general manager of the Nintendo Research & Development 1 department (R&D1), Gunpei Yokoi, responsible for the console's development, resigned from Nintendo. This left Nintendo's historic handheld game console and game development department without leadership. As such, then Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi spun-off the hardware development team into a new development department, called Nintendo Research & Engineering, appointing Satoru Okada as general manager. The software development team, however, remained at the R&D1 department. This new department would be responsible for continuing the Game Boy's legacy with the development of successor systems.[1]

1996-2001: Creation and Game Boy Color

The Game Boy Color, released in 1998, was developed by the department.
The Game Boy Color, released in 1998, was developed by the department.

Despite the Game Boy and its revisions having a monochrome display, Nintendo R&D1, the departments predecessor, had already experimented with color displays from as early as 1992. However, the project was eventually cancelled due to concerns of it being too big, having a drastically decreased battery life (to approximately 1 hour) as LCD color displays required a back-light at the time, and too expensive to manufacture.[2][3][4][5] However, in October 1997, Okada noticed that color displays were now cheaper and didn't require a back-light. And so, after 5 years of failed prototypes, the Game Boy Color was born. As the team used already existing prototypes as a starting point, development only took approximately 10 months, in contrast to the 2–3 years it usually takes to develop a new system. Despite wishing to design a new system from scratch, Okada and Nintendo decided to keep the Game Boy Color compatible with its already existing library of more than 1600 games.[5]

Shortly after Nintendo released the Game Boy Color, the team experimented with touchscreen displays for the first time. Masato Kuwahara lead the project to develop an attachment for the Game Boy Color, which would attach to the system's display and give it touchscreen capabilities. Although Nintendo EAD general manager and video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto liked the concept, it was eventually cancelled as it wasn't well received by the rest of Nintendo's management due to making the system's screen too dark, as it didn't have a back light.[2][3]

1999-2005: Game Boy Advance

After being approximately two years in development, the department launched the Game Boy Color's successor, the Game Boy Advance, in 2001.[6] The development team's first step in designing the new system was determining its central processing unit (CPU) and display resolution, which would eventually determine the handheld's size. The CPU itself took more than one year to design, mainly due to feature requests from both Nintendo and external developers, which required certain functions be implemented directly in the processing unit. One such request was the addition of shoulder buttons (L and R), originally introduced in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Regardless, only one major CPU redesign occurred during the course the handheld's development As for the display's aspect ratio, in order to facilitate bringing ports to the system's library from home consoles, the team decided on implementing a widescreen, a common feature of televisions at the time. In terms of its external design, the team made a drastic change from the Game Boy Advance's predecessors, opting for an horizontal-oriented system instead. Although the team tested a vertical orientation, it was scrapped as it would make the unit too big. Despite using similar materials as its predecessor, the system is and feels much lighter and smaller due to its more optimized internal layout, such as the position of its batteries in the system's center.[7]

Masato Kuwahara tested a touchscreen attachment the team had developed for the Game Boy Color on the Game Boy Advance SP, however it suffered the same fate as its predecessor.[3]

2005-2010: Nintendo DS and its revisions

Shortly after launching the Game Boy Advance SP, the department started working on a new system in the Game Boy family, code-named Iris. Although the project was progressing with no issues, it was suddenly cancelled. Then-Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was approached by his successor Hiroshi Yamauchi who requested him to implement two screen on Nintendo's next handheld, in the same fashion as the dual-screen Game & Watch. Despite the team and Iwata himself hating the idea, Iwata demanded that the project would go forward. In a 2017 interview, Okada confessed he now believed that pushing for a direct successor for the Game Boy Advanced was wrong and was glad Iwata followed with Yamauchi's input.[8]

In late 2006, the department started development on the third system in the Nintendo DS family. The project was directed by Masato Kuwahara and would later be known as the Nintendo DSi. Despite initially struggling to decide on how to innovate with the restriction of making the system a revision of the Nintendo DS instead of a full-blown successor, by February 2007, the system's technical specifications were set.[9]

While developing the Nintendo DSi XL, the department was also working on a successor to the Nintendo DS family, the Nintendo 3DS.[10]

2010-2012: Nintendo 3DS and merge with Nintendo IRD

In January 2012, the department's general manager, Satoru Okada retired.[11] Shortly after, on February 16, the department was merged with the Integrated Research & Development division, effectively combining Nintendo's portable and home video game console development teams. According to then Nintendo president Satoru Iwata the aim of the merge was to develop a common software architecture for Nintendo's future consoles, such as their operating system, in order to facilitate developing games and apps for various consoles, thus eliminating software "droughts".[12][13][14]

Hardware developed

List of hardware developed by the Nintendo Research & Engineering department
Year Title Platform(s) Ref.
1998 Game Boy Light Hardware
Game Boy Camera & Printer Game Boy
Game Boy Color Hardware [5]
2001 Game Boy Advance Hardware
2002 Nintendo e-Reader Game Boy Advance
2003 Game Boy Advance SP Hardware
2004 Nintendo DS Hardware
2005 Play-Yan Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS
Game Boy Micro Hardware
2006 Nintendo DS Lite Hardware
2008 Nintendo DSi Hardware
2009 Nintendo DSi XL Hardware
2011 Battle & Get! Pokémon Typing DS Keyboard Nintendo DS
Nintendo 3DS Hardware
Circle Pad Pro Nintendo 3DS
2012 Circle Pad Pro XL Nintendo 3DS

Notes

  1. ^ Japanese: 任天堂開発技術部 Hepburn: Nintendō Kaihatsu Gijutsu Bu

References

  1. ^ Barder, Ollie. "New Interview With Okada Delves Into The Hidden History Behind Nintendo's Gaming Handhelds". Forbes. Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  2. ^ a b "GDC09: DSi architect reveals unreleased Nintendo handhelds". Engadget. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  3. ^ a b c Kohler, Chris (2009-03-25). "GDC: Nintendo's Unreleased Portable Prototypes". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  4. ^ "A look into Nintendo's unreleased Game Boy successor - Nintendo Everything". nintendoeverything.com. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  5. ^ a b c "Satoru Okada - Interview". Nintendo. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  6. ^ Staff, I. G. N. (2000-08-23). "Game Boy Advance: It's Finally Unveiled". IGN. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  7. ^ Harris, Craig (September 11, 2000). "Game Boy Advance Creators Speak". IGN. Archived from the original on October 17, 2000. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  8. ^ Gach, Ethan. "The Man Who Worked On The Original Game Boy Explains Why Nintendo Created The DS". Kotaku. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  9. ^ "Iwata Asks: Nintendo DSi". Nintendo of Europe GmbH. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  10. ^ "開発技術部 井上 文彦". Nintendo (in Japanese).
  11. ^ Moser, Cassidee (2014-10-06). "Report: Metroid Director Satoru Okada Retires from Nintendo". IGN. Retrieved 2019-01-14.
  12. ^ "Report: Nintendo to Restructure Hardware Divisions". IGN. 2013-01-15.
  13. ^ "Nintendo Confirms Hardware Development Reorganization". IGN. 2013-02-01.
  14. ^ "Corporate Management Policy Briefing / Third Quarter Financial Results Briefing for the 74th Fiscal Term Ending March 2014 - Q&A". www.nintendo.co.jp. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
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Nintendo Research & Engineering
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