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Eiji Aonuma's GDC 2007 Presentation

Connectivity: failure in innovation

by Aaron Kaluszka - March 11, 2007, 3:40 am PDT

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First, allow me to speak on the theme of innovation in gameplay. The need to innovate gameplay was not only limited to Zelda. Nintendo recognized the problem of gamer drift, and our philosophy was that a new style of gameplay was needed into order to breathe new life into the market, and our answer to this was the invention of a certain system. As you are all aware, the system we called “connectivity," linked the Game Boy Advance to the GameCube, allowing the Game Boy Advance to be used as a controller with its own screen. We implemented this system of connectivity in The Wind Waker as the Tingle Tuner, and several other titles took advantage of connectivity as well. However, there wasn’t any one title that used connectivity as a central game mechanic, and Miyamoto that no one had conveyed to gamers just how much fun connectivity could be.

We began working again on a multiplayer Zelda game that used connectivity as its main gameplay system, and I was made producer of this title. This project which was released as Four Swords Adventures, was based on Four Swords, a game developed for the Game Boy Advance as the very first multiplayer Zelda game. Adventures took place in a 3-D world where four players run around the field on a main monitor, but when players enter dungeons or rooms play field shifts to the players’ own Game Boy Advance screens. There they can play in an environment where their opponents cannot see them or what they are doing. Ultimately, this game introduced a completely new style of play.

At E3 2003, the response to this game from attendees was very positive, and I was very hopeful for the game’s release at the beginning of 2004, but the results were not very good and I felt very disappointed by the outcome. I believe this result stemmed from the need for each player to have a Game Boy Advance and the need for each player to also have a cable to connect that Game Boy Advance to a GameCube. I thought that requirements like these prevented it from doing as well as we hoped, but there was another problem. I think you might have noticed this as I was explaining the game, but it suffered from seeming too complicated. It was too difficult to convince the consumer that they wanted to play the game. Simply put, it was a challenge to give users incentive to play because it was difficult to show how much fun the game was even through television commercials and other advertisements. Based on the negative result we got with connectivity, Nintendo learned that no matter how innovative the gameplay is, unless we have something that we can convey directly and intuitively, people will not be interested in it.

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