When the Nintendo DS was initially and officially announced, there was a surprise that the information provided seemed so much similar to the very popular Game Boy. Irrespective of the fact that it was not planned to be but this perilous move of the DS eventually turned out to be successful for the organization. However, the successor of Game Boy Advance was actually more in line with the series with just one screen, as per the former R&D General Manager of Nintendo, Satoro Okada;
“Actually, after the SP, we were working on the newest model in this range. The code name for this new Game Boy was IRIS, like the flower. The explanation for this name is simple: since it was for us the fifth generation of Game Boy, we chose the symbol of May (the fifth month of the year). In the Hanafuda playing cards, the month of May is symbolized by the iris. The project was moving forward at a good pace but during the development, something at unexpected happened.”
On the other hand, the plans of development were transformed after late Satoru Iwata spoke with his predecessor Hiroshi Yamauchi on a phone call. This was during the time when Satoru had become the President of Nintendo and here is what Okada said;
“President Iwata then came to see me. He was obviously bothered and he said: ‘l talked to Yamauchi-san over the phone and he thinks your console should have two screens… A bit like the multi-screen Game & Watch, you see?’ Everybody is aware of this, but what people do not know is that at the time, everybody hated this idea, even Iwata himself. We thought it did not make any sense.”
The development team of the handheld did not like the idea at all as they saw no need for a second screen. As the Game & Watch used dual screens for technological limitations, these restrictions are now obsolete.
“Back in the Game & Watch days, it was different because a second screen allowed us to double the playing area and the number of graphic elements on display. But with the modern screens, there was no point. We were free to choose the size of our screen, so why bother splitting it into two? Especially considering that it was impossible to look at both screens at the same time. This is why we did not understand his idea.”
Okada and his team were taken aback but Iwata stuck to it and pressurized them to go ahead and try to make the idea work. This turned out to be a big problem as it had sent the development of the console back to the very beginning.
“Unlike many people in the company, I was not afraid of Yamauchi-san. I had already fought with him over different issues and I also sometimes publicly opposed his ideas. But Iwata turned me down and said ‘No, we will still give it a try. See what you can do with [it].’ We were both bothered by this, especially since it meant that we had to start all over with our project! So I tried to put my team at ease and I told them ‘I have some experience working with double screens, we will give it our best shot and we’ll see, don’t worry.’ It became project Nitro, released in 2004 under the name Nintendo DS…”
Despite the disliking of the development team, the Nintendo DS turned out to be crazily famous with above 150 million units being sold, turned out that Iwata’s decision was wise and correct.