I’m Imamoto from the Network Development Department, and I was in charge of coordinating the entire Wii Shop Channel project.

My name is Osako and I work in the Entertainment Analysis & Development Division. I was in charge of writing the main program for the Wii Shop Channel.

I’m Kawahara and I’m from the Network Development Department. I handled server-related tasks for the Wii Shop Channel project.

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Though the Gifting Feature is just now going live, the Wii Shop Channel was intended to support the exchange of Virtual Console games between Wii Friends before the Wii went to market.

The Gifting Feature did not enter real development until the spring of this year (2007). We decided to add the feature in the hopes of showing many of our  Wii users that there are some truly fascinating games for the Virtual Console.

Also, until now, a blue light flashing on your Wii meant that Nintendo had sent you a message. Now, however, there’s more suspense since it might just be a gift from a friend.

Though it’s nice to receive messages on your Wii Message Board, sometimes you run out of reasons to send a message. Sending a gift, however, provides users with an opportunity to get in touch with friends they haven’t met up with for awhile, hopefully making it easier for users to keep in touch more often.

I originally started worked on the Wii Shop Channel project in a support role from its inception. Even after it went live, I worked on enhancing the Wii Shop Channel experience, improving on various areas while also working on the development of the Gifting Feature.

When the Wii Shop Channel first went live, the display design was rather simple compared to what we have now as users were limited to viewing all titles at once or sorting solely by gaming platform. With feedback from our users, however, we continued to make progress in various areas, like making changes to screen design and improving the user-friendliness of the service.

We also used a change in the European tax rate at the start of the year to make various updates to the system.

The biggest changes were the improvements in searchability. At first, the simple design of the first version was sufficient when there were only a few titles available. However, the number of Virtual Console titles increased month by month, and with more than 200 titles now available, we had to make it easier for users to find the titles they were looking for. Therefore, we improved searchability by making it possible for users to search by publisher and genre, or to enter the name of the title they’re looking for. We also added a Popular Titles area where users can view recent hits.

In the original version of the Wii Shop Channel, there was no support for inputting kanji characters (in the Japanese version). However, because we thought that the use of kanji and predictive typing would make it easier to compose messages with the Gifting Feature, we decided to make some broad system changes when we added the new search options. Figuring that users might want to conduct another search after viewing the results of the first, we also made it possible for users to conduct another search by placing the cursor over the title section above the search results and pressing the A Button.

It was while we were adding these new search options that we began full-fledged experimentation on the Gifting Feature.

At the time, we had been testing the Gifting Feature by having staff members send gifts to each other. Reading the messages and receiving a gift were fun enough, and I remember thinking that the service would be twice as fun once it went live. As different users have different needs, however, we worked tirelessly to try and flush out every conceivable issue that a user might stumble upon.

And there were a lot of them. We had our debug team even test things that would surely never happen. It was a lot of trial-and-error as we wanted to test each and every case to see how we could have the server respond to them.

For example, we wanted to see what would happen when a user tried to buy a title they had received as a gift but hadn’t yet noticed. In this case, if a gift had been received but not processed, the user would be forced to accept or return the gift when trying to access the Wii Shop Channel. Of course, this also meant that we had to think of what to do in the event of a gift arriving while a user is already on the Wii Shop Channel trying to pick a game.

Or what to do when you want to send a gift but the recipient already owns the game.

In cases like these, the server keeps a record of what titles have been purchased on users’ Wiis and, if Osako-san tries to send Kawahara-san Super Mario Brothers but Kawahara-san already owns it, the system will display a message saying “Kawahara-san already owns Super Mario Brothers.”

Causing us to question whether or not this might become a privacy issue.

Depending on the user, we thought there might be some individuals that might not want others to know what titles they own or may not want gifts at all. For this reason, users are able to change their settings to “Don’t Receive” which will allow them to not receive any gifts.

Users who have elected to receive gifts might still encounter gifts for games they don’t want. We made it possible for users to decline receipt of these gifts, but the debate over which expressions should be most appropriate to be used to decline it continued till the end of the project.

Originally, the two options were “Accept” and “Decline.” However, there were many who felt the word “decline” was too direct. After all, it might hurt Osako-san’s feelings if he tried to send Pinball to Kawahara-san only to receive an email saying “Your gift was declined by Kawahara-san.” (laughs) So we tried to come up with expressions that weren’t likely to hurt the feelings of the gift-giver. We tried things like “No thanks” and “Thanks for thinking of me.” We even tried “Sorry,” but what kind of option was that? (laughs) The more we tried to soften the blow, the less clear the options became.

So, in the end, we settled on “Return” as there was no room for misinterpretation.

In the event the recipient chooses the option to “Return,” the system is set up to process a return, automatically sending the Wii Points used to purchase the gift back to the sender. Though users can view this return transaction under their Account Activity, we’re hoping there won’t be many returns! (laughs)

Additionally, there are circumstances in which a user might be unable to access the Internet or simply fails to notice they’ve received a gift. In these circumstances, the gift is automatically returned to the sender after forty-five days. Wii Points are automatically returned to the sender and a message indicating the gift was returned will be posted under Account Activity. We hope these measures remove any concerns users might have about using the Gifting Feature.

I have a clip I’d like to show you. This is a video of (Satoru) Iwata-san giving (Shigeru) Miyamoto-san “Pinball”.

I created the scenario of this video footage for the Corporate Management Policy Briefing on October 26, 2007 after deciding that it would be better to add a touch of reality to the gift-giving. I wanted to use Iwata-san and Miyamoto-san’s Miis and got in touch with the developers from the Mii Channel. Instead of a Mii though, all I got was an instruction manual! (laughs)

They had an instruction manual for creating Miis of Iwata-san and Miyamoto-san.

"I learned that the developers were being flooded with requests from many departments for Miis of Iwata-san and Miyamoto-san. I had to make my own Miis by looking at the manual and following instructions like “To make your own Iwata-san, select the face X spaces from the top in the right column and then add these eyes…” and so on. That’s how I acquired my official Iwata-san and Miyamoto-san Miis for my presentation. Though Gift Feature messages were originally unable to support Miis, Osaka-san was able to work out the necessary programming."

At one point, we were asking ourselves whether or not a Mii was necessary when sending messages. It may not sound difficult at first, but the process involved some pretty complicated data management. Even so, I felt that our efforts had paid off once we were finally able to get a message to display a Mii.

This makes it possible to tell who sent a gift just by looking at the Mii displayed on the special gift wrapped envelop. We also made sure that messages play gift-like music.

Truthfully, when we first started working on the Gifting Feature, I had some uncertainty about whether or not there would be sufficient demand for gifts. As the project took shape though, I began to feel like we had a truly exceptional product on our hands.

It’s like when you read a good book and want to share it with your friends. We hope Wii users will utilize the Gifting Feature to send games to their friends for all kind of reasons. Users will also be able to send gifts to their friends through Wii Ware*, a new service that is being prepared for release.

*Wii Ware is a service that enables Wii users to purchase and download Wii games that are not available in stores. Wii Ware is planned to go live in March of 2008 in Japan.

Once I’ve found an interesting game, I want to send it to my friends, sharing recommendations on a game I know they’ll love. If one of these games is truly a lot of fun and becomes a hit, that’s great!

I hope that users will use the Gifting Feature as an opportunity to send games that they had played when they were little…Users can send a memorable game to their friends with a message and reminding them of the times they spent playing games together.

Or, maybe you could use it to return those games you borrowed ten years ago and never returned.

That would be awesome!

 
 
 
 
Footnotes:
1. Manga, or Japanese comic books, are becoming increasingly popular to read on cell phones in Japan. Cell phone users can read popular mangas from the past, and newer mangas that are created to cater specifically to the cell phone audience.
 

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