New Iwata Asks Takes In the Louvre and its 3DS Guide
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
A project Miyamoto-san indirectly "worked on for five or six years"
It arrived somewhat out-of-the-blue today, but Nintendo has released Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre on the 3DS eShop in Europe, a commercial version of the interactive guide that's been available at the Paris museum since Spring 2012; there's even an accompanying Mini Nintendo Direct and related information.
It's clear that this was an important project for Shigeru Miyamoto, especially as the legendary designer and Nintendo President Satoru Iwata sat down for another Iwata Asks on the subject. It emerges that utilising the last-generation handheld, the DS, for audio guide services — a concept that was put into action in various sites throughout Japan — was the starting point. The technology wasn't perfect for the purpose, however, yet the arrival of the 3DS and a well-timed interaction with former Louvre Director Henri Loyrette allowed Miyamoto-san to pursue what had been a long-term ambition.
Miyamoto: And actually, one of my big ambitions even back then was, “One day, we’ll have it in the Louvre.”
Iwata: You did say that as if you were fantasising! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I said, “If they used this at the Louvre, everyone else would follow suit.” (laughs) But we hadn’t gotten the best results with the system then. And just when we were wondering where to go from there, the Louvre came up.
Iwata: The Louvre discussion came about because of an introduction from (Shinji) Hatano-san, who has since retired as a member of our board.
Miyamoto: Right. Originally it wasn’t about us wanting to use the Nintendo DS system as an audio guide, but I had my big ambition! (laughs) So as soon as we started discussions I talked to them about letting Nintendo do an audio guide for them.
Iwata: Right. (laughs)
Miyamoto: And then the Louvre got back to us, saying, “There are a few points we’ll need to clear first, but if we can do those things with a new system, we’d love to give it serious consideration.”
Iwata: Our contact was very excited by Nintendo’s new idea for using the Nintendo 3DS system that you presented then.
Miyamoto: That’s right. Mr Loyrette, who was director at the time, was an advocate for multimedia. We both agreed to move forward, and that’s how we ended up going to do some real investigation.
While the pre-defined 3DS units that serve as the guides in the museum are catered to the experience on the site, the full purchasable app — and the boxed version available in the Louvre gift shop — includes extras such as pre-set tours and a slideshow feature. In a humorous exchange — after explaining that Nintendo honoured the museum's request not to alter its descriptions — Miyamoto-san explains how he wanted to animate and recreate statues and missing parts, something he wasn't allowed to do.
Miyamoto: Yes. The data is for use in this software, but since it’s a 3D model, if we put the framework in, we could do things like have a warrior statue swing his sword.
Iwata: What? He can swing his sword?
Miyamoto: No, you can’t do that in the software. I wanted to, but understandably, they told us no. (laughs)
Miyamoto: So actually, we could have made the Nike of Samothrace flap her wings. We’ve got the materials to do that, as long as we get the Louvre’s permission…
Iwata: When it goes that far, it’s like a Hollywood movie.
Miyamoto: I’d love to be able to work on motions like that someday.
Iwata: That’s your new ambition! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I have so many. There are a lot of theories about the missing arms of the Venus de Milo, right? I said, “Let’s create all of those,” but I was told, “No, because we don’t have conclusive proof of how the arms were.” I really wanted to make it so that if you pressed a button, it would generate arms.
Iwata: “There’s this theory, and this one, and this other one too.” (laughs)
Miyamoto: There are a lot of things like that that I think would be really fun, but it became a balancing act between protecting and inheriting the culture versus doing things in the name of entertainment, and ultimately I couldn’t get the Louvre to agree. I do wish we could bring it up to that level though, that’s my next ambition. I want the people who’d go to visit to get interested.
Iwata: I’d love to see everything you just mentioned.
Miyamoto: Right? If I got close to the warrior, I’ve love for the warrior’s eyes to focus on me. I’d love him to move. Well, as long as we’ve got the data, we can do it if we want.
Iwata: Um, no, we really can’t! (laughs)
Miyamoto: I’m only joking! (laughs)
And finally, Iwata-san makes an interesting observation that Miyamoto-san's ambitions and ideas can occasionally take many years to come together, often requiring advances in technology; the Mii is cited as an example. Naturally, being Nintendo's most recognisable faces, the two executives didn't miss the opportunity to tease more new, unannounced Miyamoto projects currently in development.
Iwata: In a broad sense, I think that this is all linked to the experiments with Ikspiari. It’s something that you’ve worked on for five or six years.
Miyamoto: That’s very true.
Iwata: There are a lot of projects you spend several years on. As far as I know, the longest was the Mii concept. You were even saying, “Next is avatars” back when we were working on the Family Computer Disk System.
Miyamoto: If you start there, it’s been almost 30 years.
Iwata: The Disk System came out in 1986, so it’s been 27 years. (laughs) That’s a bit unusually long, to be honest. But well, you do have quite a lot of other things you’ve been working on for five years, including some things we can’t talk about yet.
Miyamoto: When I said, “From here on, I’ll be involved in smaller projects” during an overseas interview last year, it was somehow reported that I was retiring, but this software must have been one of the projects in my mind when I made that remark back then.
Iwata: Yes, that did happen. Well, I certainly wouldn’t call this a small project! (laughs)
Miyamoto: Usually I don’t even know which it will be. It’s only after I get results that I realise, “Oh, this was it.”
Iwata: We don’t always have a picture of the final finished product at the very beginning. It’s like things that were said as an ideal, or fantasy ideas that are linked together.
Miyamoto: Back when I said, “One day, the Louvre!” I never thought that it would happen like this. But our goal hasn’t changed since the very beginning.
Iwata: I feel like what I was able to do was to give you the encouragement to go down the path when you found something you knew would be interesting, while cleaning up anything in your way and convincing people to support you.
As always we recommend that you read the full Iwata Asks feature. Are you interested in downloading this app, and what new ideas, not necessarily "conventional" games, would you like to think Miyamoto-san is developing?