The mystery of the Nintendo Wii Star Controller prototype solved

Wii Star controller prototype designs
Wii controller prototypes took a strange turn with a “Wii Star” circular prototype controller way back in 2006. This controller has been a mystery ever since it appeared in a photo Nintendo showed that showcased the Wii controller prototype designs before the console launched.

While the other controllers in the photo around the mysterious “Star” controller (an orange, circle shaped design with a Mario Starman power-up in the center and three buttons around it) were more traditional in shape; even including what would become the Wii Remote, the Star Controller baffled because it was so nontraditional and didn’t look like it could be used to play traditional games in any way.

Now the story behind this prototype controller has been revealed, via a new book on the history of Nintendo’s success in the game business. Written by Osamu Inoue, the book is entitled “Nintendo Magic: Winning the Video Game Wars”, and the Star Controller is explained in a section detailing development of the Wii and DS.

To quote from the book:

“Development on the new [Wii] controller was in full swing by the middle of 2004. With Iwata focusing on the DS, Miyamoto acted in his place on the project. Takeda’s engineering team searched for sensors that would enable intuitive game control, which Miyamoto’s people used to implement the actual controller.

At first, they started just as Iwata had suggested – by aiming for a simple, TV remote-like controller. But as they did the work of testing the controller prototypes that included new sensors, the form factors began to take an unexpected direction.

“No one liked that one,” recalls Miyamoto with a rueful grin, of a large, disc-shaped example. It had a large star-shaped button in the center, surrounded by three smaller buttons, and used internal accelerometers that let the player control by tilting it forward, backwards, left, or tight. The prototype was orange, and its bizarre appearance earned it the nickname “cheddar cheese” from the development team.

It was admittedly simple and easy to understand, but was also far too garish. Miyamoto’s team met with around 40 game developers within Nintendo bimonthly to hear their opinions. This iteration of the controller was met with opposition — they complained it was totally unsuited to traditional games like Mario and Zelda.”

Very interesting. I’m glad Nintendo didn’t go with a design like that, as it would’ve been nearly impossible to play traditional games like Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Metroid Prime 3 with a controller like that. And I doubt it ever would’ve seen the success that the Wii has seen if they had gone with the “Star Controller”.

Via Press the Buttons