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Nintendo Land development began at 'about the same time as Wii U,' says Nintendo president

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Initial development on Nintendo Land began alongside the Wii U hardware design itself, said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in an "Iwata Asks" session with some of the game's developers.

Katsuya Eguchi, producer in the software development division of Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development, said the team began performing experiments with dual-screen gaming — playing on a television as well as on a smaller screen in one's hands. "That was back when we haven't yet decided on a concrete concept for Wii U," Iwata pointed out.

The initial design, which combined a Wii Zapper and a small monitor, led to the first prototype of the Wii U GamePad: a monitor featuring two analog sticks, with Wii Remotes taped to either side.

The developers also spoke of the differences between Nintendo Land and Wii Sports and its sequel, Wii Sports Resort.

"Even [though] there were many fun prototype games [in Nintendo Land], it was difficult to package them into one game in the same way we did for Wii Sports," explained director Yoshikazu Yamashita. "For Nintendo Land," said Iwata, "inventing a new packaging format was necessary in order to pack them all into a single box." The team thought the best way to do that would be to invent a reason for the different games to be in one place, and it wasn't until later that the idea of a Nintendo theme park arose.

"The theme park idea was an important one for bringing together what are at first glance disparate elements," Iwata said. "If it were a package for a sports resort game it would need to have cohesion, but with theme park attractions as the theme, the more different their atmospheres, the more each game's personality would stand out."