Earlier this week, the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences announced that this year’s recipient of its lifetime achievement award will be longtime Nintendo designer and executive Genyo Takeda.
He’ll be presented the award at DICE in Las Vegas later this month, where his contribution to gaming will be celebrated, most especially his work in hardware design. Recipients of the award are usually best known for game design work. The last three winners were Todd Howard, Hideo Kojima and Rockstar’s trio of the Houser brothers along with Leslie Benzies.
Takeda, who retired last year, spent most of his long career working in the background. His biggest achievements were in the field of hardware design, including the battery back-up memory for Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges, the Nintendo 64’s brilliant analog controller and the Wii.
He saw that a game console could be successful even without lots of processing and graphical power, reasoning by way of analogy, that modest family cars are more popular than sports cars. The Wii was a massive success, selling more than 100 million units.
Takeda’s career in games began before games were even on the market. As a boy, he had been interested in fixing toys. At university, he studied semiconductors. And so, when he interviewed at Nintendo in 1971, he impressed his boss-to-be, Gunpei Yokoi, who went on to design Game and Watch and Game Boy.
Takeda was given the job of working on an early arcade game, based on horse racing. Nintendo’s revered game designer Shigeru Miyamoto credits this as the first Nintendo video game.
”A long time ago, Takeda-san made an arcade game called EVR Race,” Miyamoto said, during one of Nintendo’s Iwata Asks roundtables in 2009. It was a massive arcade game that allowed six players to predict the outcome of a horse race. “EVR Race was the first video game Nintendo released.”
In 1983, Takeda created the arcade game Punch-Out!!, which was developed with the directive to use two television monitors instead of the standard one. At the time, Nintendo had a surplus of TV monitors. Takeda later served as director of the NES version of Punch-Out!! and contributed to its Super NES and Wii sequels.
But he’s best known for his key contributions to Nintendo hardware design, however. Of the Wii, Takeda said that he wanted to focus less on technological horsepower and more on developing something fresh for players.
“We could have tried to improve the speed at which [the console] displays stunning graphics,” he said. “But we could not help but ask ourselves, ‘How big an impact would that direction really have on our customers?’ During development, we came to realize the sheer inefficiency of this path when we compared the hardships and costs of development against any new experiences that might be had by our customers.”
We’ll have full coverage of the 2018 DICE Awards when they take place on Feb. 22.