From an outsider's perspective, the Nintendo 3DS just seemed to appear suddenly last year. The company behind it had been at work on it for a while before that, of course, and the head of Nintendo's Software Development Group No. 1 , Hideki Konno, spoke about the development process at the Game Developers Conference this week in San Francisco. Both Siliconera and Game Informer have some brief coverage of Konno's presentation in which we learn that the final, realized 3DS began life as an extensive series of hacks for the Wii. This makes a twisted sort of sense consider how Nintendo's first glasses-free 3D experiments began on the GameCube a decade ago with Luigi's Mansion.
Konno says that the 3DS began with a small team of two internal hardware experts. They set out to investigate the latest in 3D technology to see if it would be feasible to incorporate into a handheld gaming device. Thanks in no small part to the Virtual Boy's failure, Konno says the team faced a fair amount of resistance within Nintendo about the project.
Mario Kart Wii was the first game that was converted to 3D on the prototype hardware, and it took about two weeks to get it up and running in 3D. A Wii nunchuk was modified with a volume knob, giving prototype users the ability to adjust the 3D effect. That functionality is still a part of the final 3DS hardware, though it's been replaced by a slider.
I love now Nintendo has opened up some of its creative process in the past few years. These stories are living history and it's important that they're recorded for posterity while they're still fresh in the minds of those involved with them. How many unanswered questions does the gaming community have that will never be properly explained because the people with the answers have forgotten the information or passed away? Kudos to a company as secretive as Nintendo for giving us a little peek into the process for a piece of hardware that isn't even for sale yet in most of the world.