Satoru Okada, former Nintendo handheld developer, reveals how he got hired by Nintendo and target the devices to certain markets

Former employee at Nintendo, Satoru Okada, had a significant role as part of the Nintendo team. Before retiring in 2012, He helped the team since the original Gameboy days, and he helped the company innovate through the years across various generations of portables for the line of Nintendo handhelds. Recently, Japanese website Shooting Gameside had the opportunity to interview Mr. Okada.

During the interview, Mr. Okada shares his experience with the company through the years, sharing how he first started working with the company and how he perceived making the products for age groups. Below, you’ll find an excerpt of the interview:

Okada: The first thing I made using a computer was the Game and Watch series. After that handheld gaming consoles became the main focus of my work at Nintendo. Speaking of being particular, you know, I didn’t originally apply to Nintendo with any special ambitions or designs. Originally my friend was supposed to have taken the company’s entrance test, but due to circumstances he couldn’t make it out. In his place I was chosen to take the test. When I say “in his place”, though, I don’t mean that I was a mere susbtitute; I was given the chance as part of a job-search program at my school. I knew if I took it lightly that it would damage the reputation of my school, and I couldn’t allow that. Still, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I ended up being late to that test, but thanks to the kindness of the test administrator, I was allowed to take it anyway.

Nintendo’s entrance exam had a section where you had to actually engineer something. You were given a design and had to make a model of it using small metal pieces. Since I had spent so much time in Junior High doing those electrical engineering projects, it was an easy task for me. As a result, rumour got around at Nintendo that “someone good at soldering has joined!” It seemed I was the first person to join Nintendo with any electrical engineering abilities, a fact which would turn out to be a huge investment in my future.

—In your career you’ve made many devices for children, but what has been your attitude as an engineer throughout this work?

Okada: When I made things for children, I didn’t try to make it from the perspective of a child. Instead, I made something that we adults at Nintendo would enjoy ourselves.

—In your case Okada, were you aware of a kind of self-management at work?

Okada: Especially after I took on a managerial role, I became very aware of the need to make profits each year. We have to earn our own wages. Developing games isn’t simply about making what you want to make; you also need to be sensible about what will be profitable for the company. And to make Nintendo run, at a minimum we’re talking about selling millions of units. If you can’t do that with something new, it’s better to release a follow-up to an existing product.

I also think that rather than making everyone work long hours and wringing the life out of your employees, results should be emphasized, and those who achieve should be rewarded with a higher salary.

What’s your favorite Nintendo handheld up to date? Let us know in the comment section below.

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