When most people discuss the innovative qualities of Nintendo’s Game & Watch line of LCD handhelds, they typically bring up its popularization of the directional pad or its dual display setup from the Multi Screen series.
Another feature gamers should thank the Game & Watch for is its clamshell design, allowing owners to halve the size of their portable while protecting the system’s screens and buttons. Also introduced with the Multi Screen series, Nintendo later brought back the folding handheld design with the GBA SP and, of course, the Nintendo DS.
Nintendo’s president and CEO Satoru Iwata recently talked with some of the designers behind the Game & Watch and its software, Makoto Kano and Takehiro Izushi, about how the team came up with the idea of a folding console:
Satoru Iwata: … in 1982, there was no such thing as a notebook computer, or any electronic device that folded up, was there?*
Takehiro Izushi: The folding idea was a natural one, though, since it was important to make something that could be played anywhere.
Kano: I wanted to research on things that folded up, so I went shopping for compacts.
Iwata: Compacts? You mean the kind used to hold make-up?
Kano: Yes. I was doing research on the hinge that held the top and bottom screens together. Those compacts are still lying in a drawer somewhere at the office! [laughs]
Izushi: You mean you still have all that stuff? You really do have a lot of treasures, Mr. Kano. [laughs]
Kano: Well, the container sections on the bottom have all disappeared, but the mirror sections on the top are still there. Those were what I used as a reference for the multiscreen systems.
Iwata: So did the inspiration for the folding design come from those women’s compacts?
Kano: That’s right. Earlier, you asked me which title gave me the feeling that the winds were turning our way. I could just as well have said Donkey Kong. Launching the multiscreen series with that title, only a year after Mr. Miyamoto had launched the arcade version of the game, really made everything feel like it was coming together.
This transcript excerpt comes from an Iwata Asks roundtable discussion about the Game & Watch, translated by NeoGAF forumer Zoc. You can read more insights about the LCD handhelds’ design and software in this thread. We also posted photos of early Game & Watch designs and notes shared during the same Q&A session a couple months ago, so make sure to check those out!