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Customer Discussions > Video Games forum

The man who patented Wii motion controls first pitched them to Microsoft and Sony

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Initial post: Nov 14, 2012, 4:23:20 PM PST
This is a long article so I'm only posting an excerpt. It's an interesting read though; it gives details about the origins of the Wii.


Though his motion control concept had failed to make an impact in aeronautics, in early 2001 Quinn began to think about computer user interfaces, particularly in the context of videogames. Microsoft, which a year earlier had launched the Xbox, was the first games company Quinn had approached with his new idea.

"Through my business connections, the first games person I got in touch with was Steve Ballmer," he says.

"I pitched this motion control device to him and he loved it. He set me up with the Xbox team in Redmond [Washington] for a second pitch and I remember how incredibly excited I was about it. Things were happening so fast.

"But the meeting went terribly. The attitude I got from them was that if they wanted to do motion control, they would do it themselves and make a better job of it. I mean, they were just rude. In fact, the meeting went so terribly that one of the executives came over to me afterwards and apologised on behalf of others. I remember him saying how this was not how Microsoft should be engaging with potential partners."

Despite Gates's prophetic warnings about garage innovators, and Ballmer's apparent endorsement of Quinn's patented tech, the Xbox team turned down an offer that would have effectively blocked Nintendo from using the very motion control technology that the Wii is built on.

Seven years later, when Nintendo was working around the clock to produce more than 1.8 million Wii consoles per month to meet unprecedented global demand, the Xbox team was put in front of an Israeli inventor who had a different kind of motion control technology patent. That time, the Xbox execs were all ears.

BACK IN 2001, on the long and downhearted journey home from Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Quinn and his business partners remained convinced they could still sell the idea of motion control to a games company. Attentions eventually turned to Japan, and it quickly became clear who was the priority target to pitch the tech to. Sony.

"At the time, Nintendo wasn't doing well at all," Quinn says. "It was rich, but it wasn't generating any good business. There were rumours about the chairman stepping down and other things, so we felt Sony would be a better potential partner for us."

Quinn's company was fortunate enough to have an investor by the name of Larry Yoshida - a Japanese businessman who had strong ties across the entertainment sectors. Yoshida was such a prolific networker that he even personally knew Akio Morita, the distinguished co-founder of Sony, before he passed away in 1999.

"Through his connections, Yoshida got me in touch with a Sony guy that looks after games. So I flew to their offices and was given a meeting with a man called Ken Kutaragi."

Quinn was unaware at the time that Kutaragi was the most influential person in the entire games business. The "father of PlayStation". The man who broke a thirty-year curse and produced two market-leading consoles in succession. A visionary whose self-belief reached a critical mass when creating the PS3; a problematically ambitious and comically expensive machine that many games developers loathed coding for.

But in 2001, before all the PS3 problems and resignations, it felt like Kutaragi had the entire industry in the palm of his hand.

"I'll never forget that meeting at Sony," Quinn says. "We were in a tiny little room with a big PC projector and Kutaragi comes in, introduces himself, sits down and - I swear this is true - he closed his eyes the moment I started showing my pitch. He never opened them until I had finished.

"It was awkward, very awkward, but I still asked him for feedback and he said, 'well, can you produce this for 50 cents?' I laughed and explained that would be impossible, so again I left empty handed and, to be honest, that time it got to me. I felt pretty let down. You have to remember that Sony and Microsoft were by far the two biggest console manufacturers. Nintendo wasn't doing well and we hadn't thought much about them."

In the summer of 2001, Quinn was informed that Nintendo's chairman and president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, was preparing to resign after 53 years at the company. Ever since PlayStation entered the fray, Nintendo had failed to reproduce the kind of winning market share that it had become accustomed to. The N64 took second place in a two-man race and the GameCube did worse still, finishing third after the Xbox launched.

But Yamauchi's departure, officially announced a full year later, was not a straight swap. Internally, Nintendo was making radical changes to its management structure. A board of six executives was appointed to take mutual control of all operations.

Atsushi Asada stepped in as new chairman while a man named Satoru Iwata was appointed president. Shigeru Miyamoto was also named one of the six.

This was more than a game of musical chairs; Command within Nintendo's Kyoto headquarters was no longer reserved for a single dictator but spread across a committee of its most senior staff. The biggest decisions would now be explored from six different perspectives, in theory allowing more radical ideas to be considered.

Quinn is one of the few people who has personally seen how this committee operates from the inside.

In another extraordinary spell of luck, his networking partner Yoshida happened to occasionally play golf with Asada before he became chairman. One final meeting was set up in early September 2001, this time with Quinn flying to Kyoto to pitch his motion controller to Nintendo.

"I'll never forget that week. I distinctly remember the company's beautiful board meeting room - a huge cherrywood table and flush carpeting and outstanding ornaments. Asada didn't speak much English, but he had an entourage of about eight executives, engineers and programmers. I didn't know who they were though.

"About twenty minutes into my pitch, which was roughly the same one I gave to Microsoft and Sony, Asada stopped things and asked if he could have a moment to speak with his people. I was thinking, here we go again. "They started talking and, right in front of me, it was growing into this really heated discussion. I was told by Yoshida, who was also in the room, that some executives were resistant to the idea of motion control, while others were completely sold by it.

"And then, in the middle of this debate that was getting louder and louder, Asada barked something and there was total silence. That was it. He decided to license our patents for motion control, as well as buy some of our company."

Posted on Nov 14, 2012, 4:29:11 PM PST
So instead of the Wii waggler, the Wii could have ended up using the Move waggler? That would have changed the entire course of human history!

Posted on Nov 14, 2012, 4:48:56 PM PST
Aku says:
Interesting what could have been, but you have to wonder just how well MS/Sony would have implemented the system. Clearly Nintendo was gung-ho with the idea since it didn't become an Eyetoy-like extension and was pretty much the focus of their entire system.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012, 5:02:50 AM PST
waxc3 says:
im glad sony and microsoft didnt use it.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012, 5:11:32 AM PST
WesCyde . says:
Honestly i think it was a perfect fit for nintendo when you look back on the games they released like no more heroes.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:11:31 AM PST
McAwesomeo says:
I just wish Nintendo didn't use it either. It often feels like a detriment to the actual game.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012, 6:12:53 AM PST
A customer says:
That's awesome, I am glad he didn't go with Sony or MS. Sony made something identical to the Wii motion, and MS came out with hands free motion because of it.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012, 6:24:19 AM PST
It worked out great for Nintendo. It gave them incredible sales and fantastic games.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:25:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 15, 2012, 6:26:46 AM PST
Sony developing motion control was before this guy even pitched it to them. In fact, Sony had motion control that it had developed on its own working on the PS2.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:26:26 AM PST
it gave them incredible sales...yes

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:26:59 AM PST
waxc3 says:
totally agree. i bought Wiis for friends and family but it was the first Nintendo console i didnt buy for myself. i cant stand inaccurate inputs in games (or anything with a user interface)!

i own a kinect but i really dont game with that either. its frustrating to see what i want a game to do but the wiimote or the kinect dont copy what i feel i am doing.

never once had that problem with one normal controller dating back my Fairchild Chan-F joystick.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:28:58 AM PST
A customer says:
Cool Doug, does that make you sleep at night?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:30:34 AM PST
very much...but why you mad?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:39:17 AM PST
Really? You didn't like Twilight, Skyward, Galaxy, Last Story, Xenoblade, etc? To each their own. I enjoyed all three major consoles.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:45:00 AM PST
waxc3 says:
i do not like the control system so i could not enjoy what the games had to offer.
several nintendo games remain in my top fav games ever but the motion control system has locked me out of enjoying the recent ones.

Posted on Nov 15, 2012, 6:51:30 AM PST
uncledonnie3 says:
Sony did everything before everybody else. A Sony employee was the first primate to use figure out how to use tools. A Sony employee invented the wheel. Sony is life. Sony is God. All hail Sony.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 6:54:11 AM PST
pretty much

Posted on Nov 15, 2012, 7:12:02 AM PST
Pretty interesting read.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 7:12:22 AM PST
Fair enough. The motion controls didn't bother me. I'd like having a different way of playing. I still loved my ps3/360 though.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 7:13:43 AM PST
waxc3 says:

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 7:14:52 AM PST
Good way of putting it. Because they went with Nintendo (and it was incredibly successful), MS came out with a cool technology that has tons of non-game applications and Sony came up with a more accurate version of the same controller.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2012, 7:38:23 AM PST
Benpachi says:
This. The only game I felt it was really good for was Metroid Prime. Skyward Sword was cool, but I would have preferred standard controls. Mario Galaxy was fine, but again, would have been fine without motion control.
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This discussion

Discussion in:  Video Games forum
Participants:  12
Total posts:  22
Initial post:  Nov 14, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 15, 2012

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