One of Nintendo’s most important innovations in video games has been the invention of the d-pad, which is still used prominently on controllers today. To get there, though, they had to go through some less successful prototypes. Some with stupid names.
While working on Game & Watch designs in the early 80s, Nintendo legend Gunpei Yokoi was trying to work out a way to transplant an arcade-style joystick to a compact, foldable handheld.
As explained in Florent Gorge’s excellent The History of Nintendo series, a combination of weak plastics and the G&W’s clamshell design meant Yokoi had to go a little left-field for solutions to their control problem.
“One of the prototypes will even provoke waves of laughter among Nintendo staff, since to reinforce the stick, he had to put a flexible plastic shell arond it”, Gorges writes.
“And, as such, this new joystick looks very much like a nipple...so much so that this prototype will fondly be called “oppai gata kontoroora” (おっぱい型コントローラ), the ‘boob shaped controller’”.
No images survive of this prototype (at least that the public have seen), and it was quickly shelved, though more due to its failure to properly reinforce a plastic stick than for its appearance and name.
So remember: for all the admiration we heap on Nintendo for the elegance of the d-pad’s eventual design, things could have been a lot different. And funnier.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.
This story was originally published in January 2015.