Nintendo could have had its money-filled mitts on Project Natal, but they were obviously filled with too much money already.
An insider at Nintendo's Japanese headquarters has revealed to CVG that President and CEO Satoru Iwata had the chance to acquire what is now known as Project Natal for a Wii accessory, but he turned it down. Iwata was impressed with the technology, but didn't see it as a Nintendo product. According to the insider: "Iwata-san only ever invests in something he can guarantee will work for a Nintendo audience."
The insider alleges that Israeli firm 3DV Systems visited Nintendo in 2007 to show off an early demo, apparently confirming 3DV's involvement with Natal, if Microsoft's acquisition wasn't a hint. "3DV showed off a camera that detected motion in 3D, and had voice recognition ... I've heard Iwata describe the prototype he saw at length, and it's definitely Natal," the insider revealed. Cost was one of the reasons the technology was turned down, as "Iwata-San was unconvinced he could sell it at a Nintendo price point. He also had some worries around latency during gameplay."
CVG's source continues: "We remain unconvinced Natal will deliver on the more sophisticated elements of what Microsoft is promising at the price they're aiming for." Natal was recently in the news for removing a chip to become less expensive, but who knows what that actually means. For all we know this "insider" could be leaking information on purpose to put Natal in a bad light. Ultimately, it'll come down to how Natal performs when it is released, and the quality of the software that it supports. If games like this can be pulled off, and they actually work, it could be a very cool technology indeed.
Nintendo just better hope that Project Natal doesn't go the same way as the SNES-CD, a joint development with Sony that was canceled and ended up becoming the PlayStation. Nintendo might be back on top today, but for a while the PlayStation put quite a dent in Nintendo's bottom line.