The Nintendo 3DS Football Game That Took Six Years To Make

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Nintendo Pocket Football Club (titled Calcio Bit in Japan) is a downloadable title for the Nintendo 3DS that puts you in the role of a football team manager. As manager, your job is to train your players, choose tactics, create a customized team, and send it out to participate in matches.


You don’t actually control individual players themselves in the game, but you can alter your team’s tactics and create custom formations. Calciobit isn’t exactly a graphically-intensive game either—the art style intentionally uses simple pixelated characters and the experience is focused primarily on management.


This is why it’s so interesting that the game took as long to develop as it did. Development of the game began on the Nintendo DS, according to Hiroyuki Sonobe, who worked on the title. In an Iwata Asks interview, Sonobe explains that the first Nintendo Pocket Football Club game was released at the very end of the Game Boy Advance system’s life in 2006, and that he then moved on to remake the game for DS.


Ultimately, however, development lasted all throughout the DS’s life and eventually shifted to the Nintendo 3DS, where it took six years until the game was completed. Sonobe says he used the opportunity to expand the game’s network features, such as using StreetPass and SpotPass to allow you to take on teams trained by other players, among other new features.


So, why do the Nintendo Pocket Football Club games take so long to make? Perhaps they’re more complex under the surface than they let on. For instance, Sonobe says that his intention with these games isn’t to create a simulation, but rather, a game that thrives primarily on the player’s imagination to feel like a simulation.


“I’d say that’s most likely a result of successfully sifting through all the different elements of a game and retaining what’s most essential,” Sonobe says. “As game consoles have got more and more sophisticated, the graphics and so on have become much more realistic, and while that’s not in itself a bad thing, I can’t help feeling that it isn’t quite what I’m aiming for.”


Sonobe’s reasoning is that, when a game’s graphics are too detailed, the player’s imagination doesn’t fill in the details that it otherwise would. Imagination is what makes it possible for someone to play the same game over and over again, since it changes depending on the circumstances. The goal is make it feel convincing, which is a concept that goes all the way back to the GBA Pocket Football game.


“The players would run constantly around the whole pitch in a realistic manner… By realistic, I don’t mean that the graphics made it look like a real game,” he explains. “I mean that when the players shot at goal, you would think ‘That was so close!’ just like in a real football game. The opposition would then go on the counter-attack. I was aiming to recreate the way the action swings from one team to the other with that heart-racing excitement peculiar to football.”


Sonobe elaborates: “A football match lasts 90 minutes, and simply reproducing that wouldn’t have worked as a video game. So I made a single match last about eight minutes, upping the intensity and condensing all the action into this timeframe.”


Nintendo Pocket Football Club will be available in Europe via the Nintendo eShop for 3DS on April 17th. A North American release hasn’t been announced yet, but hopefully the game does eventually make it over to the U.S. as well.

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.