January 4th 2003
It's an undeniable fact that the most interesting e-Card applications are the
interactive mini-games. But the Animal Crossing-e cards also demonstrate
that such cards can be used for other types of applications. I gave this some
thought and came up with a few ideas.
This is the most obvious non-game application. Just swipe the card in the
e-Reader, then move a cursor across the calculator's buttons on the GBA screen.
Such an application should easely fit on a single e-Card. This could be a
promotional e-Card included with an issue of Nintendo Power.
Now there's an application with a lot of potential! You could have all kinds of
recipees encoded on e-Cards, and the recipee instructions would be displayed on
the GBA screen. Since this would mostly be text, perhaps more than one recipee
could be encoded on a single e-Card. These would be great collector items.
City Road Maps
I'm not sure if this is technically feasible, given the limited amount of
data encodeable on e-Cards, but road map applications could be useful for
The e-Cards would essentially contain a database of vectors with associated
street names. You could zoom in and out of the map with the A and B buttons,
pan up, down, left and right with the D-Pad, and view the name of a particular
street by placing the cursor on top of the street vector. Street vectors would
be color-coded to indicate their importance, from major highways to the
smallest street. City limits and water ways would also be encoded as colored
You could also perform a search by street name: Press the SELECT button to
enter the query mode, select the first letter of the desired street name, then
the list of all the street names beginning with this letter would be displayed.
Select a street from the list, and the road map display would be repositioned
and rezoomed over the selected street, which would be highlighted.
The tourist attractions of the city would be printed on the cards. Imagine
having a road map of Paris, London or New York encoded on a group of e-Cards!
Like I said, I don't know if it's technically feasible within a reasonable
amount of e-Cards, but it would be fun!
It's a well-known fact that kids tend to learn better when the learning is done
via interesting activities. Short lessons on e-Cards would certainly be a valid
way to teach children about many areas of science, history, and many other
For example, one set of e-Cards could provide information about each planet of
our solar system. Another set could be a quick overview of a certain period of
the history of the United States. The possibilities are really endless, and
perhaps such e-Cards could even be distributed in schools.
To be honest, I've never been very interested in game hints and tips printed
on trading cards, because once you know the information, the card itself loses
its value. And besides, the tips are usually pretty dumb, which makes you
wonder why they manufactured those cards in the first place.
However, e-Cards offer more possibilities, mostly because a lot of hints and
tips can be encoded on a single e-Card. For example, imagine a set of e-Cards
with hints and tips related to a Game Cube RPG. To access a specific hint on
one of those cards, you'd need to enter a password which the Game Cube RPG
would somehow provide. You could then learn about the strength and weaknesses
of certain monsters in the RPG, or learn the location of hidden items.
I admit that game hints on e-Cards may not be very exciting, but they would
make cool promotional cards.
Music on a card: Jukebox-e
Here's an e-Card application that would certainly attract a lot of attention!
As you might know already, NES music requires very little cartridge memory
space, and so it would be quite possible to encode these NES tunes on e-Cards
and play them via the NES emulator built into the e-Reader. Imagine listening
to familiar tunes from Mega Man, Contra, Metroid, Super Mario Bros, and many
But wait, this may not be as easy to implement as you think. I had a talk about
this with Chris Covell over a month ago, and this is what he had to say about
extracting music tunes from NES games: "It can be done, but it would require
serious rewriting of the code. Generally music code is separated into the music
data, and the 6502 code used to play it. Usually, pointers to the music data
are hard-coded into the player code. And further, pointers to subroutines
within the player code are also hard-coded inside the player code. So, to move
either the music data or player code around would require hunting for and
rewriting the pointers to these. I wouldn't want to do that..."
So it's possible, but there could be a lot of work involved. I'm guessing
certain tunes from old Game Boy games could also be encoded on e-Cards this
way, but you can forget about Super-NES tunes, because Super-NES music data
Music on a card: Karaok-e
This is another possible music-related application for e-Cards: You could have
instrumental tunes playing while the lyrics would be displayed on the GBA
screen, and you would be invited to sing along, karaoke-style. Such
"Karaok-e" cards could be produced for songs of the most popular artists, such
as Britney Spears, Shakira, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, etc. Certain classics
could also be encoded on e-Cards, like the best songs of Elvis Presley for
example ("You ain't nothin' but a hound dog..."). These would make great
The concept is simple enough: Short stories encoded on e-Cards, with one
chapter per card. It's a nice idea, but unfortunately, very little money could
be made with such e-Books, because the stories would very likely be made
available on the internet, so you could easely download them and read them
without having to buy the e-Cards. At best, e-Books would make nice promotional
However, there is one type of e-Book that would probably sell really well:
Game books. (Okay, I know this text is about non-game applications, but give me
a break here.) You've probably experienced at least one of those books before,
with the randomized numbered paragraphs that were linked to each other. Such
text-based adventures could easely be encoded on a certain number of e-Cards,
and these would be sold as complete decks. As you play the game, you'd simply
need to swipe in e-Cards as requested by the application.
Swiping e-Cards into an e-Reader constitutes the main appeal of these cards.
But there's also something to be said about the simple act of collecting these
cards, just like any other series of trading cards. To that effect, the idea
of adding e-Reader data strips to conventional sports cards is unavoidable.
The stats of baseball players could be encoded on e-Cards, and these stats
could even be scanned into a Game Cube baseball game. The same could be done
with hockey, football or basketball cards.
This can also go beyond sports. For instance, you could have a series of
trading cards devoted to expensive cars (BMW, Ferrari, etc.), or airplanes
(both commercial and military). Scanning the data strips of such cards into
certain Game Cube games could unlock these vehicles in the games.
Another type of collectible card would be short animated cartoons. Imagine
watching a funny Garfield animated comic on your GBA screen! Such cartoons
could be encoded on one or two e-Cards.
There's also yet another type of collectible card: Transformers! Each card
would have a picture and stats of an Autobot or Decepticon printed on it, and
scanning the card with the e-Reader would allow you to see this Autobot or
Decepticon transform from robot to vehicle (and vice-versa) on your GBA
screen! I don't know about you, but I'd try to collect every last one of
those cards! :-)
e-Cards can also be used as a short-term marketing medium. One such application
could be movie previews. These promotional e-Cards would have animated
publicity clips encoded on them, to promote upcoming movies. It's not exactly
an ideal marketing vehicle, but it would be enough to generate some hype.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to develop the market for e-Cards, aside
from mini-games. This also clearly demonstrates the potential of the e-Reader,
but Nintendo evidently needs to develop partnerships with other entertainment
companies for this potential to be fully exploited. We'll see how well Nintendo
will support the e-Reader in 2003!
Oh, and here's something you'll surely never see on e-Cards: Porn. ;-P