March 22nd 2003
Third-party e-Cards: Why it may never happen...
Ever since the e-Reader's release in the US, I've been wondering why there
hasn't been any third-party e-Cards released. On March 19th 2003, I decided to
stop beating around the bush, and so I sent this e-mail to Nintendo:
Here is the response I received less than 24 hours later:
I have a keen interest in the e-Reader (so much so that I've made a web site
devoted to it, found at http://www.caitsith2.com/erzone/), and I
happen to have a question regarding its future: Will Nintendo eventually let
third-party publishers make their own e-Card series?
If you look at the entries in the "Pixelboy's Diary" section of my web site,
you will see many innovative applications for e-Cards, and I think that
Nintendo is sitting on a gold mine, but if all the e-Reader is destined to do
is promote Nintendo's in-house franchises, then it would be quite a waste of
So what can we expect in the long term? Will "third-party" be part of the
e-Reader equation down the road?
Thanks in advance for any reply. :)
Hello and thank you for contacting Nintendo,
Glad to hear that you see great potential for use of the e-Reader. Yes,
virtually any game could take advantage of e-Reader. However, please realize
that Nintendo created the Game Boy Advance and the e-Reader system. The
licensee companies do not sell these systems, and do not quite see the
advantages of creating e-Reader cards for their games.
In addition, we did not create the e-Reader technology. We had to purchase the
rights to use the e-Reader technology for our games. In the same way, a
licensee game company would have to negotiate the rights to use this technology
from the company that created the technology. Not all licensee companies want
to incur this added expense.
But, who knows what we will see in the future. Keep checking our website at
www.nintendo.com for the latest in games, systems, and accessories.
Thanks for your email and good luck with all your games!
Nintendo of America Inc.
It does shed some light on the reality of the situation, doesn't it? The
general impression I get from this reply is that I shouldn't get my hopes up
about third-party e-Cards. It's probably very sound advice, but I find mister
Mann's arguments rather questionnable.
First of all, the first paragraph of his reply seems to address the issue of
using e-Cards with Game Cube games. I do agree that third-party Game Cube
developers and publishers may not be interested in adding e-Reader features to
their Game Cube games. I don't think I'd be interested either, if I were a
developer or publisher.
But what about stand-alone e-Card applications? Nintendo has demonstrated, with
the NES-e series, that games can be sold as packs of e-Cards at a reasonable
price. There's no doubt in my mind that third-parties could do the same, but
there is one possible problem which may prevent this from ever happening, and
mister Mann mentions it in the second paragraph of his reply: What kind of
licensing deal did Nintendo negotiate with the company that owns the e-Reader
technology, namely Olympus Optical Co.?
If a single, unlimited license was negotiated, then this license must have
cost Nintendo a huge sum of money. This could explain why Nintendo has been
supporting the e-Reader so actively over the last six months, namely with the
Animal Crossing-e, Pokemon-e and NES-e series, because Nintendo needed to
maximize its return on investment to cover the cost of the license with Olympus
Optical, together with the other costs associated with making e-Cards.
The downside to this is that third-party publishers may not be able
to afford this required license, and it may not be legally possible for
third-parties to market their e-Card applications via Nintendo's license. This
is all purely theoretical speculation, but it would explain the lack of
third-party support for the e-Reader, in both Japan and the US.
On the other hand, if getting a license from Olympus Optical is not that big
of a problem, then I can see little reason why third-parties wouldn't want to
exploit this potential gold mine. Developing small e-Card applications doesn't
cost nearly as much as normal GBA games, so that's not really an issue. The
manufacturing of the cards might pose a bigger problem, but it's nothing that
can't be worked out via a partnership with Nintendo or a trading card company
like Wizards of the Coast, Upper Deck or Topps. Any production cost can be
passed on to the consumer, as long as the price of the packs stays reasonable.
It is very possible that we may never see any third-party e-Cards. That would
be quite a shame, because the e-Reader's potential is undeniably enormous, and
it pains me to acknowledge that this potential will go unexploited simply
because of needlessly rigid licensing issues...