October 6th 2003
Interview with Craig Harris
To mark the first anniversary of this web site, I thought I'd do a little
something special: An interview with none other than Craig Harris, the chief
editor of Pocket IGN!
The interview is (of course) centered around the e-Reader, its past, its
present and its future.
Pix: What were your expectations for the e-Reader when it was released
Craig: I honestly didn't have much expectations for the device when it
was first announced and launched in Japan, since it really wasn't offering
anything "cool". It was just a card reader that brought up text and mini-games
on the GBA. Yippie.
It was when the device was re-designed to incorporate the link port that the
thing suddenly had enormous potential. The ability to add new elements to an
existing game through cheap playing cards is just so darn cool...even though
PC games have had "upgrades" for years. Sure, the cards aren't a mighty
storage medium, but the developers have shown that the little strips can still
hold quite an impressive amount for a tiny little printed group of dots.
I'm still a little disappointed that you need to have two GBA systems in order
to upload data to GBA games...the unit really should have been a supplement
that incorporated a cartridge pass-through slot. But now that there's a Game
Boy Player, and the GBA's now pretty darn cheap, it's not difficult to take
advantage of GBA e-Reader support like in Pokemon or Super Mario Advance 4.
Pix: 2) Are you generally satisfied with what Nintendo has done with the
e-Reader so far?
Craig: Well, not particularly. I think the NES idea was implemented
half-assedly... it's pretty clear that the idea of putting an NES emulator
into the unit was a quick implementation, since the emulator itself is a large
memory hog that doesn't allow for decent-sized NES games, and the lack of link
cable support here for two players is just garbage.
So, it's cool that you can go out and buy NES games for a couple of bucks, but
those NES games are completely free in Animal Crossing.... with the exception
of Wario's Woods and the other, later-aged NES games hidden in Animal Crossing,
you can just send the NES games to the GBA.
And only having one GameCube game support the e-Reader is not doing its job of
showing consumers that it's an integral device. Animal Crossing is a good
start...but what else is there? It needs more. Stage Debut will be a decent
one...if it ever shows its face in the US.
Pix: What do you think of the lack of third-party support?
Craig: Nintendo's to blame here. I've talked to several developers, and
Nintendo has never made dev kits available to anyone outside of the company.
Why? Who knows. But it definitely hurts since gamers can't see other ideas
outside of what Nintendo implements.
Pix: What is your favorite e-Card application (among the existing ones)?
Craig: I haven't seen it entirely in action yet, but I like the idea of
Nintendo offering new levels for Super Mario 3. These should be pretty cool.
Pix: What is the e-Card application you would most like to see?
Craig: Well, honestly, I think Air Hockey is way awesome because it
shows that Nintendo can offer decent mini-games for little to no money on the
GBA. I always thought that they should run promotions with Kelloggs or
something to create limited-edition e-Reader cards included in Frosted Flakes...
like a Tony the Tiger steroid rage mini-game or something. Have you seen how
buff they've made that character nowadays? There's no way cereal's doing all
Sorry, broke off into a tangent there.
Pix: How do you perceive the future of the e-Reader?
Craig: I think it still has legs, I just don't want Nintendo to let it
disappear. Giving the unit away with the classic GBA is a step in the right
direction, though it's bait for people who already hate the unit to assume
that Nintendo's just dumping them.
Pix: Do you think Nintendo will eventually release a new (and hopefully
better) version of the e-Reader?
Craig: It's hard to say, but if Nintendo thinks it's still a viable
market (and how could selling five pieces of paper for 3 bucks a piece not be
profitable), I think that the technology will continue in a smaller unit for
the next handheld that'll allow for tighter dot-codes with more data... as
well as be backwards compatible.
Pix: Are there any additional thoughts you'd like to share with us on
Craig: Yeah, it's annoying to hear folks on the boards complain about
the unit, as if Nintendo's using it to "lock out" existing features so they
can sell cards that simply unlock the hidden features. Yes, the character
cards in Animal Crossing don't "create" new furniture, but the song and
texture cards should prove to these folk that those textures are actually
printed on that card's dot code. The Pokemon Battle-e cards don't "unlock"
existing gameplay features, and the upcoming Super Mario Bros. 3 cards don't
either... they're uploading game data that enable features that wouldn't
exist without the "new" data embedded on the cards.
Pix: Thank you very much for this interview! :-)