January 4th 2003

Non-game applications

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.

Pocket Calculator

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 travellers.

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 vectors.

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 topics.

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.

Game hints

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 more!

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 is huge!

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 collectible cards.


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 offerings...

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.

Collectible cards

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! :-)

Movie previews

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.

In conclusion...

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