December 31st 2003
My review of 2003
It's been quite a while since I last added an entry to the diary section.
I created this section to explore certain ideas for e-Reader applications,
and also to discuss certain issues. But after a few months, it became clear
that discussing such things was a waste of time, since Nintendo has no
intention of realizing the e-Reader's full potential. Why do I say this?
As we close the door on 2003, let's review Nintendo's track record in terms
of e-Reader support.
How to mess things up, let me count the ways...
During the winter/spring of 2003, when Animal Crossing-e cards were
hot items, there was a general expectation that the fourth - and last - series
of these cards would unlock certain highly-desired items, namely the
unobtainable Legend of Zelda, Punch Out!! and Super Mario
Bros NES games. We all know the games are hidden in Animal Crossing,
since many gamers have been able to unlock them with cheating devices. When
this fourth series finally hit the streets in May, all we got were cards to
unlock Ice Climber and Mario Bros. Very nice, but where are the
cards to unlock the other games? Still to this very day, Nintendo remains
silent on the subject. Nintendo pissed off a lot of people with this...
During that same period, Nintendo released a wonderful e-Reader application:
Mario Party-e. I found it to be a pleasant way to use the e-Reader in
a social setting, but it seems Nintendo was disappointed with the product,
because while the instruction manual of the game refers to the pack of 64
cards as the "base set", no other expansion packs were released, aside from
a "Double-Coin" card found in GamePro magazine last summer. Okay, so Mario
Party-e didn't sell that well, but what did Nintendo expect? Anyone can
see that playing the Mario Party games on the N64 and Game Cube is
more fun than this card game, so why should anyone be actually expected to
buy a 10$ card game that requires a 80$ GBA and a 40$ e-Reader? It would have
made much more sense to release some kind of involving role-playing boardgame
(based on the Zelda franchise perhaps) that would have generated more media
hype, but alas, no one working at Nintendo's R&D was able to figure this out.
By the way, did you enjoy waiting well over six months for the Pokemon
Battle-e cards? Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Sapphire were
both released in March, but the card series were released in October, at
a time when Ruby and Sapphire were old news. At this point,
no amount of publicity could generate any hype for those poor little cards.
Ridiculous. I hope Nintendo learned something about timing in marketing...
At least they gave us the cards in non-randomized packs.
And then there's the whole story with Wizards of the Coast and the Pokemon
trading card game. Admittedly, WoTC did a very bad job of promoting the
e-Reader features of the Expedition, Aquapolis and Skyridge
expansion sets, and I can understand how Nintendo wanted to take matters
into their own hands, to insure the future of the trading card game. In terms
of tournaments and promotional events, Nintendo delivered the goods in a
very "thumbs-up" way, but the cards themselves are a disappointment: Not only
do the cards in the EX Ruby/Sapphire, EX Sandstorm and EX
Dragon series carry only a small e-Reader dot-code data strip at the
bottom (no more mini-games, cartoons, etc. encoded on long data strips) but
the actual content of these strips is laughable. Have you tried swiping these
cards in your e-Reader? While the WoTC cards offered useful tips related to
the trading card game, the Nintendo cards have only futile information that
has nothing to do with the card game.
But the worst offense, in my humble opinion, is the way Nintendo pushed the
release of the Game & Watch-e cards into 2004 practically at the
last minute, back in November. Yes, there were several e-Cards series released
during that period (Pokemon Battle-e, Super Mario Advance 4-e
and Pokemon-e EX Dragon) and Nintendo wanted to avoid releasing too
many e-Cards series during the Christmas shopping season. I can understand
that, but I ask that the good people at Nintendo understand this: A lot of
people are waiting for the Game & Watch-e cards, and a good number of
these people bought an e-Reader in anticipation of this series. We've all
been waiting for over a year now, and you want to make us wait several more
months? I dare say our collective patience has limits...
Some good points
Nintendo messed up a few times this past year, but they also offered us some
nice candy, namely the Super Mario Advance 4-e series, which is
arguably the coolest e-Reader application currently available. It's a little
expensive though, since you have to buy another GBA and a Link Cable to make
it work, but I say it's worth it. And besides, it's also a nice reason to
buy a Game Boy Player if you already have a Game Cube and a GBA...
I also happen to think that the "GBA/e-Reader" bundles that Nintendo has been
offering since late October is a very good marketing move. But why is the
e-Reader still being sold at a regular price of 40$? The coupons found in
packages of certain Nintendo products do help, and you can find additional
rebates at certain stores if you look hard enough, but the e-Reader is still
an expensive add-on over a year after its initial release.
At the very end of 2003, some news came out in Japan about Capcom releasing
the first ever third-party e-Card series, for Mega Man Battle Network 4.
This is truly terrific news, but there's really no guarantee that the e-Reader
support will be included in the North American version of the game. All we
can do now is keep our fingers crossed, and also hope that other third-party
companies will follow Capcom's example.
My wishes for 2004
If it hadn't been for Tena's generous gift back in November (she sent me a
free copy of Super Mario Advance 4 with the Wal-Mart exclusives), this
web site would probably be shut down for good right now. Instead, I'm going to
stick around for one more year, but without any particular expectation.
Nintendo has disappointed me too many times this past year for me to get my
hopes up about anything.
At least Nintendo has "fed" us with well over 1000 cards since the e-Reader's
initial release, which is certainly not bad, and there's more to come in 2004.
My only real wish at this point is to see e-Reader support in the next Zelda
game on GBA (the one Capcom is currently working on). I'd love to have new
dungeons encoded on e-Cards!
And please Nintendo, no more delays for the Game & Watch-e series...