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 last year?

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 that.

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 this subject?

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! :-)