Nintendo wants to give the 3DS a boost in the west, and one of its new strategies is to make StreetPass more useful for those of us who don’t walk by millions of commuters every day.
In an investor briefing held at E3 Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata said that StreetPass is “very common in crowded Japan” but that “American and European users seem to meet each other via StreetPass less frequently”, with the result that fewer people carry their console around and experience the unique system’s benefits.
“This year we will release software that opens doors for new ways to play through the StreetPass feature, such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and I hope that more people around the world will be able to experience the benefits that StreetPass provides,” he said.
“We will achieve that by taking advantage of Wi-Fi access points and implementing a StreetPass relay feature into the Nintendo 3DS hardware. Starbucks and McDonald’s, among others, provide about 28,000 Wi-Fi access points, which are connected automatically to Nintendo 3DS, in the US and 24,000 in Europe.”
“We are going to perform a system update that introduces a framework that uses these access points as StreetPass relay stations by this autumn.”
The system will work similarly to the existing SpotPass feature, which provides bonuses when the sleeping 3DS encounters relevant WiFi hotspots, but instead of giving the user a location-based bonus, it will contact a StreetPass server and swap information as if the user had encountered the other 3DS owner involved in the exchange.
“As opposed to, say, Person A and Person B directly exchanging game data, data will be transmitted in sequence from Person A to Person B, and then onto Person C and so on,” Iwata said.
“But the surprising and magical feeling of exchanging data with someone you simply shared a location with is as real as before. Previously the StreetPass feature required multiple Nintendo 3DS systems in Sleep Mode to be in the same location at the same time, but in this framework, you can exchange data with others by visiting the same location even at a different time, so we can certainly expect the use rate of the StreetPass feature to grow significantly.”
Elsewhere in the briefing, Iwata addressed both the 3DS and Wii U’s western sales. For the 3DS, he argued that the portable is actually doing very well indeed, but admitted the west is lagging behind, providing graphs suggesting western take up is on the rise.
That said, Nintendo knows that it needs more software for the portable. On the Wii U side, the company promsied more games soon, and left it at that.
One other interesting point from the briefing is that Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime disputed the idea that Nintendo “didn’t show up” to E3. The platform holder held a business briefing behind closed doors – as all the major players do; it’s kind of the real point of E3 – and sent a Nintendo Direct rather than a live-streamed conference, as well as hosting multiple events and press sessions.