The StreetPass relay points are starting to spread across the globe giving 3DS owners more chance to connect with fellow gamers using the unique feature.
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata recently sat down with the team behind the project in the latest Iwata Asks interview where they spoke about how the concept came to be and how it was implemented. Masayoshi Matsuoka, Yusuke Inoue, Taisuke Kawahara, Masatoshi Yamazaki and Hideki Konno were all present and correct to answer his searching questions.
StreetPass actually started out as a feature for the Nintendo DS rather than the 3DS as the idea came from the popular title Nintendogs, which was created by Shigeru Miyamoto.
Miyamoto had just become the master of a lovely young pup and like most dog owners took it for walks in the park. When there he would casually talk with other people who liked dogs and upon sharing this story with the team they thought it would be fun to create a similar experience on Nintendo DS where people could have a loose connection within communities with a shared interest - in this case, dogs.
The next game to become part of it was Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies and Luida’s Bar, an area specifically set aside by electronic shop Yodobashi Camera’s Akiba store in Akihabara, Tokyo, where players could exchange tags via Tag Mode, became a lively spot. If it wasn't for this early success, StreetPass may never have happened as Iwata said:
If it hadn’t been for the explosion of activity around Luida’s Bar in addition to the Tag Mode for Nintendogs, we might not have focused on StreetPass and developed Nintendo 3DS the way we did – and you wouldn’t have gathered here today.
While connecting with fellow Nintendogs and Dragon Quest players was fun, it has limitations and restrictions, so a new system was brought in for 3DS.
StreetPass was a great new feature that was doing well in Japan, but the team found 3DS owners in North America were not having much joy. Konno went to New York and didn't get many hits at all and even when he went to Times Square he didn't have as many green flashing lights as he thought he would and so he thought a relay was needed to help people make use of the feature. Iwata agreed:
In America, the amount of StreetPass encounters that would occur was only about one-tenth to that of Japan. I thought that was way too little, as if it was missing a zero. Then I found out that it was even less in Europe. Even though the number of systems sold and the number of customers who had experienced StreetPass didn’t differ that much between each region, the number of encounters was drastically smaller. When you walk around a city in Japan, StreetPass is happening fairly frequently, so it’s a habit for a lot of people to walk around with their Nintendo 3DS. And I think not a few people go out with their Nintendo 3DS in America or Europe as well in hopes of having a StreetPass encounter. But I suspect that a lot of them must have gone home disappointed after not having passed anyone.
Yamazaki confirmed at the start of April this year, Konno got back from America and said he wanted to do StreetPass relay points so they all got to work quickly to get it set up as soon as possible to capitalise on releases such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Kawahara revealed the data needed to be uploaded from access points such as Nintendo Zones and stored on a server for a while, so they decided to prepare a server at the company headquarters, however, they had to wait about a month for delivery. Time was of the essence, so a cloud service was brought in, Amazon Web Services to be exact. Kawahara said this allowed them to use a very convenient service and Iwata concurred:
Using the cloud as servers is very suited to making a service when, as with StreetPass relay points, you cannot predict ahead of time how many hits will come in from the 100 thousand access points around the world. This way, you can easily increase the number of servers in line with circumstances, or decrease the number if they aren’t necessary.
The team also spoke about a potential International StreetPass, a system that would see people connect with others around the globe. This would be done by housing all data in one location so someone in New York could StreetPass with someone in Tokyo as if they had just walked past each other.
However, there were reservations as connecting with international players all the time would "impair the value of StreetPass", according to Nintendo's President and Inoue agreed:
That’s right. When I took my Nintendo 3DS overseas, I found great value in coincidentally passing someone from London. But if one after the other came in through International StreetPass, the value would be halved, or disappear completely.
Iwata said he thinks something like an International StreetPass is too much of an extreme measure to actually implement, but some people go to a relay point and still receive nothing. Making sure everyone can be involved is Nintendo's mission with the StreetPass relays and this is something Iwata said it would need to improve on.
Looking at it that way, rather than doing something extreme like International StreetPass, a better starting point would be to collect those areas that don't get a lot of activity and make them in a single group. That way more people would be able to experience StreetPass for themselves.
It's definitely worth having a read of the full interview to find out more about how the system works. It certainly makes for an interesting read.
What are your thoughts on the StreetPass relays? Are they working for you? Let us know in the comment section below.