Just recently I noticed that, despite playing some Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam earlier in the week, a gap of a few days had seen my 3DS battery go flat. This wouldn't do, and for one simple reason - I was nipping out and knew I'd be passing a StreetPass hotspot; I couldn't put it on charge fast enough. StreetPass alone brought my system back onto my cluttered radar and, wouldn't you know it, I found a bit of time to continue Paper Jam that night.
I suspect I'm not the only one that has this happen, as our lives are busier, noisier and more crowded than ever before. Many of us own multiple gaming systems, each with their own unique spin or range of games, and our daily lives get swallowed up by work or school and then an entertainment overload in spare time. This is the age of box set binging through streaming services, cheap games easily found and downloaded and the constant buzz of the internet, with social media and the broader web rarely quietening down. For many of us our lives are stacked, and time becomes a precious commodity as we figure out how to best spend hours left aside for fun and relaxation.
It's in this world where Nintendo has perhaps struggled a little, though it has had some wins. For a combination of reasons, for example, the big N dropped out of Interbrand's Top 100 Global Brands list last year, for the first time since the Wii glory days. Interbrand put an emphasis on 'mecosystems', emphasizing the need for companies to "create customized experiences around a single individual, where every brand in consideration slots in seamlessly". My interpretation, in basic terms, is that companies need to make their services (and overall brand) fast, intuitive and easily used on any device. If you don't have a smart device app or equivalent online resource for your service or product, then you're doing it wrong.
Nintendo is getting there, of course. Slowly but surely some regions have been able to buy eShop downloads online and have them download automatically to their hardware, while neat online portals for games such as Super Mario Maker and Mario Kart 8 are positives. My Nintendo / Nintendo Account is also due this March and could be a real game changer in this area, not only rewarding diverse activities with perks but also, as part of the network, rolling out eShop online purchases across all territories. This was all part of Tatsumi Kimishima's most recent major presentation to investors, portraying the new account service as a major experience that'll stretch across dedicated gaming systems and smart devices. There are even plans for rewards and activities related to visiting locations, such as the touted Universal Studios / Nintendo theme park tie-in; it's evident that our smartphone will soon be joining the 3DS as a vital Nintendo experience on the go.
It'll be important that this all works in practice, and with the likes of Miitomo as a communication app, in addition to on-the-go AR gaming with Pokémon Go, there's certainly plenty of scope to dig into our day-to-day lives. With partners like DeNA and The Pokémon Company, Nintendo is evidently planning with these ideas in mind.
Hopefully StreetPass will be part of this future, too, as I think it's become an important feature not just for the 3DS, but with Nintendo's identity with current fans. We've seen various 'StreetPass Weekend' promotions, and expo events often incorporate the feature to attract gamers to the big N's booth. It's also a key aspect of bringing fans together in a typically 'Nintendo' way, with StreetPass groups around the world forming new friendships around common interests. I've seen a number of these groups in action, and their importance to those involved shouldn't be underestimated.
As a concept it's been a success, bringing gamers together and also keeping some engaged with their 3DS when, without it, they may drift away or use their portable less. As highlighted earlier in this article, a continuation and expansion of concepts like this can be a huge part of Nintendo's future. Part of the company's battle is strengthening its brand identity, making it desirable and - by extension - popular. Through apps and hardware it's about getting that Nintendo logo and its games / apps in front of our eyeballs not just when we want to play a fun game, but as part of a daily habit. Icons that become as familiar as the Twitter bird or the Facebook F.
Last year we published an article about a day in the future life of a Nintendo gamer, and the ideas found there can certainly become part of a future reality. Even if the NX doesn't have a portable aspect as the likes of me have come to expect, it should have the online connectivity and flexibility to interact with and utilise apps on our phones, for example. I want to see a future where Nintendo, through games, social apps and well-designed online stores, is one of my go-to daily engagements. A time where StreetPass-style ideas are daily ever-presents, more engrossing and dynamic than they have been in the 3DS era.
Nintendo's brand power is still strong, and you can play the Super Mario Bros. theme to people of almost any age and get a response. Products like amiibo have helped increase awareness, and those that have the current hardware seem to typically enjoy it. Yet it's also become, it seems to me, a bit of a quaint brand, old-school and little disconnected from modern life. Nintendo doesn't need to get into a technological arms race to change that perception. It just needs its next system and its smart device apps to be clever, intuitive and tough to resist. A smart approach for smart devices - phones, tablets and its own hardware.
When Nintendo becomes indispensable in our daily connected lives, it'll be on the march again.