Nintendo has officially announced that NFC is going to be in the Wii U in some form. I think it’s safe to say that this will be directly implemented in their new tablet controller for a number of reasons that I have listed below. Sure this sounds cool and all, but what exatcly is NFC and what can it do?
NFC: The Tech
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a contactless, electromagnetic wireless technology designed to enable communications between two devices. Unlike WiFi and Bluetooth technologies that use radio frequencies, NFC’s magnetic nature it is meant to only work at very close distances (about 4 centimeters), so don’t look for anything on the terms of Bluetooth distance or performance, however NFC is still compatible with both Bluetooth and WiFi. NFC is a communication standard that creates a peer to peer network to exange data between those 2 devices at a max speed of 424 Kbps. Because credit cards don’t have any power source to power a bluetooth or any radio device, this makes NFC ideal for quick contactless transactions and allows for other types of cards or non-powered devices to exchange data with an NFC enabled device. Now that we got the core details out of the way, here are some of the possibilites that Nintendo can do with the tech:
1. This idea alone could make Nintendo Millions: Pokemon cards with NFC. Scan your pokemon cards onto the NFC unit to add your same card digitally to your game or online profile. This has a great possibility of introducing pokemon TGC 2 or being able to access your Pokemon Trading Card Game online account. And with 2 tablet controllers, it would be easy to view your individual cards on your own screen while you play.
2. Toy-inspired games like Spyro Skylanders. Instead of having a hub, they can make it to where you just touch your toy once, and it scans into the game. It may be a little different from the existing Skylanders setup, but the idea remains the same.
3. The eReader that never was. I remember the day before the eReader came out for the GameBoy Advance I was so excited that I actually lost sleep the night before it came out. I picked one up and realized soon after it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. The problem was that it was bulky and you had to slowly scan in dual-sided cards that took a while and you could only save one game file at a time. Not the most convenient for a portable. But the game that had some of the best ideas for the clunky peripheral was Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario 3. That game had incredible potential to actually fulfill any Mario fanboy’s dream. It had the ability to scan in new cards to the game that unlocked never before released levels, and had the option to scan in “item” cards that would enable you to use items from all Mario games into Mario 3, like the feather that would give Mario a flying cape. Unfortunately the lackluster sales of the eReader led to the discontinuation of most the SMA4 card before you could buy them. But just because it was discontinued Nintendo has never really given up on it’s tech. Fast forward to today and It’s interesting to see the 3DS and the amount of AR cards and games that support the tech like Kid Icarus. It would be so easy to just have the card scanned quickly and load in extra data such as new levels or items in the same fashion that was imagined for SMA4 long ago.
4. Payment Security. This is a serious one as major online platforms like the PlayStation Network and Valve’s Steam service have been hacked to a certain degree. The PSN breach was particularly scary because passwords and accounts were accessed. It would be wise for Nintendo to take extra precautions with payment options and security without sacrificing payment flexibility. Nintendo could easily add payment options for scanning your credit card on the tablet controller without having to save private information on your online account. This is an incredibly ingenious idea to be able to quickly purchase anything online with the Wii U without having to add your credit card every time if you don’t want your info on the web. Don’t want your kid swiping whatever card you got in the house? No problem. Nintendo is known for adding great parental controls and I doubt that NFC payments and the Wii U will be any different, allowing you to add a password or other types of restrictions to complete purchases. Just imagine buying new a Nintendo Points card and just touching it to the Wii tablet controller for instant funds on your account. NFC for online safety and ease of payments makes perfect sense for the Wii U.
E3 2012 is only a few months away and by then we will get some official details of how Nintendo utilizes NFC tech, and I can only imagine what the Big N has up it’s sleeves. Interestingly enough Nintendo decided to announce NFC early among other things and this could mean big things are on the way. Until then we can only speculate what they have in store for us, and I can’t wait to see how NFC will enhance the Wii U experience.