If you carry around your Nintendo 3DS, then you probably get a rush when you peer into your bag and find its contents lit faintly by a green glow of your StreetPass light. This split-second exchange of information with other 3DS owners is one of the most satisfying things about owning the system, but many North Americans have complained that they don't experience it nearly often enough.
The StreetPass feature thrives in dense urban areas like Osaka and Tokyo, but much of the United States and Canada is composed of sprawling rural communities where Nintendo 3DS owners don't come into contact much. Nintendo is trying to bridge the distance between isolated 3DS owners in both countries through National StreetPass Weekend, which begins on December 13 and continues through December 15.
"The romantic in me is hoping we can bring everyone in America and Canada closer together this weekend," Nintendo of America translator Bill Trinen told USgamer in an interview. "My immediate hope is to see everyone go out and just bring their 3DS with them when they go see The Hobbit or do some last-minute Christmas shopping."
Nintendo already has "Nintendo Zones" set up throughout the United States and Canada to assist the StreetPass-challenged. When you bring your Nintendo 3DS to one of roughly 29,000 hotspots scattered across the countries, you pick up the StreetPass info of the previous six Nintendo 3DS owners to visit the area. However, National StreetPass Weekend literally mixes things up by scrambling the queued StreetPass signals. So if you regularly go into the local McDonalds and keep getting StreetPass data from Moonshine George down the lane, you can actually expect to grab information from a Nintendo Zone user anywhere in the United States or Canada.
Or maybe you'll be supremely unlucky and get stuck with Moonshine George again.
Different Countries, Different StreetPass Attitudes
When Nintendo of America upgraded Nintendo Zones earlier this year to allow the hotspots to upload and download StreetPass info, some 3DS owners took it as a sign the company is getting serious about improving the admittedly dismal state of StreetPass in North America. There was never any doubt StreetPass would work beautifully in Japan (the feature is based off Nintendogs' successful "Bark Mode", which let dog owners communicate with each other in passing) but was Nintendo naïve - even myopic - to assume StreetPass would find the same measure of usefulness in the States' sprawling suburbs?
Trinen doesn't believe that's the case. Nintendo, he says, has noticed both regions use StreetPass very differently, and for a while was content to cater to the countries' StreetPass needs accordingly.
Whereas 3DS users in Japan tend to carry their systems with them on a daily basis, "In North America, StreetPass is much more of an event. If you're at shows like PAX or San Diego Comic-Con, there are groups of people that will just spend a lot of time hanging out and StreetPassing.
"For a while, we were focused on those events. At events like Comic-Con over the past few years, we've set up bean bag chairs and had Streetpass lounges within our gaming lounge at the Marriot. We've really encouraged people to enjoy the StreetPass feature where we knew people were engaging in it."
Making StreetPass a Habit
Those bean bag chairs aren't going anywhere, but the introduction of National StreetPass Weekend demonstrates Nintendo would like to see more North Americans get into the habit of carrying their 3DS everywhere with them.
"The challenge for us is that it's kind of hard to get people to go out of their way to create a new regular habit," Trinen says. "We're trying to find ways to help people experience StreetPass within their normal routine with the hope that when they do start to experience it more, then they'll understand why it's so much fun. Then they'll be motivated to go out and find new ways to StreetPass."
According to Trinen, The positive buzz around the first National StreetPass Weekend is a good sign - and was enough to motivate Nintendo into starting the event on Friday rather than Saturday. "We'll take a look and see at how this weekend goes, and from there we'll look at other opportunities we may have [for future National StreetPass Weekends]."
More StreetPass, More Games
But what instigated Nintendo of America's StreetPass publicity blitz? It turns out recently-released StreetPass-based games like Warrior's Way, Flower Town, and Monster Manor are major motivators.
"At NoA headquarters, I'm able to pick up a lot of StreetPasses on a daily basis," says Trinen. "When those games launched, I found I was spending a lot of time every week and having a lot of fun just playing the StreetPass games. So we really wanted to essentially create an environment where you don't have to be at NOA headquarters to be able to enjoy what's fun about those games."
Can we expect more StreetPass games in the future? "Our development teams in Japan have been really excited about to see how well the StreetPass games have done in all markets," Trinen says. "They're definitely looking at opportunities - but they're also looking at ways they can take advantage of StreetPass opportunities within other software that's coming out. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is a good example of that, where you're able to meet and fight the Shadow Links."
How To Make Friends in the Meantime
If this first National StreetPass Weekend is successful, it will beget more. But what's a starving Nintendo 3DS owner supposed to do in the meantime?
Trinen has a few suggestions. "The best thing you can do is, anytime you're going out where there's going to be a lot of people, bring your 3Ds with you. Sporting events, any place where we see a lot of people gathering, even just the movie theatre - as long as you're out and about, it becomes very easy to drop by a McDonalds or a Starbucks or wherever you see a AT&T Wi-Fi hot spot. If you do that, you're probably going to get about six StreetPass hits right there."
Better yet, carry your 3DS with you everywhere at all times and surf the edge of a growing trend. "I set up my 3DS at the door on Halloween and I got a few from the kids that were out Trick or Treating," Trinen says. "My hope is that we'll start to see more people just carrying their 3DS with them like that and trying to get more StreetPass hits. It's such a unique feature of the Nintendo 3DS."
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