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National StreetPass Weekend Interview with Bill Trinen

by Justin Baker, Curtis Bonds, and Kimberly Keller - December 14, 2013, 10:00 am EST
Total comments: 11

Hear about this special 3DS event from Nintendo of America's Bill Trinen.

Nintendo's first-ever National StreetPass Weekend started (early) on Friday, Dec. 13 and continues through Sunday, Dec. 15. We had a rare opportunity to speak with NOA's own Bill Trinen, who told us more about this community event.

NWR: Thank you for having us. Let’s get a general idea. How did the idea of StreetPass come about?

Bill: Well StreetPass originally actually dates back to the original Nintendogs on Nintendo DS. The idea for it came from Mr. Miyamoto’s experience as a dog owner. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dog, I’m a dog owner myself and can verify that this is very true. When you have a dog and you take your dog on a walk you invariably encounter other dog owners and because of the fact that you both have dogs you generally stop and talk to one another and have a conversation with somebody or an encounter with somebody that otherwise you might not have. So, he wanted to try to find a way to replicate that dog walking experience in Nintendogs when they were working on the game and the result was what, at the time, was called Tag Mode, but essentially it served as a StreetPass connection in Nintendogs itself. Hideki Konno was the producer on that game and when he was working on the 3DS hardware he really wanted to take, what he thought, was a pretty unique feature and a unique way to connect players together and integrate that into the 3DS hardware itself. That was really where the 3DS StreetPass feature evolved from. In Japan in particular on DS Nintendogs was a pretty popular kind of game that leveraged that, but Dragon Quest IX is when it really took off and Konno-san, I think a little bit out of jealousy, wanted to one up what Dragon Quest IX had been able to achieve. So [he] integrated it into the Nintendo 3DS hardware.

NWR: Awesome. So, in Japan population tends to be more condensed so people would be more often likely to run into somebody with a 3DS. When the 3DS first launched in the US were there any concerns about how frequently StreetPass would be used?

Bill: I think what we saw pretty quickly after the launch of Nintendo 3DS was the emergence of these grass roots StreetPass groups that popped up all over the country in different cities. New York, Salt Lake City, and Chicago there have been StreetPass groups all around, and those were sort of Nintendo 3DS owners who had a sense for what the StreetPass feature was. In order to facilitate their ability to be able to StreetPass started having events where they would get together and StreetPass with one another. They, obviously, had a lot of fun with that and have been great supporters of StreetPass from very early on. We also did a fair bit of StreetPass activity on our own as well and we’ve done it in a variety of different forms. The biggest efforts that we’ve had up until the last several months had been really more event focused. That was at places like PAX, the PAX Prime and PAX East shows, in particular at San Diego Comic-Con and events like New York Comic-Con and Wonder Con. Places where gamers were already going and congregating and as a result of the sheer number of people going to those events really opened up the opportunity for people to get a lot of StreetPass connections. Even early on we noticed that things like PAX and even more on the industry side, E3 and GDC, we found that often times you would just see people sitting in the aisles and going through their StreetPass connections and clearing them out so that they could get another batch. So then we started offering additional activity around StreetPass at those events.

NWR: Awesome. So, you were mentioning the groups that started up the StreetPass meet ups. I know that Nintendo has been reaching out to several of these different StreetPass groups. How do you feel that Nintendo views its relationship with these groups, and is there anything that Nintendo plans to do to support or work with any of these specific groups moving forward?

Bill: You know we’ve done some outreach in the past when the 3DS first launched. A lot of what we did was try to point 3DS owners in of the grass roots 3DS StreetPass groups so that they had an inkling of where they could go to StreetPass. Some of the other activity that we also did was around the launch of games like Kid Icarus: Uprising where we would have multiplayer events at local GameStop stores and then we would sometimes work with the StreetPass groups to also leverage those for additional StreetPass opportunities for people. Then more recently, obviously we’ve put a lot of focus on Nintendo Zone and the StreetPass relay points there, but particularly with the upcoming National StreetPass weekend we’re also looking to the StreetPass groups to gauge their interest in participating and reach out to get more people to join. Simply because we do think that with National StreetPass weekend it’s a great opportunity for people who haven’t really had a chance to experience StreetPass on a large scale to come out and see what the fun is all about.

NWR: If this StreetPass weekend would an international StreetPass weekend be out of the question?

Bill: We’re definitely thinking big longer term. We wanted to try it out this coming weekend. We picked this weekend for a couple of reasons, one is that what we’ve found is that people tend to be more open to trying to StreetPass when it’s already a part of their routine activity and it’s just a matter of bringing the 3DS along with them. So we really looked at the calendar and said that this upcoming weekend is really going to be a great opportunity to catch people as they’re out and about doing some last minute Christmas shopping or maybe going out to see the movies with a big opening like the Hobbit coming up this weekend. Then it’s just a matter of turn on your 3DS and put it in your pocket or put it in your bag and you can StreetPass wherever you’re going.

NWR: Awesome, that’s really cool. So, you guys recently launched the StreetPass relay station through Nintendo Zone locations. Why was a six StreetPass limit chosen for each Nintendo Zone location instead of 10.

Bill: That is a very good question. It was a deliberate decision as well. Obviously we launched the StreetPass relay function back in early August and certainly with the launch of that we saw an uptake of traffic at Nintendo Zone in general. The other thing that we realized that, just because of, as you mentioned, a difference in population density between the US and Japan, even with Nintendo Zone there were locations where we weren’t seeing as much traffic as we would like at individual locations. We also felt that as great as it is to be able to go and get a StreetPass connection at a Nintendo Zone, when that green light comes on and you only have one or two connections it’s a bit of a letdown so what we want to do is give people an opportunity, particularly for those folks who maybe were finding that at their local Nintendo Zone they weren’t encountering the connections the were hoping for, to be able to give them more opportunity to be able to get more connections.

The number six was chosen specifically because we wanted it to be enough that if you went there and, in the process of going there with your 3DS and going to the Nintendo Zone and connecting, you didn’t connect to anybody else via StreetPass you still got a good number of connections that would make it worth your while to go in and do Puzzle Swap and do Find Mii and play the individual StreetPass games. I think everyone can agree [they are] a lot more fun with more connections at one time, but at the same time what we didn’t want to do was suddenly make it so that you were no longer getting any native StreetPass connections with the people that you were passing on the street. We do think that that’s still a very important aspect of what StreetPass is.

NWR: Okay, cool. So does Nintendo have any idea of the amount of StreetPasses that have taken place on the national or even the global level?

Bill: Particularly at Nintendo Zone we’re able to get a look and see sort of how many people are connecting at Nintendo Zone and we haven’t we shared any numbers publicly and my hope is that maybe if we have a lot of people who show up this weekend for National StreetPass Weekend, what we can do is take a look at those numbers and see what we can do with talking more publicly about how many people are showing up. Now what we have seen is that there’s a couple of things going on and one is we have definitely seen an increase in Nintendo Zone traffic in general since the original relay points launched and also as we got into September and October and we upped the number of connections to six and then we started distributing content at Nintendo Zone. We’re definitely seeing an uptake in the traffic there and we’re also noticing that there’s certainly some seasonality to it as well and that as kids are going back to school or maybe people are getting busier in the fall, they’re not StreetPassing perhaps as much, but then as we’ve gotten into the holidays, particularly with the launch of Pokémon X and Y, and also with Black Friday and the shopping season we’ve seen a big uptake there with a lot of people really engaging and StreetPassing with one another. So, part of what we’ve tried to do is really focus in on what kind of activities are people already doing and when are they doing it. How can we sort of align the things that we’re doing at Nintendo Zone, whether it’s content, distributions that are aligned to software launch dates? With National StreetPass Weekend, how can we kind of do it in a way that it ties in to what people are already doing on their own time? And then it’s just a matter of adding the 3DS to what you already got planned, rather than having to go out of your way to create an opportunity to StreetPass.

NWR: Awesome. During the weekend, how frequently will the StreetPassers saved at each Nintendo Zone location be allowed to sit there, pick up more player data? How frequently does that refresh?

Bill: Essentially each Nintendo Zone location counts as a single StreetPass connection, for example if you’ve got other folks in the office that you can connect with, it’s about an eight hour break between the last time you StreetPass with them and the next time that you StreetPass with them, but what works with each of the Nintendo Zones is you can just go to Nintendo.com and we’ve got a page there on Nintendo Zone, so if you type in your zip code it’ll bring up a map and show you where your local Nintendo Zones are and then what you can do is hit multiple Nintendo Zones and each individual Nintendo Zone counts essentially as a single StreetPass hit. So if you go from one to the next to the next, then you can kind of string those together and fill up your StreetPass that way.

NWR: Very nice. So do we expect StreetPass Weekend to be an annual thing or is there plans to incorporate this weekend multiple times during the year?

Bill: We haven’t really quite decided. We wanted to give it a shot this weekend and kind of see what we can do around it. We have a lot of ideas in terms of how we can continue to use Nintendo Zone for big events and promotional type activities. We’re also looking at the possibility of doing it not just on the National Scale but, as you mentioned, on an international scale, and so then we’d be looking at what are the right weekends that make sense for everyone globally, and how can we get people excited about StreetPass on a regular basis and still find some unique ways to use this functionality to allow you to fully connect with others in your local area or across the county or across the world.

NWR: Okay, cool. Does Nintendo plan to ever take advantage of 3DS StreetPassing for, say, Wii U titles? Like in the sense of maybe downloading an app from the Wii U to the 3DS that has data from Wii U games and then when you bring your 3DS home you can send that data back to the Wii U. Is there any plans for something like that?

Bill: Nothing that we got in the works right now although it’s definitely an intriguing idea. I think where we’ve obviously been putting our focus more recently is in bringing Miiverse to Nintendo 3DS and allowing that sort of to serve as an extension of the Wii U experience on Nintendo 3DS while also bringing some of those community features of Miiverse to Nintendo 3DS software. Personally, I think there would be a lot of opportunity then to see what you can do from a StreetPass and Miiverse perspective, but there isn’t anything that we’re working on right now. But I’m sure there’s a lot of ideas both internally here at NOA as well as back at Nintendo in Japan.

NWR: Alright. So, when the 3DS first launched, there were only about two different StreetPass games in the Mii Plaza. There was Puzzle Swap and Find Mii, and since then we’ve seen games such as the Monster Mansion and Mii Force. How have those games been received both from a sales standpoint and a general reception?

Bill: Yeah, they’ve done really well certainly from a sales standpoint, particularly in Japan, but also here in the US and in Europe. To be honest, one of the driving forces behind a lot of our StreetPass promotion was the fact that when those games launched, a lot of us at Nintendo found that, having the benefit of being at Nintendo and surrounded by folks with 3DS systems, we were StreetPassing every day and as a result of that, when those games launched, particularly the DLC games, we all found that we were spending a whole lot more time playing our 3DS systems through these StreetPass games than I think any of us had anticipated and it was because when you’re StreetPassing with that many people that frequently those games become a lot of fun. So what we wanted to do through Nintendo Zone and through the StreetPass relay points was really try to bring the fun of Warrior’s Way and Mii Force and Flower Town and whatnot to a much broader Nintendo 3DS audience in the hopes of really helping everybody who owns a Nintendo 3DS, to make it easier for them to understand why StreetPass is so much fun and how these games can be a really fun experience.

NWR: Cool, so can we expect maybe more StreetPass Mii Plaza games in the future?

Bill: Well certainly even before the release of Warrior’s Way, and the other StreetPass games, we’ve had updates of Find Mii and we’ve continued to kind of update Puzzle Swap with new puzzles as well. The teams in Japan are constantly thinking of what they can do to take advantage of StreetPass. There isn’t anything else on the horizon right now for new StreetPass games, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s somebody who’s thinking about it. Certainly I would like to see more because I’m still having a lot of fun with Warrior’s Way even though I’m on my second time through it at this point.

NWR: That’s cool. I’m actually kind of curious about the different translations for the StreetPass games. While the kind of general gist has been intact there, sometimes some huge differences between let’s say, the American English and PAL region English of the games [exist]. Some games, like Mii Force especially, have two distinct personalities for each of the cast of characters. Was this a product of two different English speaking branches each translating from Japanese or did one branch get the other region’s translation and kind of edit it from there?

Bill: You know, our localization teams, they actually do sometimes work in tandem, where one side will translate from the Japanese into English, sometimes at NOA and then NOE will edit, sometimes NOE will do the translation into English and then we’ll re-edit it. Then there are times when, because of our launch targets or timing, both sides will be translating it from the Japanese originally into English at the same time and working sort of on their own version. I hate to admit it, but I actually don’t recall what the situation was on these games, but based on your description my assumption is that maybe they were being worked on simultaneously on opposite sides on the world.

NWR: Gotcha. I think we’re going to close out the interview, but one last question. So potential 3DS owners, they don’t have a 3DS yet, they're probably just getting one for Christmas, what would you say to a new 3DS owner about the best way to experience StreetPass, the best way to jump into that world?

Bill: That’s a really good question, and I guess a few things. One is, I’ve found that whenever I go someplace where I know there’s going to be a lot of people, I just bring my 3DS with me, and sometimes I do really well and sometimes I may not get as many hits, but there are places that genuinely surprise me. One of them, me being a big skier, that surprised me is ski resorts. I find that when I bring my 3DS with me skiing, I almost always get hit from a good four or five, sometimes even ten people over the course of a day. So for me it’s partly just, if you’re going someplace where you know there’s going to be a large number of people, and it could be maybe a sporting event, it could be skiing, it could just be to the mall, throw your 3DS in the bag and bring it with you and see what you get.

The other is, if you happen to live in a smaller town or a more rural area, take advantage of Nintendo Zone because what we’ve done with Nintendo Zone and the StreetPass relay points there, some of the enhancements we talked about like bumping it up so you’re getting six StreetPasses out of each time you visit, some of the enhancements we haven’t talked about, but what we’ve done is we’ve looked at the Nintendo Zones that aren’t getting as much traffic and then we’ve grouped them together so that even if you’re going to one Nintendo Zone, it’s technically connecting its data from other nearby Nintendo Zones so ultimately you’re able to go to any Nintendo Zone and really get a good chunk of data every time you visit.

The other thing that I would also suggest is in addition to StreetPass Mii Plaza and the games there, like Warrior’s Way and whatnot, also don’t forget about games like Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D Land, New Super Mario Bros. 2, and even Fire Emblem and Kid Icarus Uprising because every time you go to a Nintendo Zone, you’re also able to pick up individual data for each of those games as well. So a lot of times what I like to do is I’ll go to a Nintendo Zone and I’ll go back through and I’ll kind of power through some of the older games that I haven’t played in a while just to see sort of who I’ve come across and StreetPassed and what kind of data I’ve picked up.

NWR: Awesome, thank you so much for your time. I’m definitely looking forward to this StreetPass Weekend, I am a StreetPass fiend, so this going to be awesome. Thank you for the interview and thanks to everyone at Nintendo for setting this whole thing up and I hope you have a good day Bill.

Bill: Thank you, I will definitely be out StreetPassing as well, so even if you’re not in Seattle, you know, good luck and maybe you’ll find me on your system.

Thanks to Bill Trinen and NOA for speaking with us!


TurdFurgyDecember 14, 2013


Infinitys_EndDecember 15, 2013


UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorDecember 15, 2013

Hey, Bill.... Two suggestion changes.

A.) When we're given a Mii from SpotPass ("Gold Pants" Miis), we get a message that they're from SpotPass.  It'd be cool if there was some way to tell if a Mii is from a real StreetPass or from a Relay.

B.) Please consider raising the 10-Mii limit in Plaza.  Ironically, Crush 3D has 99 slot for StreetPasses and I've NEVER gotten an organic StreetPass for that game. :(

CyrianDecember 15, 2013

I second the request for raising the Mii Plaza limit.  I imagine the reason for it is still based in the original idea of streetpass, that people in large Japanese cities would get some passes every day and gradually make their way through the games, and the games themselves are designed and balanced to use up to ten miis at once.  So if you're in that kind of situation the 10 limit isn't that big of a deal.
But if like lots of Americans if you don't live in a giant city and are lucky to get a few passes a week and use the relays to actually get passes in large chunks the 10 mii limit is amazingly irritating. I might go to the mall (which has multiple Nintendo Zones) and hit a couple of Starbucks on the way once every week or two, if that. And of course I want to hit as many zones as I can while I'm out to make the most of it, but that means sitting down and clearing everything out multiple times, and that time really starts to add up, *especially* with the new batch of games.
I don't understand why the extra Mii data can't just be stored in 10-mii batches. If you do the 20-Mii trick and welcome the first batch then go into sleep mode while you get more passes and another batch lines up outside, it tells you that you have people waiting for you. So why can't it just store the data in those batches, and when you welcome in your first batch it immediately tells you you have another batch waiting, and when you're done with the first batch you go deal with the second, and so on and so on.  There of course has to be some reasonable limit, or maybe a time limit before the miis get bored waiting in line and go home or something.  I'm in no way shape or form a programmer or engineer, but something like that can't be *that* hard to implement (unless it actually is...)

Retro DeckadesDecember 15, 2013

I passed by at least three Nintendozones today, and while I managed to get the gold-pantsed Mii distribution, I didn't get a single other street pass notification. Is that wierd?

Not sure how much control the employees have over the zones, but it's possible they could've done something to it this weekend.

Mr. Trinen, I doubt you're reading this but 3DS-owning Canadians would appreciate it if you worked out an arrangement with Tim Hortons to put Nintendo Zones in the stores. They're more common in Canada than McDonalds are in the United States (per capita).

MASBDecember 15, 2013

This could potentially be the most awesome interview that has ever graced this site. Were the awesomes and cools evenly distributed or was one of the trio using them more than the others? ;)

But seriously, I read the whole thing. It was certainly insightful and ya'll asked some good questions. I particularly like the suggestion of 3DS Streetpasses having an effect on the Wii U. Was the interview done by phone or email?

And the fact that they combine Nintendo Zones in various small towns and rural areas was good to know.

bluelanderJustin Baker, AlumnusDecember 16, 2013

Quote from: MASB

This could potentially be the most awesome interview that has ever graced this site. Were the awesomes and cools evenly distributed or was one of the trio using them more than the others? ;)

But seriously, I read the whole thing. It was certainly insightful and ya'll asked some good questions. I particularly like the suggestion of 3DS Streetpasses having an effect on the Wii U. Was the interview done by phone or email?

And the fact that they combine Nintendo Zones in various small towns and rural areas was good to know.

Thanks! The interview itself was conducted over the phone one on one. The rest of us just helped with transcription.

CurtDoggCurtis Bonds, December 17, 2013

Quote from: MASB

This could potentially be the most awesome interview that has ever graced this site. Were the awesomes and cools evenly distributed or was one of the trio using them more than the others? ;)

Haha, I was hoping no one would notice the over-abundance of me saying that. This was done over the phone, and I was the sole person talking with Bill. I guess Kim and Justin, who transcribed the interview, decided to keep those in.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterDecember 17, 2013

Quote from: UncleBob

B.) Please consider raising the 10-Mii limit in Plaza.  Ironically, Crush 3D has 99 slot for StreetPasses and I've NEVER gotten an organic StreetPass for that game. :(

I'd say also let us streetpass while playing DS games, I want to play pictobits some more but I feel like I'm missing streetpasses because of it.

Infinitys_EndDecember 18, 2013

the 10 Mii limit is exactly what made me give absolutely NO shits when I upgraded and got an XL.  It is a complete pain in the ass to constantly add these people to your roster, especially when you're at a high-traffic event like a game or anime-related con.  If you're worried about allowing people to play Find Mii, all you gotta do is say "you can only take 10 at a time" or etc etc, any other million things a designer could come up with. 

It's a cop out and I'm quite bored of it.

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