It’s the bottom of the third inning. Ichiro Suzuki is on deck, and he is about to walk to the plate just as you finish your first $8 beer. There is no way you are missing this at bat to stand in a 15 minute line to get your second brew of the game. Luckily, you packed your DS with you in case of a rain delay. Now you and every other baseball fan with a DS at the Mariners’ Safeco field can check real-time stats, watch a live TV feed of the game, play online trivia with other fans, order food, and YES, order beer right from your seat!
“Nintendo Fan Network” utilizes the DS’s wi-fi connection, and it is being piloted during Mariners games this season. Using Safeco field to test the network should not come as a surprise considering Nintendo executives co-own and sponsor the ballclub, but this latest effort is more evidence that Nintendo continues to pursue the “non-traditional” gamer. Unfortunately, all of this awesomeness does come with a price tag. Fans have to bring their DS to a kiosk in the stadium and download the network software (including providing credit card information) at a cost of $5 a game or $30 for a ten game pass. As if shelling out 80 bucks for tickets, $30 more for dogs and peanuts, and God knows how much on beer wasn’t enough, now fans can throw another 5 bones on top to get the Nintendo Fan Network. With as much punch as the Network packs, it may be worth skipping a beer to add it into the game budget…ok ok, skip the peanuts instead.
The live TV feed on the network provides additional replays that are not shown in the stadium that will be sure to have all of your buddies looking over your shoulder on close plays. Also, gone are the days of recording the game with pencil and paper (who did that anyway?) Nintendo provides real-time statistic updates via www.mlb.com. Fans can also play a live baseball trivia game with every other DS owner in the stadium on the “Fan Network”. Now if the DS could only let me bet the spread on football games (give Vegas a call Nintendo!) These features alone justify dropping Lincoln for the service.
Fans can order standard ballpark fare on the DS such as burgers, hotdogs, and peanuts. Most people have reported that their orders were delivered to their seats in 10-15 minutes, and DS owners can add tips to food and beverage purchases by touching the DS with their stylus. The order system even allows people to track the status of their orders in real time. What’s next, using the DS’s blow sensitivity to register your BAC? Speaking of alcohol, now on to the beer! Fans can order different brands of beer, as well as, hard lemonade and wine through the touch screen on their DS. Unfortunately, the Fan Network does not bean fans with a foul ball if they are drinking wine at a baseball game.
Nintendo’s J.C. Smith heads up the Nintendo Fan Network at Safeco field this season. Nintendo has not released how many fans play the trivia contests or how many people have purchased the “Fan Network” this season. However, Smith stated that growth has been steady and fan feedback has been positive. Smith stated, “The most important thing is that people think the service is fun.” Nintendo also released a special edition Mariners DS Lite to commemorate the Network’s launch. The (not so)special DS is white with a Mariners logo on the casing. C’mon guys, you could have at least made the stylus into a baseball bat or something. Nintendo also will not commit to releasing future plans for the Network. Smith noted, “At the end of the season, we’ll reassess and decide if we want to roll it out, and if so, where.” Baseball fans can only hope that the pilot Network is successful enough to incorporate different versions of the network to all MLB ballparks and across sport genres.
Different concepts of the interactivity at sporting events have been attempted in the past. However, hardware costs made the actualization of the networks unfeasible. Incorporating user owned hardware like the DS negates the excessive costs of previous network systems. This makes the concept more achievable and practical then previous incarnations. For now, fans across the country can only hope that the success of the Nintendo Fan Network at Safeco Field will come to their favorite ballpark. Personally, I don’t own a DS, but along with providing unique and interesting gameplay, the handheld will bring me a dog and a beer out in the bleachers at Wrigley without having to deal with lines of drunken Cub fans, count me in as a believer.
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