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3DS StreetPass: how popular is it?

Five months on from the Nintendo 3DS launch, Across Europe and the UK, Gamereactor tests the popularity one of its most-vaunted features: StreetPass.

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Theoretically, StreetPass a good idea: allowing players from all over the world to exchange data and information whenever their units were in close enough proximity to each other - just passing another 3DS owner in the street was enough. It was incentive for users to always carry the console with them.

However, the success of the system is directly proportional to the amount of people that make effective use of it and, consequently, to the population density of the places they visit.

With the system out for nearly half a year now, Gamereactor's regional editors set out to towns and cities in their respective countries across Europe to test how widespread the use of StreetPass is. This is what they found, and their opinions.

3DS StreetPass: how popular is it?

Italy

Gamereactor Italy is headquartered in Lombardy, one of the most densely populated regions of Italy, with its capital Milan, the second largest city by population. For more than three months we have brought with us the console through squares, subways, railway stations, airports. We stayed in several hotels, and travelled to motorway service stations, universities, schools and parks.

The result were rather disappointing: StreetPass identified only five Miis through the service, including an unexpected encounter during a highway trip, in a service area located in the middle of nowhere. Two Miis came in the increasingly crowded Piazza Duomo, another in a high school. Finally, one in a university, at a conference dedicated to video games.

Despite a shift in three international airports, we've not stumbled upon in any foreign friend with a Nintendo 3DS. Poor battery life of the console, probably, takes its toll on long international trips.

Opinion: Lorenzo Mosna, Editor, Gamereactor Italy

In Italy the system does not seem to work incisively. Milan is known to be a technological, Middle-European, relatively young city. Nevertheless, I had few encounters. I have deliberately avoided bringing the console with me at the events dedicated to the games industry, so as to not to skew the results.

The biggest surprise was the Mii I intercepted in the motorway, during a stop in a place where the population doesn't exceed 2,000 inhabitants. And yet when I was in a resort mostly frequented by kids: I brought the console to the buffet dinner and in areas with a lot of people, without meeting a single virtual friend.

My feeling is that many people simply ignore the possibility of using the StreetPass system. The poor battery life also makes you want to turn off the console rather than leave it on standby between one game and the next.

United Kingdom

Gamereactor base of operations is in London, the British capital and most populous city in the European Union. The city has a population density of almost 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. The results were encouraging, although not so high given the size of the capital.

Shopping and tourist hub Oxford Circus provided a total of four Miis, including two belonging to sales assitants of a GAME store intent to promote the launch of Ocarina of Time 3D. One Mii was from Italy, presumably coming from a crowd of kids on a school trip.

The Summer of Sonic event, attended mainly by hardcore gamers, added 21 new Miis to the console, including the one belonging to Sonic Team's Takashi Izuka. At Southbank, a relatively busy area with restaurants and theatres and near overground and underground train station Waterloo, saw 12 new Miis appear, including a journalist colleague who we didn't even see at the time.

Opinion: Gillen McAllister, Editor-in-Chief, Gamereactor UK
While the numbers weren't stellar (my first two trips had me consciously passing through high-density areas of gamers) my scepticism for the Mii Plaza well and truly eradicated.

There's no denying the addictive quality to the system, as it mixes social networking, collectables and mini-game advancement, and there's a feeling when opening your 3DS akin to ripping open presents on Christmas Day - you're intrigued to know what you've got.

How long that interest will hold though is dependent on what Nintendo bring with future StreetPass updates; toss in new mini-games and collectables every couple of months and I can't see why the 3DS couldn't be as essential to your daily pocket filling as an iPod.

3DS StreetPass: how popular is it?

Denmark

Gamereactor's headquarters are located a few miles from Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. We visited the huge Field's Mall, passing through two shopping centers located in Kolding and Esbjerg.

These last two locations were the venue of the most of our Mii encounters. Some others have been met outside the country, during a trip to Heathrow Airport in London. SpotPass, however, did not work until now: our console has not received any updates.

Germany

Again, the Gamereactor Germany is located in the capital. Berlin is the second largest city in the European Union by population, with a population density among the highest in Europe. Our console, however, has also traveled to Hamburg, Hameln, Germany, Vienna and Dubai, through train, metro, airports, and attended a demonstration with more than 10,000 participants.

The largest number of Miis was obtained during an event dedicated to video games, in Dubai, while the results for anything outside the sphere of the games industry were very low: only three Miis. SpotPass worked as we got updates for Dead or Alive and an update for Street Fighter IV.

A second console has attended Alexanderplatz, the city of Berlin and several shopping malls and parks. This console has received more than 30 Mii, mostly from people totally unknown, met in the street or just by passing on a bike.

Opinion: Christian Gaca, Editor-in-Chief, Gamereactor Germany

There's a lot less activity than I thought would happen, especially just after the console's launch, and disconcerting as well since I frequently hang around the part of Berlin that has the largest frequency of iPhones in Germany.

3DS StreetPass: how popular is it?

Opinion: Martin Eiser, Assitant Editor, Germany

I think the biggest problem is the battery life. When I was on a trip to Ubisoft in Paris, for example, my battery was down and I didn't notice. So I don't know if I really met someone, because the 3DS dont't save what you receive if you don't check it. I'm pretty sure that people ask themselves: Why should I take the 3DS with me, when battery goes down so fast?

But this issue apart, I really like it. Collecting things is always nice and I hope Nintendo will extend those things in the future or will add more mini-games. And I really hope that Nintendo finds a solution to enhance communication between friends. At the moment my friend list seems to be totally useless.

Finland

Finland is a land with a low population density. Our test, however, took place in Helsinki where more than half a million people live. In addition, in Finland mobile devices are not as widespread as in other parts of the world.

However, the console gets an average of a couple of meetings a day, if spent entirely in the city center. In total we got about 25 Miis, even though most of them were met at events dedicated to video games where several journalists attending brought their own 3DS.

Opinion: Arrtu Rajala, Editor-in-Chief, Finland

I agree with Martin on the battery life. It's just absolutely horrible. The sleep mode drains it way too quickly. I had my system with me on my tour in Belgium and Germany, but I only got one hit in Köln and one in Bonn. The main reason was that the battery had gone out and, quite honestly, I couldn't be bothered to charge it every time I was in hotel.

Otherwise, I like it. It gives you a nice amount of things to do and the new contents in DoA: Dimensions and Street Fighter have been cool. I do hope Nintendo keeps on updating it. Those 3D-picture pieces, Pokémons stickers and Mii quests won't keep me interested too long in the future.

Spain

We're in the capital again, Madrid, a city with high population density and with one of the largest centers in Europe. We visited stations, metro and the city center.

The system has collected more than thirty Miis during various events dedicated to videogames, plus four unknown encounters. StreetPass has proved to be solid and surprisingly fast. The SpotPass has provided regular updates to Samurai Warriors, the Pokédex and Dead or Alive.

Opinion: David Caballero, Editor, Spain

It's an awesome feature, one day I spent my whole train trip (45 minutes) just playing with the things I just received: new stickers, Rescue Mii Tower, new challenges for Street Fighter and Ridge Racer... it was a lot of fun and pretty different from actual games. It's great when you discover there are more stickers than you first had, just like when you were a child.

But they have to polish it a bit and offer new contents. For example, many people don't know about this feature and won't carry the handheld on standby mode, but they switch it off due to battery concerns. There's no problem if you're carrying it on standby, it could perfectly last 1-2 days.

3DS StreetPass: how popular is it?

Norway

Oslo is the most populous city in Norway, with 600.000 inhabitants and a significantly high urban density. Our little 3D friend walked up and down Karl Johan, the main street for shopping and cafés in the capital. We went past two Gamestops and crossed the Central Station area. We visited the largest malls in Oslo City.

Results: it didn't work. Unexpectedly, we didn't meet any new Mii.

Opinion: Daniel Guanio, writer, Gamereactor Norway

That's kinda sad, isn't it?

I guess most people who buy the 3DS don't really comprehend what Street Pass is all about, or maybe they haven't heard about it all. Nintendo didn't exactly communicate this feature to an extent - and moreover, I wouldn't imagine anyone I know using it.

I think if something like this doesn't instantly hit, it won't hit at all. Even if there's big titles supporting it.

Conclusion

"Pros and cons" run through the entire topic. Pros can be found in the solid structure Nintendo has built: when the system works, it works flawlessly well. Cons, on the other hand, depend on the usage of the technology, which seems pretty underused given the relatively poor results we had in some of the largest cities in Europe. Some may blame the short battery life, which probably represent an issue for some, but the main problem remains the low number of users who actually "Street Pass" during their walks.

The solution is in Nintendo's hands. If they will be able to offer an higher incentive to those who use the Street Pass system, something more incisive than those rather bland coins, more people will likely use Street Pass. If not, the system is going to be something quite elitist. At least until this elite become bored.

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