StreetPass is Nintendo’s way of telling 3DS gamers to get out of their rooms and actually meet some people. In case you don’t have a 3DS, here’s how it works: When two 3DS systems pass each other, they exchange Miis (player avatars) in a program called StreetPass Mii Plaza. These Miis can then be used in games, which earn the player special rewards, such as Mii hats and special 3D pieces of art. While these games can be played without StreetPass by exchanging Nintendo’s virtual PlayCoins for what are essentially digital friends, the PlayCoin expenditure is high, and it’s much easier to simply find some other people that have a 3DS and use their free Miis instead.
At least, that’s the theory. The reality is, Nintendo’s StreetPass games are being marketed to an audience of approximately no one. Why? Because as it currently stands, the games are impossible to play, no matter how large your 3DS-owning social circle is. Let’s look at why.
You’ll only really get StreetPass tagged in one of two ways. Either, A, you’ll pick up the tags naturally in your day-to-day life, or B, you’ll go to a gathering teeming with 3DS owners to specifically pick up StreetPass tags. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s StreetPass games don’t actually operate under either of these conditions.
Say you are a bit of a shut-in and go with option A. If you are lucky, you’ll probably end up picking up 10 StreetPass tags every month or so. This is assuming you remember to stuff your 3DS in your pocket every time you leave the house. Most StreetPass games reward you the most for getting a full complement of ten Miis. So anyone looking to play these games most effectively will simply wait until they score the maximum ten.
The issue here is that the 3DS doesn’t tell you how many tags you have gotten until you check your Mii Plaza. However, the very act of doing so essentially erases the opportunity to play with any Miis you tagged beforehand. You are basically taking a chance every time you go to check your tags, hoping that you’ve filled up all ten. Otherwise, you will have ditched your good tags for a less powerful batch.
The only way to guarantee that you’ll have 10 tags when you check is to wait… and wait… and wait… and wait… with no way of knowing whether or not you are still recording new tags or simply missing out on tags because you have hit the maximum of 10. So the Mii Plaza goes unchecked for weeks at a time, being passed over for other games instead until it is eventually forgotten.
Of course, if you are a StreetPass aficionado, then you probably take your 3DS to conventions or meet-ups or even a Nintendo club. These are great ways to get a ton of StreetPass tags all at once. If the meet-up is big enough, there will never be a point in which you won’t have ten tags by the time you check your Mii Plaza. However, these types of large gatherings run into another problem, an inability to use tags effectively.
Even if you only have Find Mii and Puzzle Swap, the original two StreetPass games, it takes about five minutes to effectively swap all your puzzle pieces and skillfully make your way through a few levels of Din Mii’s battles, and that’s if you are holding fast-forward. Now, Nintendo has added four new games to the StreetPass lineup, including a dungeon crawler, a shoot ‘em up, a rock paper scissors-based strategy game, and a plant-breeding simulator. Playing all six games at once with a full batch of 10 tags will easily take you 15-ish minutes. Remember, you can’t pick up new tags without ditching your old ones, so you either play each and every game every time you fill up, or you waste 10 perfectly good Miis.
Convention goers will eventually find that they can’t keep up with the rate tags flow in and eventually will start ignoring their 3DS for long stretches of time in favor of other activities. Most will come away from a meet-up with maybe 50 or so tags--or 100 for the dedicated player who just sits there and plays the whole time. That’s more than usual, but it’s still not great.
Nintendo’s StreetPass games, as they stand right now, kind of suck, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fixed with just a few alterations. First of all, letting the user know how many tags he has before he goes to the Mii Plaza would allow him to make a judgment call about whether or not it’s worth ditching his older Miis for new ones. Secondly, any tags beyond 10 should be recorded and stored in a queue for use after the current batch of 10 is used. Then users wouldn’t care as much about not keeping up with tag flow at meet-ups, and can instead simply play with their tagged Miis at home when the gathering is over.
With these two small alterations, Nintendo can achieve its goal of getting 3DS owners out of their houses and into social interactions with one other. Unfortunately, without these changes, all it has managed to do is make 3DS owners get out of the house to either neurotically check their StreetPass games while ignoring any possibility of social interaction, or worse, ignore their StreetPass games altogether.
Senior Contributing Writer