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Nintendo’s Six Ingredients of Magic

“It’s the little things that make this game for me.” Chris Guest, after playing The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening

Imagine — paying $60 for just one, single app. That’s unimaginable in Apple or Google’s world of “free” and “paid.”

Yet plenty of young people do, these days, and the result is an interactive media empire called Nintendo.

Last week, I attended Nintendo’s post-E3 demo session in NYC with Chris Guest, a digital designer and former TCNJ student of mine. Here’s the video of the testing.

He and I were given free access to the 2019 headliner titles, featured in the July CTR issue. At one point in the Zelda demo, Chris wandered into the shop, grabbed a shovel and dashed out the front door without paying. It was a trick he had learned from his youth and he was thrilled that the new Zelda title supported this type of mischief. The smile on his face said it all.

Here are six attributes of Nintendo’s success that are often lacking in today’s app stores.

  1. Freedom. The 2019 Pokémon and Zelda games we played contain open world features. If you can see it, you can go there. In Zelda’s case, these worlds contain dynamic events inspired from the natural world.
  2. Surprises. As you wade through the weeds, you never what might pop up. These games expertly use intermittent reinforcement to keep you engaged in the task at hand. Other app stores use these techniques to manipulate player behavior for commercial reasons, which can erode trust.
  3. Collections. Pokémon capitalizes on your innate desire to collect virtual and real stuff. But you do more than collect — you form relationships with the creatures you collect. Nintendo’s growing Amiibo collection works in concert with the game design to add features that seem worth the investment.
  4. Goals. The new map feature in Zelda and the health meters in Pokémon deliver honest in-game information so you can use your energy to work on challenging tasks.
  5. Friends. Games like Super Smash Bros. are designed to be shared, such as in eSports tournaments. Other games like Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield and Luigi’s Mansion 3 feature the best of turn-based or co-op play modes.

As the next generation of adults work to use technology to improve the quality of a child’s play, it’s nice to know that there are some master teachers on the job, in this case from Japan.

This article is reprinted from a past issue of Children’s Technology Review. Subscribe for $60/year at www.childrenstech.com/subscribe

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