Nintendo built a Near Field Communication chip into the tablet-like controller of the Wii U game console it launched late last year, and the video-game giant says it is now considering using that chip for payments.
In a briefing last week about Nintendo’s year-end 2013 financial results, president Satoru Iwata told analysts the Kyoto-based electronic games provider is considering using East Japan Railway Co.'s “Suica” smartcard for contactless payments. Players could use the card to purchase Nintendo games and other digital products.
The contactless Suica card is widely used in Tokyo and its surrounding communities to pay for fare on public transportation. Wii U owners could tap their Suica cards against the Wii U controller to make low-value purchases, Iwata says.
"Wii U will be the first home game console that has a payment function that utilizes an e-money card and is connected to the Internet,” Iwata says. “If we can make NFC payments with e-money cards, we can make it dramatically easier for consumers to make payments, particularly small payments."
The current Nintendo eShop allows users to fund an account balance by using a linked credit card or purchasing a stored-value card at a retail store. NFC payments would allow Nintendo and other game publishers to “expand business opportunities that take advantage of small payments,” Iwata says.
With Nintendo taking a closer look at NFC payments, the trend toward “all screens in your life becoming commerce-enabled” will accelerate, says industry analyst Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Group, LLC.
“We are seeing a convergence of commerce and gaming, and it includes screens on our phones, TV, tablets and PCs,” Ablowitz says.
Currently, Nintendo is using the NFC feature of the Wii U GamePad for one Japanese game, Helper Pokemon. The game appears after a user waves an NFC card over the console, Iwata says.
“In any digital business, payment and settlement methods pose challenges that must be overcome for successful distribution of paid content,” Iwata says.