Nintendo testing interactive fan network at Safeco Field

By Tim
Booth, Associated Press Writer


essentials: hot dogs, peanuts, a well-worn glove and … Nintendo’s portable
gaming device?

Redmond, Wash.-based company is making a pitch to turn its portable DS Lite
into a baseball staple, bringing interactive technology to fans through a pilot
program being tested this season at the Mariners’ Safeco Field.

innovative program is called the Nintendo Fan Network. For a fee, the network
uploads a program onto the user’s DS Lite and allows fans to order food and
drinks, watch the live television feed of the game, access stats and scores and
play trivia, all from the comfort of their seat — whether it’s a premium seat
behind home plate or in the top row of the stadium.

been a work in progress. Once we created the technology of the DS, we started
looking at other applications to use its wireless features,” said Nintendo
corporate affairs manager J.C. Smith. “The program system became so
popular … so we sought other ways to make this a fun system for people to

program is still in the beginning stages, but Smith said the idea is being
embraced by Major League Baseball and fans as another way to make attending a
game more interactive. Nintendo declined to provide numbers on how many users
are purchasing software for the program — at $5 a pop for one game or $30 for
10 games.

Ideas for
the program were first presented to the Nintendo-owned Mariners in late 2005.
With the team onboard, Nintendo spent the following year developing and testing
the system and arranging a partnership with to provide statistics and
scores available.

The network
was first unveiled at the Mariners’ offseason fan gathering and debuted on
opening day.

Both MLB
and the Mariners deferred comment to Nintendo.

us it’s really just the initial stage,” Smith said. “We didn’t want
to push it hard until we were sure the services were working. We’re now to that
point where we’re like, ‘Let’s push it out further.’ It has been a

program has been lightly promoted at Mariners home games. Two download stations
are positioned on the main concourse of Safeco Field and occasional ads for the
network play before games. But there is little other fanfare, and the system
isn’t even mentioned on the Mariners’ Web site.

Sitting in
right-center field on a Monday night, Smith showed off the functionality of the
program. He ordered a hot dog and a couple of drinks from his seat. Ten minutes
later, the meal was delivered with a tip already included in the order price.
Smith also showed friends replays from the television feed that were
unavailable in the stadium. While a little difficult to see on the tiny screen,
the replays were welcomed for those who might not have seen a critical play.

The chance
to see replays is what drew Colleen Barracca and her 13-year-old son James to
spend the $5 for a one-time use of the network. Barracca thought the cost was a
bit high, depending on how many games her family attended.

going to be in a suite with nephews and cousins the same age and I thought that
would be fun for them,” Colleen Barracca said. “It does make it more
interactive for them. I don’t know if I would pay that price over and

Making the
game more interactive has been tried in other stadiums with little success. The
Tampa Bay Devil Rays and San Francisco Giants tried “smart seats” in
premium areas, with fans able to order food and watch highlights. Both teams
eventually removed those seats due to lack of use.

Systems Inc. has pitched advanced technology for the Oakland Athletics’ new
ballpark in

Calif. Their visions include fans swiping
electronic tickets stored on cell phones; bleacher bums viewing instant replays
at their seats with laptop computers; and digital advertising displays able to
switch images based on the buying habits of the people walking by through data
embedded in their cell phones.

hopes to expand the network to other stadiums. Smith said the system could be
upgraded regularly as the technology and programs continue to evolve. As long
as fan reaction remains positive and the system works properly, Nintendo will
move forward with the program.

still in the initial stage to get a read on the system,” Smith said.
“It will improve if we roll it out broader.”

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