I have no idea if we'll ever see another GameBoy. But if designers in Kyoto (or Redmond, perhaps?) are secretly working on it, they would be wise to consider taking a close look at the Amazon Kindle.
Jeff Bezos is nobody's fool. Since he started it in 1994, Amazon has grown to become the largest online retailer in the world with continually expanding revenue growth. Plenty of people thought Bezos' initial slow-growth business plan was doomed, and plenty of those same people thought he was crazy to expand Amazon's product line beyond books. Amazon stayed the course, and Bezos was able to steer Amazon through the dot-com bust that sunk most other online ventures.
Bezos has devoted the last 3 years to developing the Kindle. Since it was officially announced yesterday, legions of naysayers have been piling on the hate train pointing out all the things wrong with it. It's ugly. It's too expensive. It lacks a touchpad. People prefer the tactile feel of books. It's doomed.
Maybe. But even if it fails, the Kindle has much to teach about features we ought to expect in a handheld gaming device. Among the most important Kindle-inspired lessons:
- Make games available for purchase directly from the device. No syncing to a computer. No cables.
- Wireless connectivity should be a no-brainer. Turn on the device and download games. No worries about hot-spots, wireless contracts, data plans, etc. It should just work from virtually anywhere.
- Online purchasing should be easy. Shop, buy, play. An iTunes Music Store experience.
- All games are backed up on the provider's side (unlike iTunes) in case of loss or theft.
- Subscriptions should be available for frequently updated content. I want Sam and Max to appear on my device automatically every time they have a new adventure.
- I should be able to subscribe to RSS feeds like Kotaku and Gamasutra (and, of course, The Brainy Gamer), and the device should update those feeds on a schedule I determine.
- Saved games should be randomly accessible, more like bookmarks than save points. Why can't I go directly to level 2 of the 3rd dungeon in chapter 5 if I want to?
- Free demos of all games.
- The device needs a next-gen non-glare screen usable in almost any environment. From all accounts, the Kindle's long development time was spent mostly on designing a screen that would meet users needs.
I won''t make any predictions about the success or failure of the Kindle, but Amazon has clearly thought hard about how to make an e-book people will want to use. With its game library, Nintendo would seem to stand the most to gain by copying some of these ideas, but I'm sure Sony and Microsoft are paying attention too.
After all, stealing good ideas isn't really stealing, right? It's...uh...corporate flattery. Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket.