September 19, 2007
Take the DS Out to the Ballgame

A future look at an innovative marketing approach for fans is being tested this year at Seattle's Safeco Field.

The Nintendo DS is going to change the way we attend sporting events and participate as a fan.

The deal was struck as part of Nintendo of America's majority ownership of the Seattle Mariners, but it shows the ways in which technologies can be used for a variety of purposes, in this case using a Nintendo device not just for video games, but as an audience participant of live sporting games as well.

Right now in Seattle, you can pay five dollars to download and use the new Nintendo Fan Network (NFN) software to receive the latest in stylized service. $30 pays for 10 sessions.

The software allows you to check out player stats from and watch the live TV broadcast. However, replay action is just the beginning. For those of us who attend sporting events often, how often have you wished you could order peanuts and beer from your seats as well? The NFN is designed so that ordering food is only a stylus click away, and users can even track the progress of their food order on the screen.

The process will feel, in many ways, like tracking a FedEx order...except with the DS you can watch the entire process.

Earlier this week, Sam Ford, C3's Project Manager, discussed the "authentic experience" that fans crave when they attend sport events, even though when you go to these events you have a "much worse view, cannot hear the commentators, and forego instant replays." I would argue that with the program the NFN model provides attending a baseball game is not only a more authentic experience than sitting on your couch at home, but it is further enhanced by the interactions this new experience provides.

There are many potential applications of such a program. A fun game might be to try to intersect the food halfway to your seat...but that might defeat the point for convenience...Perhaps most Seattle fans will just sit back and cheer on their team as the food is delivered. That's what I call a "home run," (pun intended).

NFN offers fans an innovative way to connect to each other. You can play trivia and word search games against other fans in the stadium. Imagine the future dating services that might emerge because of this technology.

There have been talks that Cisco Systems has pitched advanced technology for the Oakland Athletics' new ballpark in Fremont, Calif. Everything from digital advertising displays that are able to switch images based on the buying habits of the people walking by through data embedded in their cell phones, to fans in the nose-bleed sections being able to view replays with laptops that would be provided at their seats, could be part of such services.

The future is looking stylized and, as a fan, the potential of this new use of technology makes me quite happy.

Here is a video with more information about the NFN software.

While the idea of NFN excites me tremendously because I own a Nintendo DS. I can't help but asking will Safeco Field allow patrons to rent the DS? How can all sport stadiums adapt this model but also allow open access to all of its fans?

Quote of the day: I always turn to the sports section first.  The sports section records people's accomplishments; the front page nothing but man's failures.  ~Earl Warren, quoted in Sports Illustrated, 22 July 1968


On September 21, 2007 at 8:00 AM, Eleanor Baird said:

Lauren, interesting stuff! What do you think of bundling the DS with some of the software necessary to run special stadium applications? Or to have a team-branded DS (sort of like the U2 iPod) with special features or software? Maybe discounts for MLB games if you buy the DS or baseball themed games for it?


To build on Eleanor's questions, Lauren, I am assuming there will be increased ways to poll the audiences on questions, etc. This may have interesting implications for a sports game, but perhaps even more so for scripted shows like pro wrestling, as well as concerts, where the show could be directly tweaked based on the real-time feedback of audiences.

On September 24, 2007 at 10:57 AM, Lauren Silberman said:

Hi Eleanor and Sam,
You both have "hit" ideas for future applications of this software and your ideas are echoed by me and many fans of this software. Direct feedback from fans has worked extremely well with Fox's American Idol, but sport stadiums have yet to find acceptable ways to connect and poll all of its fans and measure the value and effect this is having. I'll keep tracking this innovative approach and how the core concepts being experimented with in Safeco Field are being used in other arenas like pro-wrestling or concerts. -Lauren


Lauren, I'd be interested in knowing of other examples of using this or similar technologies in the future, so I'm glad to know you will continue tracking them.