Pokémon Rumble U's cute little NFC-enabled toys look to be the start of something bigger at Nintendo. The console giant revealed in its financial results briefiing this week that it has begun work on a project for the Wii U and 3DS involving NFC-enabled toys/figures. NFC (near-field communication) is already built into the Wii U GamePad, allowing it to read and write data stored in certain objects (like cards or toys) with or without direct contact. The 3DS meanwhile would require a reader/writer peripheral scheduled to launch in the "first half of the next calendar year."
Currently dubbed the Nintendo Figurine Platform, this initiative encompasses new Wii U and 3DS games that leverage data from external figurines via NFC technology. This has drawn comparisons to Skylanders and Disney Infinity, which similarly use character toys and playsets to store and share additional content for their main games. Last time we checked,the Skylanders franchise alone ended up doing pretty darn well in both software and toy sales.
Nintendo explains that NFP's main objectives are to actively leverage its own character IP, and of course further increase brand awareness by getting Nintendo character figurines onto store shelves. It's not like there haven't been Nintendo toys in the past. They're just going to get a little more functionality, and hopefully more lucrative for Nintendo's sake. The company is clearly looking for new marketplaces following its third consecutive annual operating loss.
According to Nintendo, we can expect to see NFP take flight for the Wii U beginning this holiday shopping season, and naturally our first look is going to be at E3 2014. Meanwhile, the company is also exploring NFC payment systems (as usual, starting with Japan) to make digital purchases from the Wii U more convenient.