Pokémon e-Reader Cards – Developer Interview from Nintendo Online Magazine

Pokemon e-reader cards

Does anybody remember that brief period when Pokémon cards had little barcodes on the sides for e-Reader support? It was actually a pretty neat concept with a grand vision behind it even though the e-Reader probably didn’t live up Nintendo’s or Creatures’ expectations. Anyway, here’s a translation from the old Nintendo Online Magazine with Akabane Takumi and Irie Katsuyoshi from Creatures about the project.

Embedding Value You Can’t See Into a Card

– How did the Pokémon e-Card project begin?

Akabane: Creatures has been planning and making the Pokémon Trading Card Game for around 5 years. It started from thinking we need to evolve it to the next level. From there, we thought of embedding invisible data within the cards themselves. When it comes to trading card games, the value normally comes in the form of what you can see. Like if it’s a card of a rare Pokémon. But we thought having value that you can’t see could be the next level for cards. Later, you might notice, “Oh, this card also has this kind of merit?” and the overall value suddenly changes. One more thing we were thinking was that if we embedded data within a card, it could maybe be played with even years later.

– So in this way, playing by linking trading cards and the Game Boy Advance through e-Cards was planned at Creatures with Nintendo being added on to the project?

Akabane: That’s right. We had this idea to put invisible value into cards and to make that a reality, we did some investigation with Hal Laboratory. For example, we were thinking about using invisible ink, having what’s printed on the card change when exposed to heat, or having the illustration change when exposed to a magnet. At that time, we came across the technology of a company called Olympus and realized that was the way to get the most data into a card.

– About how long did it take to develop?

Akabane: From conception, it took around two years. Before Pokémon: Neo Genesis launched, we had started gathering technical information and just when Neo launched is when we started moving forward with it as a project.

– That was right in the middle of the Pokémon boom.

Akabane: It was. But the thought of, “if we don’t change something” was strong on our minds. It’s true with anything, but the longer a boom continues, the more watered down the content becomes, so we were searching for a little something to spice things up.

– At what point in the project did linking with the Game Boy Advance become part of the plan?

Akabane: From the beginning. When we were wondering if there was a device or something to give form to the invisible data, the Game Boy Advance was in development and we were able to link it well with that. It would have been fine to make a device that connects to a computer, but when it comes to play, it’s important for it to be something kids are more likely to have. The best thing for that would be something like a Game Boy.

Increase the Fun by Adding Cards

– Is the technology that reads the e-Cards your own creation?

Irie: It was originally Olympus’s technology. It’s more accurate to say they customized their technology for use with e-Cards. After that, there was a lot of investigation into how long the codes should be. At first, we were thinking of putting codes around all four sides. But from the design perspective of the cards, it didn’t look good and it was tedious to scan all four sides when playing. Because of that, we went with codes on two sides.

– If the cards have folds or creases, they won’t be readable, right?

Akabane: I can’t say that it will always be fine, but it can generally read them. Even if the cards are dirty, it’s fine to a certain extent. But if you try to read it from even a color copy, it won’t work.

– What kinds of programs are printed on the cards?

Irie: It will vary by the card, but for the most part it’s minigames, short videos, and e-tools. By e-tools, I mean things you can use while having Pokémon card battles such as a timer or a coin flipper. We bunch those all together as eApps. In addition, game content can be changed depending on the card combinations so players can change games to their liking, but that’s still a secret so please look forward to it.

– The movement of the Pokémon are really nice.

Irie: Pokémon on the Game Boy is an RPG and there actually aren’t many Pokémon action games. Some of the eApps are action and other types of games so we put a lot of effort into the graphics of the Pokémon moving around.

– So as one would expect, the more cards you gather, the more you can do, right?

Irie: Right. The project is about adding data and playing as you please. It’s like releasing a toy that gets parts added to it later. That’s something very different than what we’ve done to this point.

The New Trade Value e-Cards Add

I think with e-Cards a new kind of trading value will be born. There will be the types of people that want strong cards for their decks and people that want certain cards to play minigames. It will add variety to the types of trades that will happen.

– So the most extravagant games aren’t necessarily on the strong cards.

Akabane: It’s pretty scattered. But it will be easy to imagine what kinds of games or videos are on a card by looking at the illustration.

– Where are you thinking of developing it from here?

Akabane: We have a direction we would like trading card games to go, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game itself is played all around the world so we want to expand the player base a bit. We want kids all over the world to be able to play. There’s a worldwide event going on in Hawaii right now, and even if players can’t communicate with words, they’re communicating through Pokémon cards. There aren’t many tools that can facilitate that and we want to expand that even further. One way we’re trying to do that is with these new cards. First, we want kids to get the cards and experience a new world of Pokémon cards.


If you enjoyed that, be sure to check out some of our other translations like this one with Toshiaki Suzuki, the director of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble. You can also check the Translations page for a list of all of the translations on the site. And if you’re here to study Japanese, why not check out some reading samples from real Japanese novels based on games. It’s great practice to help bring your Japanese to the next level!