Hi this is Emily Rogers with my first post on this blog. I wanted to make my first post special so here it goes.
Two years ago, I had a chance to talk to some people who worked at Nintendo of America’s marketing department. Through random discussion, I was told that Nintendo didn’t originally plan to call it Nintendo DS. The successor to the Game Boy Advance was going to be called “City Boy”. This took me back for a second. “City Boy?” Why City Boy? Is it weird to expect such a name from a company that named their home consoles “Wii” and “Wii U” ?
Here was the explanation I received..
They had originally planned to keep the Game Boy brand going. But even way back in 2003, Nintendo saw the threat of smartphone gaming. And if you dig deep enough into patents, you’ll see Nintendo patented a cell phone gaming device in the early 2000’s. There’s no mistake that the Game Boy brand was huge, but Nintendo wanted their handhelds to appeal to older gamers at a time when cell phone games were gaining more popularity.
Nintendo wanted people to carry their Nintendo handheld everywhere just like their phone.
“Game Boy” had the image of being a handheld for younger gamers, and Nintendo was determined to get rid of that image.
The name “Nintendo DS” was not the official name at E3 2004. And they tip-toed around a few names. One of those names was “City Boy” because it would appeal to a young adult urban audience who have a busy “always on the go” lifestyle. “City Boy” was an attempt to make the Game Boy brand (seen as a child’s toy) sound more hip and adult. This name made it possible for Nintendo to continue the Game Boy Brand while trying to appeal to an urban young adult crowd. It makes sense too. If you paid attention to DS’s marketing in the last 6 years, Nintendo made a massive attempt to get older people and women to take the Nintendo DS brand name seriously.
Nintendo assumed that people walking around a busy city filled with people would use features like Pictochat on a bus, movie theater, schools, or at some social gathering. Wi-Fi was not as mainstream back in 2004 like it is in 2012. Nintendo assumed people could head into a cafe or restaurant with wifi to log into their DS. Again, it was building on the aspect that you bring your “City Boy” everywhere with you in the city.
Nintendo wanted gamers not to feel embarrassed of playing games in public. To make portable gaming more acceptable like playing games on your cell phone. The idea of “City Boy” was to get you to carry and play your Nintendo handheld more often in public (hence the word “City”) like your cell phone.
Fast forward to today.
Look at how much Nintendo has pushed the idea of spotpass and streetpass in the 3DS. They have pushed this feature really hard. You even get tokens for carrying your 3DS to work or school. 3DS basically tries to push the idea that they originally wanted with DS: Getting people moving and taking their DS with them everywhere they go. They want you to bring your Nintendo handheld with you everywhere just like your phone.
Now you’re probably thinking: This sounds like bull.
Nintendo of America filed a trademark for “City Boy” on March 18, 2004 and it is still alive at uspto.gov
They filed the trademark 2 months before E3 2004 when the successor to Game Boy Advance would be revealed. Why would they trademark something with “Boy” in the name that is described as hardware (not software) 2 months before revealing the successor to Game Boy Advance?
And why was it called Nintendo DS instead of “City Boy”? Because Nintendo thought this handheld had a big chance to fail and they didn’t want it to tarnish the Game Boy brand name. Iwata was worried gamers wouldn’t understand the idea of a handheld with two screens.
“It is a ‘unique’ machine, so not everybody will understand it right away. There might only be 10 to 15 people applauding during its unveiling at E3, but they’ll understand it once they touch it. At the least, it should serve as a hint towards [our] next-generation console.”
-Satoru Iwata, GameSpot translation (March 1, 2004)
Note: You can see that Iwata was very uncertain of how gamers would perceive the Nintendo DS in 2004.
Remember, the GameCube was in last place against PS2/Xbox and the only thing going good for Nintendo was “Game Boy” during that time. Nintendo was not super successful in 2004 like they are in 2012. It was a transitional period for Nintendo to re brand itself and it’s products.
The trademark, which was listed under goods and services, listed electronics as an example.
Type in Pikmin on a trademark search, and you get descriptions like ” ELECTRONIC GAME SOFTWARE, INTERACTIVE GAME DISCS, INTERACTIVE GAME PROGRAMS, INTERACTIVE GAME SOFTWARE, MUSICAL SOUND RECORDINGS, VIDEO GAME DISCS”
You don’t see that description for City Boy. It was not software. It was hardware. It was filed with other electronics. You see it filed with the category of electronic goods and services such as “DVD players, cellular phones, computers, cd players, microphones, and LCD screens”. This means that City Boy was hardware.
Here are images taken from the website of the United States Trademark and Patent Office:
Go to Trademark Search.
Type in City Boy for your Trademark Search. It should be listed at #8 on the list. The trademark should be Live, not Dead. Here’s serial and reg numbers in case you need help finding it.
Past Iwata quotes: http://www.n-sider.com/contentview.php?contentid=515
- “The innovative machine has a short-range networking capability. It will introduce a refreshing new experience if it’s played by one person alone, but we’re hoping that it will be even more fun when it’s played with multiple [people].”
-Satoru Iwata, GameSpot translation (March 1, 2004)
Emphasize “Short-range networking capability” and think about how Nintendo tried to get Wi-Fi hot spots in tons of cities. Nintendo created thousands upon thousands of hotspots in multiple countries and continents in restaurants and stores.
- “[It] will enable fun and movement not seen before. I expect it to become a third pillar, next to GameCube and Game Boy.”
-Satoru Iwata, Gamasutra (January 07, 2004)
Note: This quote tells you that Nintendo had a “Plan B” in case Nintendo DS failed, and it wasn’t the true successor to Game Boy.