Can the 3DS save the QR code?

Time was when it was all about hipster geeks at SXSW on iPhones. Not the 3GS, not iPhone 4. The original ‘great leap forward’. In June 2007 this was a second coming of the mobile device. A collective technological rapture created exaltation, until the iterative Apple machine started to grind like a Ford production line in the early 1900’s. The 3GS quickly took away the lustre from the handheld gaming market as iOS started to gnaw into unfamiliar territory for Apple. The DS had made the touchscreen commonplace in 2004 but lacked the widespread reach of a telecommunications device and didn’t manage to squirm into the mainstream in the same way. It sat, ghettoized as a games device, a child’s plaything.  Despite a three-year head start the iOS handhelds (iPhone and iPod Touch) and DS iterations have about the same installed base. Around 150 million worldwide.

Ten years earlier (in 1994) Denso-Wave had created the QR code. A visual hyperlink that fitted perfectly as a call to action in a duncical mobile landscape.Adoption was rapid and wide-reaching in Japan and South Korea. The West was ambivalent. The barriers to widespread QR adoption in the West are:

  • Lack of installation of QR readers in mobile devices. Many OEM refuse to hard bake QR readers into handsets, indeed many are shipped ‘vanilla’ to retailers (stripped of additions).
  • Consumers are dispassionate and mobile web adoption whilst increasing with smart phone installation has been steady but unexplosive.
  • Brands have been reticent to adopt due to a thudding understanding of the transformative power of the mobile web.
  • Finally they look awful and ruin creative. In a society where they are commonplace they fit into the visual nomenclature in a landscape devoid of QR codes they pique interest, which gives way to apathy and lack of effectiveness.

As a direct response tool they work, but brand managers don’t always understand that.

But, all of a sudden the hipster are trading QR codes online. A flurry of Pokemania has made QR codes hip. The scanning mechanic is being widely praised and a tech almost twenty years old is suddenly fresh and new for an audience who generally had let QR codes pass them by. Nintendo‘s adoption of QR codes is commonsense and logical in the 3DS, for them it feels like a late adoption of such a familiar mechanic. Suddenly the Mii feels relevant again, collectible, engaging and fun.

Now , see how long the hipster geeks keep this going.

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