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November 2014 Retro Gaming Article


November 22, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Nintendo's Pokemon Snap Stations let players print stickers by bringing their Game Pak to a store

Blockbuster membership card Nintendo has a great way of thinking "outside the box" when it comes to marketing promotions. We're accustomed to seeing console kiosks that let consumers try upcoming titles, but rarely do such kiosks promote sales and elongate a game's life span. The Pokemon Snap Station did just that in North American Blockbuster Video rental stores.

Now viewed as a bleak lesson in retail history, Blockbuster was formerly a bright hub for making weekends special. Many of us remember going to these rental outlets for the latest movie or video game and even game consoles themselves. Your Blockbuster rental card granted access to weekends packed full of fun for the kids (and adults).
Nintendo's Pokemon Snap Station
Watching a cool new action flick followed by an all-night gaming session was a great way to make weekends special. As time marched on, Blockbuster offered games for the latest systems along with rentable game consoles. Marching time also brought competition. Netflix's initial venture replaced a drive to Blockbuster with a walk to your home's mailbox and later removed the need to go outside with streaming services. As much fun as it was to see all the titles at Blockbuster, it wasn't a similar highlight for a lot of parents.

I'm one of those people who delights in being surrounded by a flurry of movie and game titles. Similarly, I enjoy the convenience of Amazon, but I'd much prefer to be in a book store surrounded by possibilities.

So anyway...
I'm amazed that an entity as large as Blockbuster would neglect upcoming technology to the point of their own demise. After all, they pioneered ways to make video game rentals a viable business. They were even pretty creative in that they took on a partnership with Nintendo for game-centric kiosks that not only promoted titles, but engaged players to keep playing (or renting) Pokemon Snap and later, Pokemon Stadium.

Pokemon Snap Stations

Called a Pokemon Snap Station (Nov. 1999), this kiosk allowed players of these 2 games to bring game data on a memory card to Blockbuster (other stores participated in other regions) and print a sheet of stickers. These stickers contained in-game images taken by the players and laid out in 4 sets of 4 different pictures. This is a level of interactivity that few games could muster. A player at home would go to Blockbuster to garner a pretty cool item (custom stickers) based on their game play. It seems like a genius way to bring gamers back to one of the more prevalent game rental stores of that era.

Pokemon Snap Station game cart On the left the game cartridge is disengaged from the vertically mounted N64. On the right, the cart is inserted. A customer would play the game at home and save the photos. They could then bring their cartridge or memory card to Blockbuster and buy a snap station card. These cards were one-time-use and had a credit on it. Both the game cartridge and snap station card would be inserted which prompted them to pick which photos they want printed. The Snap Station would print out the sheet of stickers.

These kiosks were modified N64 game consoles whose only visible link to the platform was the N64 controller fastened to the front of the kiosk. In addition to the stickers, one could play the game in 15-minuit timed sessions to dissuade loitering.

The promotion ended in late 2000. Interestingly, these kiosks are quite rare and you don't find them for sale too often. Additionally, they used some proprietary components, not to mention the paper and cards needed to generate output. Nintendo took some units back, but it was also possible to convert them into demo stations that would play any game Blockbuster wished to showcase. After the N64's popularity, many kiosks were likely trashed.

Pokemon Snap Station paper and cards

Pokemon Snap Station Instructions

Print the pictures you have saved in your Gallery!

With Pokemon Snap, you can print out your pictures at Pokemon Snap Stations!

First, on the Gallery screen, select the four pictures you would like to print and then Save. Next, bring your Pokemon Snap Game Pak to the nearest Pokemon Snap Station. Visit pokemon.com or call 1-800-859-4521 for locations.

Purchase a prepaid card at the counter. Insert your Game Pak and prepaid card into the appropriate slots in the Pokemon Snap Station. (Follow the directions on the Pokemon Snap Station.)

Select the Print option and press the A Button.

When you are done, press the "Finish" Button on the Pokemon Snap Station, then remove your Game Pak.

Each time you print, you will receive four stickers of each of the four photos in your Gallery. You can print any picture you like, but pictures of a Pokemon centered in the middle of the picture will print best. Collect and trade stickers with your friends!

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