Game On: The Chase for NFC-Enabled Mobile Payments
Banking is serious business for serious individuals and institutions. Financial services are for stable entities in thoughtful, analytical environments. This is real life for the real world. It’s not a video game.
But then again. . .
A couple of years ago, Nintendo earned praise for incorporating some new and exciting capabilities into its new Wii U platform, such as the GamePad, a new controller with a 6.2 inch touchscreen. But there was also something else. In fact, this was the first gaming platform to incorporate Near Field Communication, or NFC.
But that’s gaming. Here’s what it has to do with banking.
First, for the uninitiated, NFC comprises a set of standards for mobile and other devices to establish radio communication through touching or proximity, collectively encompassing a broad spectrum of communications protocols and data exchange formats. We already have quite a few applications taking advantage of these protocols, from contactless transactions to simplified Wi-Fi.
As the industry trade publication American Banker pointed out recently, financial services corporations have long sought to boost the use of NFC services for mobile payments. But as with many other aspects payments, success has been hard to come by. And that’s exactly why hose sober, solid and sensible banking industry types should look to industries such and video gaming—and more specifically companies like Nintendo—for pointers on what to do.
To be sure, there’s quite a bit of success to emulate. The original NFC technology in the Nintendo console didn’t seem to have much purpose, but the company recently that the reader will come to life through a series of NFC figurines that easily interact with many popular games. Those figurines, incidentally are also sold as action figures; the character equivalents take life in the game, and can follow multiple storylines in accordance with the layers’ preferences.
Here’s one sign of the success. This represents another potentially lucrative channel for the creators and owners of these figurines, including Disney and Activision. The latter’s Skylanders was an original backer of this concept, and the franchise passed $2 billion in revenue earlier this year.
Here’s the point: Consumers can make mobile payments through a variety of channels right now, saving massive costs for the financial services institutions involved. But very few are doing it. There might yet be large-scale adoption, and the numbers will surely keep growing, but the truth is that technology is a fickle business. We don’t really know why some advances take off immediately and others take time. So far, at least, this one hasn’t.
But we also know that the next generation—the one obsessively playing video games right now—will be opening back accounts soon enough. Those now-youngsters will have absolutely no understanding of a world without millions of mobile apps, and it will be completely comfortable with NFC.
Banking and multi-players games surely make for an odd hybrid, but there are precedents. Innovators such as American Express have been embedded in this market for years, specifically to wean an emerging generation of cardholders. Several telecom giants have also had some success with built-in NFC capabilities.
Today, it seems like a long leap from shoot-’em-up games to, say, mortgage banking. But that’s exactly what innovation requires—a leap in imagination and then practice. Those pesky kids playing games today will be opening bank accounts and making payments tomorrow. We need to find ways to reach them before that.