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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Trump That Saved Christmas From Tariffs On China...Because of Game Boy Camera Lies?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - ...He saved it from himself, but hey, who's keeping score?

While we were rating how Microsoft and Nintendo (but not Sony) did at E3 2019, those three major console manufacturers were writing to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, out of great concern for President Donald John Trump's announced tariffs (taxes) on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, in pursuit of addressing things like intellectual property theft.

I did write years ago during the 2016 campaign that candidate Donald Trump would take China intellectual property theft seriously as President Donald John Trump, writing,
“Which candidate for United States president best sides with the videogame industry, an industry that thrives on exploiting intellectual property? Donald Trump, the man who will have a zero-tolerance policy on China's abuses? Or Hillary Clinton, the woman who tried to destroy the industry within the United States of America, and has no position or plan on China and its intellectual property abuse?”

Alright, if the videogame industry has to write a letter to President Donald John Trump to not screw up the videogame industry over China, then candidate Donald Trump might not have been the best candidate for the videogame industry on the China issue. ...Eh, well, still can't be worse than Hillary.

REGARDLESS. The tariffs have been delayed until December 15 (from September 1), which means that, unless you're highly irresponsible and buying directly from China (retailers will stock up prior to the tariffs taking effect), the holiday season will be free of the price increases that tariffs would necessitate. Hooray. For now.

Christmas is saved. And Black Friday/Thanksgiving.

And Chanukkah too, I guess. But there's more to the story, especially regarding the contents of the console manufacturers’ letter.

There's an America-first contingent of people who think that the videogame companies are in the wrong for trying to lobby the Administration to not have tariffs on the industry, and they should suffer the consequences of, as the letter states, having “over 96% of video game consoles imported into the United States [be] made in China.” Why, if they made consoles in America to begin with, they wouldn't have to ever be in this situation of offshoring production to other countries! You shouldn't put your eggs in that basket!

That ignores the incredibly complicated supply chain realities that industries deal with. The letter goes into this a bit. The industry had its electronics built in China over decades of decisions and economic reasoning. It can't instantly just convert things to America-made.

Most of the letter goes into the greater videogame industry and its partners (including retailers), and how price increases caused by companies passing on the tariff costs to consumers would cause catastrophe from people buying less consoles (see: supply & demand charts). That affects many small indie developers, accessory makers, etc.

Most interesting is the second-to-last page where the console manufacturers attempt to convince the Administration that reduced game revenues would reduce research & development efforts into technologies that affect the country outside of the gaming industry. Microsoft has paragraphs and even a footnote about things like the Kinect (contributing to the HoloLens being used in things like industrial settings) as well as Minecraft: Education Edition. Sony got one paragraph basically saying they developed a supercomputer with the PlayStation 3.

Nintendo's paragraph, on the other hand, has no sources at all but states, “Outside of entertainment, Nintendo is often credited with making the front-facing camera a ubiquitous feature on today's smart devices through its Game Boy camera accessory.”

Game Boy Camera red side Nintendo
The back (or front?) of the 1998 Game Boy Camera.
(Not my hands, but those of some guy named Austin Evans.)

I've never read such a credit. I tried searching for one on Google and on DuckDuckGo. There are plenty of results about people doing quirky things with their Game Boy Camera in recent years, but no one has said that the Game Boy Camera/Nintendo can be credited for inspiring the camera on smartphones.

Do... do you think that Nintendo just made stuff up to look better in the process of trying to convince the White House not to impose tariffs on Chinese goods? And... did it actually work?

This is definitely a “does the ends justify the means?” situation. 

Let Ludwig know in the comments section what you think of Nintendo's very dubious claim about the Game Boy Camera and smartphone cameras. Have you seen these supposedly often-made credits to that fact? Regardless, are you happy about the tariffs being delayed? Would you rather them not exist at all? If you're pretending to be an expert in international trade, how would you handle the problem of Chinese international property theft?

It's two months later, and the tariffs are still scheduled for December 15 as the negotiations appear to go somewhere, but really aren't going anywhere.


  1. The closest thing I could find was that the Game Boy Camera held the world record for being the smallest digital camera at one point, so maybe they're claiming the cameras that eventually beat their record were inspired by them since they did it first. Still seems like a stretch, though.

    1. Still seems like a stretch?

      ...That's not even within the same distance as your human Earth and its Moon!


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