What are platforms? Game consoles and computer hardware? Economic models for things like credit cards or Steam or the PlayStation Store? Social media giants like Facebook? The answer is all three. Marc Steinberg’s The Platform Economy: How Japan Transformed the Consumer Internet, examines the definitions and objects of the ubiquitous term platform. In doing so it also offers a history of the Japanese mobile Internet as site for financial transactions, the starting point for subscription-based mobile games, and the model for the Android and iOS devices that now dominate our lives. To find the economic model behind Japanese platforms, The Platform Economy examines the platform theory developed among Japanese management thinkers in the 1990s, and the platform practice pioneered at Nintendo in the 1980s and 90s, and put into practice in Japan’s “i-mode,” one of the world’s earliest mobile Internet rollouts. Nintendo, it turns out, was one of the early developers of the transactional model for the platform, wherein “the platform” is seen as an intermediary between two or more third parties (in this case Nintendo was the intermediary between players and game developers and chip sellers). Crossing economic theory with the histories of videogames and mobile media , this book teaches us about the platforms that affect our lives today, as much as those – like the Nintendo NES or the i-mode mobile Internet system – that dominated lives in the past.
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