Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm.

Hands On — Sort Of! — With AppBaseball, A Japanese iPhone Baseball Gadget

AppBaseball game

When I saw AppBaseball in the store here in Tokyo, my eyes lit up.

I spent many hours as a kid playing lo-fi handheld baseball videogames: First the baseball half of the Tiger Electronics Bo Jackson baseball/football hybrid game, then Roger Clemens MVP Baseball for my Gameboy. (Chicago Swords!)

For a moment, I thought I might have found a neat way to play some baseball on my iPhone, with an old-school kick. Not quite, it turns out.

AppBaseball box shots

As these box shots show, AppBaseball is a plastic iPhone case with an analog bat control. Buy the gadget for ~¥3,200 — around $40 — and download the app for free. Then play baseball and pretend you’re 8 years old again.

AppBaseball parts

Inside the box, there are yellow plastic holders for three devices: The iPhone 4/S, iPhone 3G/S, and iPod touch. There is also a sheet of stickers and some instructions.

The main controls are a switch on the back to choose the type of pitch, a button to release the ball, and the bat, which is spring-loaded. (The idea is that two people can play at once, one pitching and one batting.) There’s an on-off switch on the bottom, and the device takes a cell-type battery.

AppBaseball controls

The way it seems to work is interesting. AppBaseball doesn’t hook into your iPhone dock connector or headphone jack, and doesn’t seem to be very sophisticated or computerized at all.

The device actually beams lights of different color and position — right into the iPhone camera — depending on what the analog switches are doing. The AppBaseball game reads the light beams with the iPhone camera, I’m assuming, and uses them to control the game.

AppBaseball lights

I say “I’m assuming” because I don’t really know… because I can’t actually download the AppBaseball game and play. Because it’s only in the Japan iPhone App Store. Or at least it’s not in the U.S. App Store. So I can’t play on my U.S. iPhone.

I hope the creator, Wiz Co, flips the right switch in iTunes so I can download it eventually. Though the demo video on this site seems to suggest the game itself isn’t very good, anyway. (And my guess is that using the camera during the whole game — if that’s what happens — runs down the battery very quickly.)

In the meantime, I have a new, expensive plastic stand for my iPhone, and a fun story. Kind of a bummer, though.