Nintendo: The Healthy Game Maker?

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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Nintendo: The Healthy Game Maker?

Things have not been good for Nintendo of late, and that's almost a bit of an understatement. With rivals Sony and Microsoft trouncing the daylights out of the company on shelves and Nintendo itself seen regularly apologizing to gamers over an ongoing lack of games, it's clear Big N is not as big as it once was, nor is it likely to be so again. But Nintendo has something of a strategy afoot to take on a new and potentially more lucrative market, one that may help the company find a new path in a post-console wars future: health gaming.

We've heard previously how Satoru Iwata, the company's chief executive, wanted to step past gaming and offer up a new kind of entertainment, specifically, one that improves the “quality of life” for people. Naturally, many will balk at the idea of opening up a new product line while sales on the core product are clearly in decline, but this isn't a new strategy for Nintendo. This is, rather, a strategy that has worked before with the Wii, and one that may work again with the Wii U.

The Wii was something of an anomaly. The games weren't particularly great, nor memorable. The graphics weren't exciting, the plots not adult. Many games were just collections of mini-games. But what made the Wii the massive seller it was was the unique control scheme. Buttons now a sidebar, the Wii focused on motion, on waving, on getting people up out of their collective seat and playing games. Wii Bowling, Wii Sports...these things were like actually playing a game, but without actually playing the game.

Nintendo's “vitality sensor,” first announced in 2009 but never actually shipped, looked to augment this course of action a bit, giving gamers a chance to connect heart rate to the game itself and potentially even use that heart rate as part of the game. But what Nintendo knows about healthcare is likely pretty slim, and that's a development that would probably cause Nintendo to have to turn to other firms in the field. Still, if Nintendo were to do that, it might just have the kind of intellectual property and long-standing reputation to make this a worthwhile venture; playing Nintendo is associated with a  fun activity for a whole host of people, and making healthcare fun is the kind of thing that would really be welcome on several ends of the spectrum.

Can Nintendo do it? Sure it can. It's going to have a bit of a hard road in front of it to pull off such a feat, though, as this is comparatively new territory. But it has a foundation in this market that could be tough to resist, and may ultimately give its users a whole new angle to work with. Only time will tell just how well it all works out—more information would definitely be a help—but Mario et al may be helping us get well rather than just entertaining us soon.
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