Struggling Nintendo Looks To Health Focused Game Console


In a letter to shareholders Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata said that the company will shift its strategic focus toward health related games. The shift is likely due primarily to increased competition within its core market, but the profit potential that the exploding health tech field holds is certainly a secondary factor.

Nintendo was founded 125 years ago as a traditional Japanese playing cards manufacturer. In 1983, the company launched the Nintendo Entertainment System, one of the most popular video game consoles in history. For the next 20 years, Nintendo competed with Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox for market share in the video game console market. However, Nintendo has not released a financially successful product since its 2006 launch of Nintendo Wii. Its follow up console, the Wii U has been a monumental failure, with sales falling “below even the most pessimistic expectations.”

With its most recent success nearly a decade behind it, shareholders were calling for change and it looks like Nintendo sees a shift toward health-related game consoles as its second chance. Nintendo is not new to the fitness world. Its Wii platform introduced a Wii Fit game controller that users stood on and then used their balance to control the movement of the video game characters. Wii Fit also coached users through balance and fitness exercises and tracked performance improvements over time with an all-body health metric it called Wii Age.

In 2009, Nintendo also briefly unveiled a Wii-connected pulse monitor called the Vitality Sensor. The device clipped on the finger and was designed to integrate “stress levels” into the video game experience so that players could train themselves to calm down in stressful situations. Between the Wii Fit and the Vitality Sensor, Nintendo is already well ahead of its peers when it comes to exploring the line between physical and virtual. Still, the Wii ecosystem did not push the envelope very far with integrating true fitness activities into traditional video games.

This may soon change. In his letter to shareholders, Iwata explains “As the business environment around us has shifted with the times, we have decided to redefine entertainment as something that improves people’s quality of life…We have set "health" as the theme for our first step and we will try to use our strength as an entertainment company to create unique approaches that expand this business.” For now, details of the quality of live, or QOL, platform are minimal, but it marks the first major video game vendor to place health as a cornerstone of its future strategy.

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