It’s no secret that Nintendo faces significant challenges: revenues are down, rival platforms such as Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are attracting a lot of buzz, and iOS and Android have made significant inroads into mobile gaming.
Rather than double down on its core business, however, Nintendo reportedly sees its salvation in new, nongaming segments such as healthcare.
“We have now redefined entertainment to mean making it fun for people to improve the quality of their lives,” Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata told a company strategy meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal. But he refused to part with more detail about Nintendo’s plans, except to claim that whatever’s in the works isn’t a wearable device along the lines of Nike’s FuelBand or the FitBit, and it isn’t an iteration of the Wii Balance Board, an accessory that measures the user’s weight and center of balance while playing games.
If Nintendo does attempt to “gamify” healthcare, such a move would certainly make sense: one of the prime attractions of the original Wii was that it gave casual gamers the chance to stand up and actually move around, courtesy of “Wii Sports” and other games. Microsoft later followed this trend with the Kinect motion sensor for Xbox, which allows players to control onscreen avatars via gesture control (and opens up a whole world of exercise games). Nintendo’s innovations with touch-screens, motion sensing and mobile devices could all assist in such an endeavor.
But partially reinventing itself as a company focused on “life improvement” runs contrary to the advice given by many outside experts, who think the best way for Nintendo to pull itself from its current doldrums is to more effectively exploit its extensive library of bestselling games, perhaps by porting them to other platforms such as iOS. Iwata seems resistant to that scenario, which could weaken Nintendo’s hardware business.