Nintendo announces a shift to healthy games today in a statement from long time Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. Many expected that Iwata would step down, or announce that Nintendo had changed its mind about not expanding into the smart phone and tablet market as other competitors such as Microsoft and Apple have done. After disappointing sales numbers from the WiiU console and earnings only a quarter as strong as this time last year, going after that market seemed like the only choice Nintendo had left. Analysts feel that the loss of profit does not stem from the games Nintendo is famous for, but rather that people are less willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new console every few years than they used to be. A shift into the ever-expanding smart phone and tablet markets would expose an entirely different market segment to classic Nintendo characters, a generation that grew up not with an NES, but an iPhone.
The recent losses are a shock for the decades old hardware and software giant, who has long refused to update its model of innovative and quirky gaming hardware supported by a colourful cast of imaginative characters. But now that video games can be played on almost any device, Nintendo is losing its share of the video game market to people who don’t feel the need for a dedicated gaming machine when they have a digital multi-tool in their pocket. Unlike the console wars of the early 90’s where boasting about hardware capabilities and showing off cutting edge 3D graphics were enough to make every kid pledge their life to either a Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo, the sheer number of video game playing devices has taken a huge bite out of Nintendos hardware sales at the beginning of the new console generation. But instead of doing the obvious thing and joining in on the hand-held fray, Nintendo announces a shift to healthy games.
This trend began back with the Wii, which was a successful money-maker for Nintendo beside the hand-held 3DS. Wii Fit was a hit on the Wii, packaged with an electronic balance board that tracked weight, and allowed surprising deep immersion when combined with the Wii-Remote. The 3DS sported several Brain Age games, designed to increase mental capacity with matching games, colour recognition, and mental arithmetic all packaged in a fun, easy to pick up suite of min-games. Although Iwata has promised further details of the companies plans later in the year, there is an incredible amount of speculation on what sort of changes Nintendo will have to make in order to compete in this new arena. After Nintendo announces a shift to healthy games, many are concerned that Nintendo will abandon the segment of gamers they have appealed to for so long in order to seem more approachable to new customers, which Microsoft learned was a recipe for disaster last year by betting on Kinect. But if the changes seen in Nintendos game plan over the last two generations of consoles can be taken as a cue, surprises are sure to come from every part of the field.
By Daniel O’Brien