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Why Nintendo's healthcare foray might be huge.
by tomas sala on 02/27/14 04:36:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Okey I thought about it for a while, and this is a huge step. Nintendo announcing a foray into healthcare. Here's a link to the story.

Here's why I think it could be a big deal.

A future filled with digital tools for parents, to mentor and challenge their children, we can all imagine it, and have so for a long time. But efforts have been fragmented and experimental. We call it serious games and applied games, and I've been at it for over a decade. I know a future like this will happen, the demand has been there for years , and some companies will be dominant in this market.

But who do parents trust to do this?, certainly not apple or Google, but perhaps Nintendo. And with their stable of lovable and responsible IPs, its a no-brainer that these are the characters who will teach your children better and exercise them better than any other established IP or brand now in existence. A trusted brand that has no history of being in bed with Big data, a bit old fashioned even, trust-able.. 

Imagine a world in which you as parents subscribe to Nintendo services and hardware that monitor and mentor your child. Nintendo characters will challenge your child on learning and fitness in an entertaining and responsible manner, while keeping you the parent in the loop with a select choice of smartphone apps.. 

Nintendo hardware that will grow with your child and accompany it for years, because we all know the kids of the future will have digital companions, and they will be Mario and Pokemon and Bowser. And they will be more than games. What shape I do not know, but it must remain a safe walled garden, for it to be safe for kids.

So if this is what Nintendo is doing, you will see some experiments in mobile apps, focused on fitness and community, maybe a learning app or two.. but definitely not Mario Kart or Pokemon. These they will sell through their own business models
and affordable hardware that will be carried by kids for years. And that hardware will report to the parents smartphone yes, but that will be the hard border for any mobile content. And to be honest  you don't want to give your kid a 800$ smartphone, especially if that opens the kid up to a world of cyber-bullying, selfies gone awol, sneaking microtransactions and worst.

Nintendo cannot afford to "just" be another mobile content provider, you will never trust King or Rovio with your child's development. How great their games might be, they can by sheer history of their business model never be as trust-able as Nintendo. 

Its a transition in business model only Nintendo can make, and validates all their weird quirks and disconnectedness. It will make them an indispensable tool for future parents, and a staple of many kids development.. 

I think Nintendo is as wise an investment as ever.  And if Nintendo gives in to those trying to push it to become the next mobile publisher, it will lose its biggest asset. A trust and solidity built on a generation of doing it their way..




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Lex Luthor
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"But who do parents trust to do this?, certainly not apple or Google, but perhaps Nintendo."
This is where you made a mistake.
Why certainly not Google or Apple? Where is this certitude coming from?
Data would suggest otherwise. Most people already trust them enough to give them tons of information.

tomas sala
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I don't mean to say parents won't trust Google or Apple. I mean to say that an open platform such as IOS or Android is not necessarily the right place to drop a young child into. Anybody who opens the appstore will see scores off apps aimed at children who by the nature of their business model can't be right for young children.. The fact that makes android and IOS great for adults, makes it unsuitable for kids.. There has not been an instance of a kid making 4000$ in in-app purchases on a nintendo platform., this is the core difference. It's not distrust, its knowing its not a safely walled garden.

for reference, here's a reuters news item from today,

In europe we've seen many crackdowns on business models aiming silent payments to kids, we use to have ring-tones and sms games, all regulated away now. we used to have phone-in and win games on tv, all regulated away now. These are all issues Nintendo carefully ducks and weaves around. (until now). The fact that the EU commision might force Apple and IOS to change their rules regarding in-app purchases and F2P is in itself a matter of trust and publice awereness that the appstores aren't the happy free candystores they might have appeared at first.

I can easily see this as a major thread to the F2P model, as well as undermining the perception of IOS and Android as safe platforms for kids..

But these problems won't ever be fully regulated, because it is an relatively open marketplace. In the end parents and consumers will look for trusted brands. And buying one brand with one gatekeeper is perceived as more trustable than millions of brands the mobile platforms thrive on..

And thats not even going into areas like say handing your child a device, which also runs social communications, which you yourself might use as an adult , but should not be used by kids. Playing a disney game , next to a button which opens a dating app, I don't think so..

Mario Kummer
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It might be a bit off topic but I don't think its a good idea to install even more parental surveillance, the kids need some freedom too. With all the mobile phones some parents already control each step, with an additional health monitor who knows if the children will even be able to eat sweets without triggering an alarm message...

tomas sala
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I agree completely. I hope if Nintendo goes this route they can find a sweet spot. With the Wii they already proved they can take gaming back to the family in a responsible and fun way.

TC Weidner
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I agree completely. I would not want to be a kid these days. We had much more freedom back in my day. During summer vacation, you woke up, grabbed something to eat. Rounded up the neighborhood kids and screamed to our mothers " Be back later..". they screamed back " Be back by supper" and that was that. Your were free to go about and enjoy your day.
No tethers.
- plus add to the fact that back then we werent a lawsuit crazy society either and you could play pretty much anywhere and no one minded. If someone got hurt, you simply went to an adult and you got fixed up. No lawsuits, no blame.

Good times..

Francisco Javier Espejo Gargallo
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I don't think this is the route they're going after. It's not a Parents take care of the Children aproach I think, but more of reminding and reinforcing healthier habits while having fun, for everyone. I think that will not be only physical, but also educational, just as the Wii and the DS got to be at a point.

Tuomas Pirinen
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I think Nitendo's focus with this new Quality of Life platform will be on health and fitness of the elderly, not children. Japan is the stronghold and the main market of Nintendo, and the population is aging rapidly. My bet is that Nintendo's focus will be on the yen of the ever increasing ranks of the old Japanese with plenty of money to spare. WiiFit-style platform should find a ready audience in health-focused Asia.

Russ Menapace
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Modern kids seem to be a product more than anything else. They're almost like livestock.