When Satoru Iwata took over as Nintendo’s global President and CEO, he announced that his goal was “gaming population expansion.” This has been the primary focus of Iwata and Nintendo for nearly a decade, and we’ve seen that strategy played out with Wii and DS attracting millions of consumers who never considered themselves “gamers” before, and with games like Wii Sports, Nintendogs, and Brain Age.
When asked about that strategy at a recent investor Q and A, Iwata revealed that Nintendo is ready for the next step. Nintendo’s new goal is to redefine entertainment, and they hope to use their gaming expertise and their planned QOL devices to do this much in the same way they redefined gaming With Wii and DS.
“I have been constantly asking myself whether being bound by such ideas really does us any good when we are actually required to think out of the box and have a broader perspective, so we have redefined our definition of entertainment as “things which improve people’s QOL in enjoyable ways” and encouraged our developers to take on this challenge. As a result, just as I expected, people started to make various proposals. I cannot elaborate on anything new today as these proposals are yet to take on a concrete shape, but people inside the company have started to make proposals by asking me whether they are in line with the company’s vision. This is something Nintendo has to keep on doing for the long run. Our strategy for the next 10 years is to change the definition of entertainment and expand the area that Nintendo can do business in, and with this strategy, I believe we can capitalize on our strengths.”
— Satoru Iwata
Just as Nintendo spent the last ten years redefining gaming, their next step is to spend the next ten years redefining entertainment. The first of these QOL devices that they intend to release is health-related, but that may not be the case for all of them. Iwata explained that many people give up on health-related ventures early on because they are too difficult or their isn’t enough incentive, but Nintendo’s expertise as a gaming company can be used to create more engaging health routines that keep people coming back. In fact, Nintendo is hoping that companies will see them as an expert in this field.
“For your information, the primary reason why we chose “health” as our first QOL project is due to the fact that a large number of people are interested in their health. Also, while people in general understand what we should do to improve our health, it is hard for many of us to continue these good practices. As the Japanese expression goes, “Most people tend to quit after three days.” Many of us are concerned with not being able to continue something even though we recognize its importance for our health. There are several reasons for this such as something cannot be continued when it is hard to do in the first place. Another is that good things cannot be continued if you do not receive any feedback or rewards. Yet other things cannot be continued because we cannot find the motivation or the connection that will encourage us to continue it to the next level. There are many different reasons, but for most of them, video games can provide a solution. Inside Nintendo, people have the know-how that could contribute to society. This know-how and mastery would, however, mean nothing as long as they have the mindset that it is not part of their job. On the other hand, if they recognize that it is something they could do, Nintendo’s output could dramatically change. At the same time, if an external company has new and interesting ideas but do not know how to use them, Nintendo could be the company for them to approach.”
— Satoru Iwata
Iwata gave some examples of Nintendo’s expertise as well, citing their ability to teach consumers how to play games without the use of a manual and to keep players hooked by rewarding them for their actions. These same ideas could be applied to health-related devices and other future entertainment ventures.
“When you play a video game, we should try to create a situation that you can do so without reading the instruction manual. I am sorry to say this for the people who are working very hard to make instruction manuals for our games, but my impression is that only around 5 percent of consumers bother to read the instruction manual when they start playing a video game. To put this in another way, when we create and release a game, if 95 percent or more of the purchasers cannot play it without reading the instruction manual, our consumers would say it were no good and would not play with it.
“For any video games, it is also very important to encourage the players to continue something. I think all the game players can agree that they voluntarily continue their mission because of the rewards they can receive in the form of output as a result of their input.”
— Satoru Iwata
At this time we have very few details about Nintendo’s future entertainment and QOL device plans, but it sounds like Iwata has a lot of ideas. Nintendo was very successful at expanding the gaming market over the past decade. Can they expand the entertainment market in the same way?