Can a new platform dedicated to health-based programs help restore the fiscal health of game-maker Nintendo? The Japanese giant hopes so, announcing this week that it will put its marketing muscle behind a third platform in addition to its Wii U console and DS handheld devices.
In a Jan. 30 briefing to investors on third-quarter results, which was posted on the company's Web site, CEO Satoru Iwata said he was recognizing that quality of life is a big part of the appeal of gaming consoles, and that means going beyond entertainment.
A New Blue Ocean
"Of course, defining a new entertainment business that seeks to improve quality of life creates various possibilities for the future such as 'learning' and 'lifestyle,' but it is our intention to take 'health' as our first step," said Iwata.
Rather than just rolling out more games like Wii Fit, which provide fun exercises with the motion-sensing device, Iwata said he would expand health use "in a new blue ocean."
He said early 2015 would be a target for the new release.
Nintendo desperately needs to pump up sales of its devices. It slashed its forecast for the year from 9 million units to 2.8 million.
Tough To Please
Senior digital home analyst Michael Inouye of ABI Research told us that Nintendo has many issues with the Wii U, that go beyond a "killer app" or feature.
"Iwata blamed some of the troubles on the Gamepad, which he believes consumers mistakenly view as a peripheral for the original Wii, rather than a key differentiator for the next generation of consoles," Inouye said. "While this might be true for some casual gamers, this is certainly not the case for those who are more passionate about the gaming hobby (especially not this far removed from launch)."
Inouye said casual gamers are an increasingly difficult crowd to win over now, as many have moved on to devices with free or dirt-cheap apps.
It may not just be a question of perception. "The Wii U’s hardware is closer to the seventh generation of consoles (Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PS3) than the now current-generation (Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PS4," Inouye added.
"This hurts it from a third-party game developer perspective and even in those cases where games support all platforms the Wii U performs below the eighth-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony," he said. "Nintendo’s Wii U has also suffered from a lack of key first party titles" while some launched late last year the company is still trying to push legacy titles to help fill in the gaps.
While the Wii Fit was a top seller, it would be surprising if the company can match that level of success with another fitness product, the analyst said. Also smart, wearable fitness products such as watches are already on the market.