Gaming giant Nintendo is to target the booming health sector as a way to turn around its struggling business, president Satoru Iwata has told investors.
Resisting pressure from shareholders and industry critics to re-focus its business on mobile gaming, Iwata described the health industry as an expanding business. He pledged to use it in a similar manner to Nintendo’s traditional video games to make people “conscious about their health” and “to put smiles on people’s faces around the world”.
“We have set health as the theme for our first step and we will try to use our strength as an entertainment company to create unique approaches that expand this business,” said Iwata in a letter to shareholders and investors.
“We have decided to redefine entertainment as something that improves people’s quality of life in enjoyable ways and expand our business areas. What Nintendo will try to achieve in the next 10 years is a platform business that improves people’s quality of life in enjoyable ways,” he said, adding that Nintendo still wanted to “provide products and services which pleasantly surprise people”.
Motion gaming for years
Nintendo has been dabbling with health accessories and games for years, producing two heart rate monitors as well as a series of Wii Fit games and accessories, including a weigh scale or “balance board”.
The original Wii console also went to some lengths to get gamers off the sofa and moving about, both for a new motion gaming experience but also for fitness and activity benefits.
The company originally announced its health-focused strategy during its weak earnings call in January, where it promised to wow customers with health-related innovations to turn around the business, dismissing calls to take Nintendo games onto mobile phones.
The Nintendo president said that the company “will continue to provide products and services which pleasantly surprise people” through “new endeavours with the quality-of-life-improving platform” although he failed to elaborate on what form those products could take.
Nintendo has previously denied the possibility of selling a wearable device, such as a fitness tracker or smartwatch.
Traditional gaming consoles
Despite Nintendo’s reinvigorated health drive, Iwata was careful to reiterate that traditional gaming consoles were still Nintendo’s primary business strategy, despite the Wii U missing sales targets by a wide margin.
“We believe that we can capitalise the most on our strengths through a hardware-software integrated platform business, and therefore this type of dedicated video game platform will remain our core focus,” Iwata explained.
The statements come in the face of a bleak financial outlook, as the company is expecting to make a 25bn Yen loss (£147m) for the 12 months in 2014 through to December, a reversal of the 55bn Yen profit originally expected.
Nintendo slashed its annual forecast for Wii U sales by 69% from 9m to just 2.8m, having sold 2.4m of the consoles April through till December last year, while the Nintendo 3DS handheld video game console fared little better, with forecasts slashed by 25% to 13.5m from 18m for the year.
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