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Iwata Reiterates Mystery Pledge of Nintendo Expanding Beyond Video Games

Apr 28 2014, 9:22am CDT | by

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Iwata Reiterates Mystery Pledge of Nintendo Expanding Beyond Video Games

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Iwata Reiterates Mystery Pledge of Nintendo Expanding Beyond Video Games

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata left a lot of heads spinning when he said in January that Nintendo would “expand into a new business area” over the next ten years with products that increase “quality of life ” that aren’t necessarily games.

We’ve heard next to nothing about that idea since then, with some sort of big reveal coming up soon presumably (perhaps at E3), but now Iwata has revisited the topic in an interview with (via CVG ).

Iwata knows that everyone sees Nintendo as a video game company, but in reality it can “do whatever it wants,” he says. He invokes his late predecessor, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who said Nintendo should always be an entertainment company, but “entertainment” can be more than just games.

“Yamauchi always said ‘Nintendo is an entertainment company and should never be anything else’, but he didn’t necessarily think ‘entertainment equals video games’,” he said. “I was wondering how to express Yamauchi’s feelings, and I thought about it non-stop, even during the New Year’s holiday break.”

“Recently the words ‘quality of life’ have been coming up regularly. Entertainment is there to improve people’s quality of life. After your basic needs, there’s entertainment. However, when it came to improving people’s quality of life, I didn’t know the difference between us and household appliance makers. At the start of this year, I finally figured that the concept of ‘improving people’s quality of life with fun,’ with emphasis on the ‘fun’, would be perfect for Nintendo. And that’s why I decided to focus on this during the financial results meeting in January.”

He focused on it, but gave little to no indication about the specifics of what Nintendo was planning. The running theory at the time was some sort of wearable tech, as is all the rage right now, but Nintendo also said it was something that didn’t necessarily involve leaving your house. Indications are it might be something health/fitness related, but again, not necessarily a game.

From the outside, it seems unclear as to why Nintendo would take their eye off the ball when it comes to video games in order to branch into new areas. Not to say it’s a misstep without knowing far, far more details than we have, but given Nintendo’s longevity in the video game space, it seems strange to pivot like this. The Wii U is struggling and needs  Nintendo’s support and undivided attention more than ever. Diverting resources from the gaming division to…whatever this ends up being seems like it would only exacerbate problems the company is already having, like incredibly lengthy wait times for anticipated first party games, and a lack of power to play popular third party titles.

No, Nintendo is likely not abandoning their games business, but the company is only so big, and certainly smaller than giants like Sony and Microsoft with multiple divisions outside video games. Shifting focus from gaming to…other endeavors could put the Wii U even further behind the Xbox One and PS4 ,and could cause the success of the 3DS to wane if not enough attention is devoted to it.

Perhaps Nintendo really can do it all, but I worry, given the fact that the company has big dreams that don’t always pan out. And whatever this is, it’s more than just Nintendo experimenting with a new gameplay device, like the Virtual Boy, Power Glove, Wiimote or Gamepad in years past. This is something entirely new, and whether it’s a Nintendo fitness Smartband or a Nintendo interactive toaster, it’s going to be a big shift for them. This is supposedly a ten year plan, meaning this won’t be some simple new gimmick like the Vitality Sensor 2.0, and it will represent a huge shift for the company.  Right now it seems like Nintendo needs to redouble its efforts to ensure the continued success of their gaming systems. Diving into what seems like another industry altogether could cause them to lose even more ground against their current competitors.

Depending on what this announcement is, it’s hard to say when Iwata’s grand plan will finally be revealed. E3 seems like the obvious choice, but Nintendo scaled back their presence at the show last year, opting only for a lengthy Nintendo Direct instead of a stage presentation. And if this new venture is not something video game related, E3 may not be the best place to reveal it. Nintendo has expressed a desire to communicate directly to their audience on their own terms using Directs, and I have a feeling that’s what they’ll do whenever it is they decide to reveal this mystery project.

What do you think Nintendo has up its sleeve? Other than video games, what product or industry could they find success in?

Follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Forbes blog , and pick up a copy of my sci-fi novel, The Last Exodus , and its sequel, The Exiled Earthborn .


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