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Welcome to the Health Market, Nintendo

Welcome to the Health Market, Nintendo

by HAYLEY TSUKAYAMA

Cue the Dr. Mario jokes.

Company president Satoru Iwata announced Thursday that Nintendo wants to step into the health market by 2015.

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But does health even make sense for Nintendo?

In a weird way, it absolutely does. Just  think about it like this: Nintendo’s next target market is old people.

It’s a very smart market to be going into, particularly in Nintendo’s home country of Japan. If Americans are nervous that nearly one-fifth of the population will be over age 65 by 2030, imagine Japan’s panic — it passed that landmark in 2005. As a result, the country has been on the leading edge of discussions about how to use technology to help older people get more preventative care, stay active and age at home, so they don’t have to go to nursing homes.

From a consumer technology angle, that means there’s a lot of money to be made by getting seniors to use gadgets that do things like measure their weight, test their strength and balance, and allow family members and physicians to keep an eye on trends in their health.

And Nintendo, wouldn’t you know, already has a pretty successful gadget that does that: the Wii Balance Board.

As an added benefit, older people are already loving those games. While Mario and Pikachu may be the faces that leap to mind when you think about Nintendo, some of Nintendo’s best-selling games are actually fitness titles such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Likewise, the company’s had good success with the Brain Age games, based on research by physician Ryuta Kawashima, which aim to improve mental agility.

There’s actually a whole movement, documented after the Wii launched in 2006, of this thing called “Wiihabilitation” — rehabilitating patients, particularly older ones, by using Wii games to make physical therapy less torturous.

Although fun is probably never a word to apply to physical therapy.



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