Opinion: Why Nintendo is getting it right on lifestyle games

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Jon_smal.gifJonathan Weinberg writes…

If you’ve ever played games, then at some point, you have absolutely loved a Nintendo title – for many of us, they were the firm who shaped our childhood virtual experiences. And while Sony and Microsoft are great at catering to the core gamer, Ninty have always been the best at spotting new opportunities and finding ways to appeal to everyone.

Just look at the Game Boy, the most successful handheld of all time and played by men, women, children of both sexes and grandparents. This week Nintendo showed off a whole new crop of lifestyle titles in its Touch Generation series and I was left in no doubt that these are going to expand gaming horizons into areas they have so far been slow to reach.

At Wednesday’s launch I was chatting to another journalist, a woman in her early 20s who works for Times Online covering female lifestyle. She’s in no way your typical gamer but she was won over by what was on show, enthusing that these were the kind of games she could and more importanly, would, play. Not only that, she even said her MUM would love them and was thinking of buying her a DS on the basis of what she had been confronted with.

We all know about the success Brain Training has had. Not only did it win over the media, it won over people from all walks of life and all age ranges. It’s as big with pensioners trying to keep their aged minds occupied as it is with kids attempting to improve their knowledge and brain age.

The first two sold 1.5m copies combined in the UK and there are now 4m DS machines in Britain too – a very healthy number that shows just how popular Nintendo’s offerings are.

The new DS range is led by Sight Training, a similar type of game to the Brain one but this time attempting to help your vision. It can’t cure short-sightedness unfortunately but it will help you focus, improve peripheral sight and make your hand/eye co-ordination better. It’s so fun too, I only played it for 10 minutes but I was hooked. It is simple, it is enjoyable and it supposedly does you some good – how on earth can you argue with that.

There was also a new facial yoga system called Face Training. A camera is inserted into the DS and you follow the virtual head on screen and copy what it does. It’s mad, and probably not good to be done in public, but girls are gonna love it!

On the Wii next year comes Wii Fit, an exercise program using a motion-sensing balance board instead of the Wii-mote controller. Stand on it and it picks up what you are doing and converts that onto the screen. Tasks include hula-hooping, slalom skiing, yoga and heading footballs – all designed to work up a sweat and burn calories.

What’s great about this is it is the sort of game parents will happily buy for their children and play it themselves too. It makes the console feel more a part of the family and that means adults won’t look on it so harshly if their youngsters are spending more time than they’d like using the Wii or DS.

As long as they do a bit of Wii Fit, Brain Training or Sight Training too, they can be safe in the knowledge it is educating, informing and strengthening as well as being just a bit of fun shooting and slashing. Ubisoft also have a DS range coming to educate in an enjoyable way with My Word Coach to teach English and My French/My Spanish Coach.

An advertising campaign is now set for TV with stars such as Phillip Schofield, Fern Britton, Johnny and Zoe Ball, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart appearing as well as Nicole Kidman. That will catch the eye of many who don’t know or care about Nintendo, nudging them towards realising that there are ways for it to impact on their lives too.

Nintendo UK general manager David Yarnton said: “We began making software revelant to everyone and Touch Generations games offer everyone unique and accessible ways to play. DS represents a bridge out to a wider audience.”

Along with the success of the Wii, that is good news for gamers – old and new – and ultimately good news for a worthwhile technology that often gets a bad press for ruining the lives of a nation’s youth by sticking them to their sofas.

Find all the best Nintendo news at www.wiiwii.tv

Jonathan Weinberg