Monday, July 02, 2007

Nintendo Wii Goes Gray

Nintendo's doing something fun and interesting with Wii, and that's introducing it to the elderly, which was reported on in a recent Boston Globe article by Robbie Brown.

Hoping to up the demographic boundaries of its products, Nintendo rolled out Wii in a retirement community in the Boston suburb of Hingham. The residents (average age: 77) are using a shared Wii, wired to a 68-inch TV, to golf, box, bowl, swing a tennis racket, and play baseball - providing an opportunity to get back into a game that an elder may have abandoned as they aged, to pick up a game they'd never played before, and to get some all important exercise. (And another all important: a reason to come out of their rooms and socialize.)

While the Nintendo was designed for entertainment, apparently a number of folks have jumped on it. With its motion-detection device, it's a natural for physical training, rehab, and just plain old exercise.

For Nintendo, giving the  Wii's to retirement communities is good business:

"Our strategy is making sure it's in the right place for the elderly to touch and feel the Wii for themselves," said Perrin Kaplan , a Nintendo vice president: "Our target is everyone from 5 to 95."

That upward limit is a market that Nintendo (and other gamers) have had a hard time reaching, and one they hadn't anticipated as anything that the Wii would appeal to. Wii "lets users create virtual characters to represent themselves, does not include white as a hair-color option." Nintendo had tried designing mental puzzles for the elderly, but it now seems the "killer app" for the seniors is going to be exercise. (Hmmm, maybe I should strike that term "killer app.")

Head's up marketing on Nintendo's part. It seems that they capitalized quickly on the Wii for exercise trend as it began emerging, and, as a result that can pretty easily extend their products into a new market. Not to mention benefit those folks who might have thought they'd never swing a golf club again. No, it's not quite the real thing, but that will change a bit as the simulations get better. Meanwhile, I'm guessing that Nintendo designers are picking shades of white and gray for those Wii avatars right now.

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