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Nintendo -- seniors enjoy, so what are they doing right?

I am trying to understand whether Nintendo intends to expand its cognitive fitness and exercise offerings into the senior market or whether its success is accidental.  Here is a response I received when querying Nintendo about their plans for targeting seniors: "Nintendo’s goal is to expand the world of video games to new audiences, so while we were not focusing on seniors exclusively, we wanted to make a system that could be played by everyone in the family, from 5 to 95.  It is exciting to see that it's been such a big hit in senior centers and think it's resonated with them for a number of reasons.  First, Wii features intuitive motion controls. Anyone can pick it up and start playing instantly, regardless of their age or prior experience with gaming. Second, games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit are more active and get people up off the couch and moving. That’s important for seniors."

However, previous news articles quoted Nintendo of America exec, George Harrison as saying that "Nintendo started pursuing seniors in 2006 with the launch of its Nintendo DS "Brain Age" game, which the company says stimulates cognitive abilities. The idea to reach out to seniors originated in Japan, where the population is aging more rapidly than in the United States, says George Harrison, senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications with Nintendo of America. "We had to approach people who were not previously video-gamers," he says."

Nintendo in the US wants to build the senior percentage of its customer base: "Twenty-four percent of Americans over age 50 played video games in 2007, up from 9% in 1999, according to the Entertainment Software Association. People age 55 and older account for less than 10% of Nintendo hardware sales. That's a slight increase from about four years ago, when the previous generation of game consoles peaked, Harrison says. Seniors have "opened up the aperture of people who previously would've not considered themselves to be gamers," he says. Nintendo has been bolstering its senior-friendly image, partnering with retirement communities, including Erickson, which has received 15 free Wiis."

You might ask, why bother chasing this down, what difference does it make, whether this is purposeful marketing or an accidental success. Here's why.  Nintendo is doing well with this offering. What about their approach can be translated to and imitated by others trying to reach the senior market directly or through senior living communities? What are the next offerings that will capitalize on this growing interest?  What do they expect the growth rate to be?  Last but not least, is this good (or as good as it gets) for seniors? Reading this article on a longitudinal study of aging made me wonder about senior centers and ALFs -- keeping seniors amused is not the same as cultivating curiosity and learning.

More when there's more.



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