Iwata QOL

Since its initial cryptic reveal in January 2014, Nintendo's Quality of Life platform has been a source of concern for some loyal fans. It's since been revealed that the first QoL project will be a sleep sensor, a wireless device that will track sleep patterns and - with accompanying tools and software - will help users to improve their habits and related health.

While that's unlikely to get many of Nintendo's loyal fans hot under the collar in anticipation, the company is keen to move into the Health field to expand its business and apply its expertise outside of games. While there's concern that this will detract from its gaming hardware and software, Satoru Iwata took the opportunity - in the recent investor Q & A - to highlight that the project is separate from gaming within the company's organisation. He said the following after explaining how various game-related departments had been brought closer together in recent years.

The QOL (Quality of Life) project, however, is slightly different. As we had to create a new project and new business model, we formed an independent team called the QOL Business Development Department. In other words, we created a permanent project team in the form of a new department. People assembled from four divisions to create this department and it reports directly to me. I think that is all I can share with you about the development structure at this moment.

Later in the briefing Satoru Iwata went into great detail about the emergence of QoL. He dismisses the notion that Nintendo is simply a games company, and highlights how evolution and innovation can have a major impact in society, citing the use of the accelerometer in the Wii Remote. It's a lengthy statement from Iwata-san, but worth reading.

For any video games, it is also very important to encourage the players to continue something. I think all the game players can agree that they voluntarily continue their mission because of the rewards they can receive in the form of output as a result of their input. In that regard, Nintendo has been going through a form of severe training to get into shape. So, how can we take advantage of such strengths? How can we leverage our ability to create something brand new by creating both hardware and software, which we are also good at? What will be the new course that we can take by using our strengths? By repeatedly asking these questions, we started to review the possibilities and concluded that we should first make a proposal related to "health" and the theme of "sleep" and "fatigue" because we would be able to capitalize on our strengths. Let me assure you that Nintendo is not trying to distance itself from video games. We have never ever lost our passion for video games and will continue to make them. On the other hand, if people inside the company think that Nintendo is a company which cannot make anything other than video games, and believe that video game controllers remain a certain way because that is the way they have been for 30 years, video games should be created in a certain way or video games must start with a tutorial, end in a particular way and have a lot of hard-at-work elements in between, a high mental wall would stand in front of us when we tried to create a brand new video game genre with which many people would be amazed or when we try to create an unprecedented user interface that pleasantly surprises people. I have been constantly asking myself whether being bound by such ideas really does us any good when we are actually required to think out of the box and have a broader perspective, so we have redefined our definition of entertainment as "things which improve people's QOL in enjoyable ways" and encouraged our developers to take on this challenge. As a result, just as I expected, people started to make various proposals. I cannot elaborate on anything new today as these proposals are yet to take on a concrete shape, but people inside the company have started to make proposals by asking me whether they are in line with the company's vision. This is something Nintendo has to keep on doing for the long run. Our strategy for the next 10 years is to change the definition of entertainment and expand the area that Nintendo can do business in, and with this strategy, I believe we can capitalize on our strengths.

For your information, the primary reason why we chose "health" as our first QOL project is due to the fact that a large number of people are interested in their health. Also, while people in general understand what we should do to improve our health, it is hard for many of us to continue these good practices. As the Japanese expression goes, "Most people tend to quit after three days." Many of us are concerned with not being able to continue something even though we recognize its importance for our health. There are several reasons for this such as something cannot be continued when it is hard to do in the first place. Another is that good things cannot be continued if you do not receive any feedback or rewards. Yet other things cannot be continued because we cannot find the motivation or the connection that will encourage us to continue it to the next level. There are many different reasons, but for most of them, video games can provide a solution. Inside Nintendo, people have the know-how that could contribute to society. This know-how and mastery would, however, mean nothing as long as they have the mindset that it is not part of their job. On the other hand, if they recognize that it is something they could do, Nintendo's output could dramatically change. At the same time, if an external company has new and interesting ideas but do not know how to use them, Nintendo could be the company for them to approach.

This is just an example, but the person who invented the accelerometer must not have imagined that it would be included in a remote and used to enjoy tennis. The inventor must have conceived a completely different objective. But Nintendo invented a completely different use for the accelerometer and, as a result, because there must be 200 million or so Wii Remotes in the world now, and with the economic and mass-production effect, we must have contributed to the fact that the accelerometer is included in a variety of different devices in the world today. As I said, it is just an example, but as this example shows, we cannot think about what the company can do too narrowly. In the next 10 years, the company will continue its efforts to expand the gaming population as our natural mission but, at the same time, for us to take the next step forward, it is of the utmost importance to us that we must not narrowly think about what we should do in order to expand the gaming population. I really wanted to get this message across at the Corporate Management Policy Briefing we held at the end of January 2014. Probably, partly because I failed to adequately explain at that time, however, the questioner must have asked about our current basic strategy today.

This emphasis on evolving the definition of entertainment, and moving to reassure those concerned at the company stepping away from games, has been a consistent theme. It's certainly fair to say that, to date, Nintendo hasn't reduced its output in games to focus on other areas.

It'll be interesting to see how Nintendo's business will evolve in the next decade, but we're pretty confident that video games will still be at the heart of the company's work.

[source nintendo.co.jp]