Plugged In

Nintendo sees future in ‘non-wearable’ health technology

Plugged In

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(Credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Nintendo hit pay dirt with health-focused games like Wii Fit and Brain Age, but those titles were apparently just the start of a much bigger plan.

During a financial briefing in Japan Thursday night, the struggling game maker announced plans to create a new platform centered around ‘non-wearable’ health monitoring.

President Satoru Iwata, facing increased criticism after the company reported earnings far below initial expectations, said Nintendo plans to increase its corporate focus on increasing the ‘quality of life’ through entertainment. And that could be a guiding theme for the next 10 years.

Nintendo will eschew popular wearable tech products like FitBit or Nike Fuel bands and instead build some sort of system that will run self-help apps. That's about all the detail Iwata was willing to give at this point, but he hinted that the device might not be something that sits in the living room. He added the company will reveal details of the new business concept this year, with plans to launch it in the fiscal year that ends March 2016 (suggesting a possible holiday 2015 debut).

"[Nintendo is] considering themes that we have not incorporated to games for our existing platforms," he said. "Our new business domain would be providing preventive measures which would require us to enable people to monitor their health and offer them appropriate propositions."

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Nintendo's weird plan (Credit: Nintendo)

Mario mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto added the company is currently building a "flagship title" to demonstrate the power of this new platform.

It's a curious turn for Nintendo, which is desperately searching for its next "Blue Ocean” -- a large, untapped consumer base. The strategy was the guiding principle behind the Wii.

Beyond its ambitions in the fitness market, Nintendo also discussed other future plans. Iwata says the company has no intention of abandoning the home console business and will instead double its efforts to make the Wii U more appealing, through firmware updates (including one that will speed up game load times), better marketing and better software.

To address that last point, Iwata announced that Mario Kart 8 will be released in May.

Nintendo has also set up a "small, select team of developers" to explore the smartphone space. While Iwata has previously stated the company had no plans to license its extensive character library to other systems, he seemed to soften on that a bit, saying that while there were no plans for Nintendo mobile games, they had not been ruled out, either.

"I have not given any restrictions to the development team, even not ruling out the possibility of making games or using our game characters," he said. "However, if you report that we will release Mario on smart devices, it would be a completely misleading statement. It is our intention to release some application on smart devices this year that is capable of attracting consumer attention and communicating the value of our entertainment offerings, so I would encourage you to see how our approach yields results."

Nintendo’s stock dipped about 6% on Thursday.

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