Tonight I recieved a new newsletter from Zaadz, a social networking site that encouraces conscious capitalism. “How to make money, change the world, and live happily ever after…” lays out a vision of a movement from a knowledge economy to a values economy. You can read more there about the great potential we have to create genuine and lasting change in the world with conscious capitalism, but I want to focus on a company that may be a surprise leader in this emergence.
Nintendo has made huge strides in the past few years to change an industry in a positive and conscious way. With their DS and Wii systems, they are pushing gaming out of the narrow confines of mere entertainment and fostering social, mental and bodily interaction that the video gaming world hasn’t known.
The first breakthrough came when the video game industry came under criticism for not aiding the development of young people and otherwise failing to provide social good, notably from neuroscientist Dr. Kawashima. Rather than ignore or deny the criticism, Nintendo embraced the challenge and brought Dr. Kawashima on board to develop Brain Age, a game for the portable system DS that promotes cognitive health.
Nintendo’s next system, the Wii (as in We space), has become an unprecidented sales success by appealing to a wide demographic that transcends age, gender and other divisions gaming usually is unable to. This new system is more social than its competitors, more family-friendly without alienating avid gamers and is focused on innovative play, which includes a new level of physical activity fostered by the Wiimote.
The Wii encourages players to physically play in games. In Wii Sports players use real movements to swing a tennis racket or throw a bowling ball, rather than sitting still and pressing buttons. In an era when obesity and lack of physical activity is rampant and a huge problem, this may be one of the greatest social goods any entertainment company has produced; kids and adults are having a ton of fun while becoming more active.
And Nintendo is running with this push to make gaming healthier. Nintendo announced this week that it will release a new controller, the Wii Balance Board, that senses body movement for the Wii Fit product. Now aerobics, yoga, other exercises and games with full body motions will be key features of Nintendo’s offerings.
Not only is Nintendo pushing mental and physical health, the Wii is causing a decrease in television watching. Families and other groups in Japan are choosing to spend time with the Wii rather than watching television, with ratings dropping as more homes acquire Wiis.
With the most innovative and affordable system of this generation, Nintendo is on course to be the leader of the market. While the Microsoft and Sony behemoths are stuck trying to create mere entertainment hubs, Nintendo has reinvented itself as a lifestyle company. It has embraced gaming as a positive cultural force and is injecting new value and better values into the industry. While doing this it is still creating games of the caliber it has been known for over the course of generations.
So, is Nintendo a new global leader in conscious capitalism? I would venture to say yes. Nintendo is enjoying tremendous financial, critical and popular success and at the same time is having a real impact on the quality of life of millions of people around the globe. Nintendo is doing good, creating social value, and doing well financially. Zaadz claims this is the future of business, and I’m inclined to agree. Value and values are a potent pair, as Nintendo is proving.