Is Nintendo Using Conscious Capitalism?

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.

14 thoughts on “Is Nintendo Using Conscious Capitalism?

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  1. This is a really great post, and it is wonderful to see a company such as Nintendo taking important steps in the right direction. However, as much as I think the Wii is 154 times better than previous gaming systems, this is still only addressing half of a serious problem. Spending family time with a Wii is definitely better than other games or TV, and the activity offered by the Wii is certainly better than sitting around doing nothing. But no gaming system can replicate the immense health benefits that come from getting fresh air. And swinging a wand is not as good as getting genuine exercise playing whatever sport the Wii is trying to replicate.

    I do believe that Nintendo is making great progress, and in no way do I want to suggest that the Wii does not offer many important benefits that previous gaming systems lacked. I just feel that if we accept the Wii as a solution rather than an aid we will be no better off.

  2. Sure, the Wii is not a solution to social ailments, and I don't think I suggested that. It is certainly a conscious move toward a healthier approach to gaming. And people who otherwise would not are seeing real health benefits from the Wii, as well as improved social time, which I see as a boon. We are better off with the Wii alone, but it is also creating an enthusiasm for a more active lifestyle, which I think will have lasting and meaningful cultural impact.

  3. This is a really great post, and it is wonderful to see a company such as Nintendo taking important steps in the right direction. However, as much as I think the Wii is 154 times better than previous gaming systems, this is still only addressing half of a serious problem. Spending family time with a Wii is definitely better than other games or TV, and the activity offered by the Wii is certainly better than sitting around doing nothing. But no gaming system can replicate the immense health benefits that come from getting fresh air. And swinging a wand is not as good as getting genuine exercise playing whatever sport the Wii is trying to replicate.

    I do believe that Nintendo is making great progress, and in no way do I want to suggest that the Wii does not offer many important benefits that previous gaming systems lacked. I just feel that if we accept the Wii as a solution rather than an aid we will be no better off.

  4. Sure, the Wii is not a solution to social ailments, and I don't think I suggested that. It is certainly a conscious move toward a healthier approach to gaming. And people who otherwise would not are seeing real health benefits from the Wii, as well as improved social time, which I see as a boon. We are better off with the Wii alone, but it is also creating an enthusiasm for a more active lifestyle, which I think will have lasting and meaningful cultural impact.

  5. No, you hadn't suggested that the Wii is not a solution to social problems, I just cannot rest easily without acknowledging that fact. Plus it hadn't really occurred to me that there are people for whom the Wii could be an improvement in their physical and social activities. Must be something to do with living in a bubble without Ranch dressing……

  6. No, you hadn't suggested that the Wii is not a solution to social problems, I just cannot rest easily without acknowledging that fact. Plus it hadn't really occurred to me that there are people for whom the Wii could be an improvement in their physical and social activities. Must be something to do with living in a bubble without Ranch dressing……

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