Nintendo might be on the verge of reinventing itself once again: The Japanese company is currently best known as a gaming giant, but in its storied history (which dates back to 1889), it has run taxis, sold instant rice and more. Now, Nintendo is aiming to build out its health division, adding more details to a plan announced back in January for a so-called “Quality of Life” platform with the revelation that it’s building a sleep and fatigue tracking system to encourage healthy rest habits for users.
The device was announced by Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata on Thursday, and will be created in partnership with U.S. company ResMed, a specialist manufacturer of sleep disorder treatment products. The product will be unrelated to gaming specifically, and will be roughly the size of a hand and designed for use on a bedside table, where it will use microwave sensors to monitor sleep data throughout the night, and then interpret said data to provide tips on how to get a better night’s rest.
Nintendo’s efforts here aren’t about gaming in this instance: this is the first device of a newly developed healthcare division within the company. Iwata didn’t discuss sales expectations or further plans for the division, saying only that Nintendo will “only start something new if we think we will be able to create a big market,” according to Reuters.
The product may be made available on a subscription basis, rather than as a singular sale, which means that Nintendo is planning to make its health division a source of recurring revenue via the Quality of Life platform. And while it’s separate from the gaming business, that doesn’t mean it’s not bringing its unique experience to the healthcare side: Iwata said their gaming pedigree means Nintendo can “create something fun” out of sleep and fatigue analysis.
Nintendo will be entering the health tracking and analysis market at a time when users are provided with lots of options on that front, including from Apple and Google. But Nintendo has a lot of experience in this market, having created pedometer devices for its mobile game consoles for years now, before even the popularity of wearable fitness trackers like the Jawbone UP. It also created the Wii Fit to encourage healthy video game play, and continues to produce health-related gaming devices.
It’s early days to say whether or not this shift by Nintendo is a wise move – and the company’s most recent earnings results suggest things in the gaming department may not be entirely grim, but diversification will help it protect its long-term interests. Now, how about bringing a REAL Pokémon game to iOS and Android?