Is Nintendo Taking A Big Step Towards Edutainment?

By Spencer . March 20, 2009 . 1:45pm

nin1 After capturing an expanded audience of senior citizens and adults that love Wii Sports you have to wonder who Nintendo plans on targeting next. A patent filed today in the USA shows one scenario. This patent is for a system of games designed for young children, defined by Nintendo as toddlers and pre-kindergartners, and/or people with disabilities.

 

Nintendo plans on capturing this market with a series of easy to control edutainment software that emphasizes skills like number recognition, color identification, reading/writing, and sound recognition.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the example games Nintendo has in the application. These are by no means final. They are concepts Nintendo may modify, expand on or never use.

 

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An animal matching game which teaches children about animals and how to interact with them. Players click on the shadows and try to discern which sound which animal makes.

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A number matching game designed to teach kids to count. Mario actually speaks in this game with sound bytes to announce the numbers.

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A letter matching game designed to teach children the basics of spelling. In this example the apple, ant, and alligator all start with “A” so the player should pick A. A variation of this game might have players pick a letter for the object that does not belong in a group.

 

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A memory or concentration game. The example has Pikachu cards that say his catch phrase “Pika Pika” connecting the TV show with the game. Match two Pikachus and you win. In you match Pikachu with a non-Pikachu tile he gets shocked!

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A maze game that could have puzzles as roadblocks leading to the exit.

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A matching game designed to teach children the shape of objects. The sailboat has a triangular mast so it links with the triangle. The dump truck has circular wheels and the jack-in-the-box is made of square faces.

 

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Nintendo also wants to use their system to educate children about daily tasks. The player character, in this case Mario, is on his day off from saving the Mushroom Kingdom in his house doing ordinary tasks.

 

This game acts as a life simulation of sorts where a player helps Mario as he’s waking up to make his bed. Motion control will be used to emulate grabbing the sheet and smoothing wrinkles with a slow horizontal motion. Nintendo emphasizes they want to use familiar characters and specifically mention familiar Nintendo characters, television and/or licensed cartoon characters like Pikachu, Dora the Explorer, and Bob the Builder as examples.

 

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A personal care mini-game where you learn about hygiene and help Mario brush his teeth. This mini-game sounds rather elaborate since Nintendo wants to record the inclination angle of the remote and the speed to determine which teeth you’re brushing and how effective you are.

 

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A family interaction game where players walk into a library and “meet” their parent to read a book. In theory, parents will play this game with their kids and read the “book” when text appears on the screen.

 

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In this animal care game you interact with a virtual pet by feeding it with the right food, petting it, bathing it, checking for ticks, etc.

 

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A gardening game with horticultural lessons. Look out Gardening Mama!

 

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A game centered around a family outing like going to a zoo to learn about animals. Another outing takes players to an amusement park to learn about safety gravity. A camping game teaches wilderness survival skills with mini-games like making a fire.

 

Nintendo believes these games or learning tools will help young children develop skills. Forget the “Nintendo abandoned core gamers” mantra for a second and think if this plan will work. A long time ago Sega tried to grab the young children demographic with the Pico which had a drawing board. That didn’t work so well, but Nintendo has an elaborate edutainment plan with multiple concept games. Can they capture another audience for the Wii with this strategy?


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  • http://whatistheexcel.com James A. Calwell III

    I haven’t seen that classic Mario in years.

  • JeremyR

    Heh, I wonder how many other patent applications have “Mooo” in them

  • http://whatistheexcel.com James A. Calwell III

    Never mind that. Mario looks all too eager to do lord knows what to that cow. Poor cow.

    • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

      No kidding. Figure 7 is borderline rule 34.

    • http://twitter.com/matty_125 matty

      Yep. I don’t know what Mario is planning, but it’s unwise to run behind towards a cow like that.

  • Mr Smith

    I think Nintendo should ignore the kids on the internet calling for all these ‘core’ games, they are onto a winner.

    If Nintendo can take and hold the family entertainment area of videogames they will be set for a very long time.

    • Mr. Persona

      I agree.

  • Sean Connery

    “mooo!”

    That’s the sound your mother made last night!

  • daizyujin

    My main concern with this would be that Vtech has kinda cornered this market with the Vsmile. If I wanted to buy my kid some kind of edutainment game system, those are far cheaper and the software is as well. Perhaps it would do well in Japan, but considering a person can get a Vsmile for around $40 now and the games sell for around $15-$20 I think Nintendo may have a hard time competing with that.

    • MadMirko

      Depends and pricing and quality of the Nintendo titles, I guess. I’d like to think that a Nintendo developed children’s game would be of high quality, on pricing I’m not so sure. On one hand the regular Wii titles are not as cheap as the stuff from Vtech, WiiWare titles on the other hand are.

      Anyway, shaping the tastes of the gamer of tomorrow is a sound long-term business strategy.

      • daizyujin

        You are right. Also for people that already own a Wii but not another edutainment system this is a perfect idea. The only thing is I just can’t see a parent that wants to buy a purely edutainment system considering the Wii at $250 when the Vsmile is ony $40.

        One other thing about the software, I seriously doubt Nintendo will license all the large IP that Vtech does either. A $20 game with Mickey Mouse on the front of it is probably more likely to sell than a $40 game with the word Wii in the title.

  • Mazen

    This the most obvious patent I’ve seen ever, Edutainment sales really effected Nintendo’s long term output it seems they are making their talents busy with such things :( its just feels like these Edutainment sales have kidnaped my childhood Nintendo .
    Hopefully Nintendo will prove me wrong at E3.

    • AM Kat

      Nintendo is doing their own now. (which is good)
      So you might as well move on and buy another console. (PS3,XB360 or PC, which isn’t a console)
      Besides, Nintendo doesn’t owe you or anyone else anything.
      They can do whatever the hell they want.

      Grow up Nintendo fans. It’s time.

      • Mazen

        Who said they owe us anything?, also am sure they will not abandon the gaming fan base they build through the 20 or so years, with time they will balance things to an OK degree I think.

        also am happy that they make more money in one year than all video games/cpnsoles publishers in the world (Japanese or westerns) combined (even Microsoft game division and Sony game division),
        one year profit of Nintendo equal few years profit from all of them combined if you think it that way this is a legendary company even more Nintendo of Japan have only 1000 employee.

      • Methanie

        Without their fans they are nothing

        Shame on them…

        Kids can go to school

      • daizyujin

        Nice flamebait man. He never said that they owed him anything. ;)

  • Tatsu

    Edutainment isn’t anything new for Nintendo, you guys know this. (From Mario Teaches Typing, to Mario is Missing, to Donkey Kong Jr Math…) They seem to have taken quite a break from all that though; the last one I can think of came out during the SNES era.

    I imagine this will be more appealing to parents than the vsmile if they already own a wii. Tons of older people do (thanks to wii sports, wii fit…), so now really is the most strategic time for N to bring back their edutainment.

  • macrumpton

    How is this remotely patentable? It looks exactly like 100 other edutainment computer games with the exception of using the wimote instead of the mouse.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      It’s the system of using the remote on the specific games Nintendo is attempting to patent. Not the overall idea of edutainment. It sounds a bit strange, but in patent law it would be considered an “improvement” on an idea, perhaps enough according to patent attorneys to be original.

      • daizyujin

        Spencer is right. If patent law was written correctly, this plus most of the other stupid and vague patents wouldn’t be able to be enforced. Unfortunatly the patent office accepts things that would seem rudimentary to almost anybody, thus all of the frivolous lawsuits you see over ridiculous things like controller rumble and online game services.

        • jarrodand

          It’s been broken a long time. Patenting game concepts really started in the mid 1990s with Sega (3D camera change) and Namco (loading screen retro games). Nintendo’s been relatively late to the party actually.

          • daizyujin

            Absolutely, you are right. Nintendo isn’t even close to the worst and in a lot of ways they have been a victim of this setup. I still have read the case about immersion over and over and can’t really see how somebody could say such a rudimentary idea is patentable.

            Some of these patents seem to fall into the “put a couch in a room with a tv” scenario, which is interestingly enough not able to be enforced in a lot of other countries. Part of the problem with our patent system is that instead of protecting a way of doing something, they protect in effect the ability to do it at all. This is the key problem IMHO. Saying that you need to find your own way to do something is one thing, saying that you can’t do something at all is ludicrous.

  • f

    omg

  • U kidding me???

    Since when has Nintendo’s primary target been core gamers???? Are you joking?? I mean, they were a freaking TOY maker before they entered the videogames business! The Japanese names of the Nes and Super NES were Famicom (short for family computer!!!) and Super Famicom for Christ’s sake… In the beginning, they considered video games to be just another toy for kids!!

    It’s really OBVIOUS Nintendo has targeted children and families since the beginning anyway… What is hardcore about Mario?? Pokémon?? Zelda?? Link is depicted as a Teen in Ocarina and Twilight only because westerners don’t like the cute cartoony style, but the Japanese market (which is mostly casual) favors the cute Windwaker artstyle, and the inspiration for Link IS Peter Pan, that well known piece of hardcore adult’s literature (sarcasm)…

    Animal Crossing?? The only Nintendo franchise I can think of which targets core gamers is Metroid.

    And core gamers play mostly on PC in Japan anyway, consoles are mostly casual. Maybe in the US they (Nintendo) tried to pretend their games were hardcore, but in Japan, they ALWAYS targeted children and families. They have been doing the kind of advertising they recently do in the US or Europe, in Japan, since the NES era! They just started doing it more, and stopped pretending their target was teen boys in the US, when it’s children and families in general.

    Seriously, hardcore games are the kinds of games which have a 200 page long instruction manual and are insanely difficult, unlike Nintendo games.

    People…

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