The Elderly Are the End

James argues how targeting elderly gamers could be a mistake for Nintendo.

By James Stank. Posted 09/10/2010 10:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of Nintendojo as a whole or any of its affiliates.

Everyone seems to make a big deal about senior citizens becoming casual gamers, but they are making a big deal over nothing. While Nintendo is currently enjoying success in part due to elderly gamers, what is going to happen in 10 years? Elderly people won’t be able to continue to buy games, as they won’t be living that long. How many games do you think the average senior citizen is going to buy? One, maybe two? With Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort as pack-ins, maybe none. In fact, do you know any elderly people that own a Wii? I don’t. I have heard many stories about them playing at a retirement center or a nursing home, but never have I heard of them owning a Wii themselves.

So is grandma going to kick your ass? No. My Gram played bowling with me once, and while she wasn’t doing bad (score wise), she had no idea what she was doing. Half the time she couldn’t even throw the ball. I know that doesn’t only go for her. I’ve seen other senior citizens play Wii, and I don’t think you can actually call that gaming. They don’t know what they are doing, and are more surprised about the shiny, glowing colors than they are about playing the game itself.

No, instead of releasing a system specifically tailored to elderly gamers, Nintendo should focus more on younger ones. Gamers that will actually be able to grow up with Nintendo, not just die with it. You may say that they are doing that now, but I will strongly argue that they are not. While the DS and DSi may fit nicely into the hands of gamers that are over 15, it is large and cumbersome for Nintendo’s younger gamers. So why not release a smaller system specifically for the younger crowd? Sure, the screens will be smaller, but at least it will be more comfortable for them, and they won’t have to carry a huge system around with them. I’m sure a smaller DS wouldn’t only be a hit with younger gamers, but with many hardcore gamers as well.

Now, you may be thinking that Nintendo already has a “kiddie” image, but does it really? Can you name a single Nintendo game that has been released recently that is easy enough for a child to play through from start to finish? Super Mario Galaxy, New Super Mario Bros. Wii? Not a chance. Instead of making a bunch of brain training games for older gamers, why not a series of games that are meant for kids, top to bottom. Why not a Super Mario Bros. Junior, where a kid would actually be able to play through the whole game, as opposed to getting stuck at a level that is just too hard and never playing the game again?

Nintendo has a great idea with movies on the 3DS. Being able to watch Disney movies on the go is a great way to get kids interested in the system. But why not go a step further: there have been many special PSP bundles (Hannah Montana, Star Wars etc.) Why not have Disney-, Lego-, or Star Wars-themed DS systems as well? It would be a sure way to increase hardware sales, while getting younger gamers interested in the system as well. Right now, Nintendo’s image of Nintendo can be argued as that for senior citizens. But that is a mistake and Nintendo should strive to correct it. Nintendo’s image needs to be about children. Why? Because young gamers are the future of Nintendo. They will play Mario their entire lives, and then pass him on to their children and so forth. With senior citizens, Nintendo has found an oil field, but just as oil runs out, so too will Nintendo’s new audience.

Elderly gamers will pass on and be one less customer for Nintendo, having only played video games for a few years. But younger gamers who are introduced will become lifelong supporters and customers. Instead of Nintendo trying to get non-gaming adults to play games, they should be doing all they can to get a game system into the hands of every child they can. For with them, they will have a friend for life.

4 Responses to “The Elderly Are the End”

  • 360 points
    M. Noah Ward says...

    Creating an elderly games market and library provides a way for us to be gamers all our lives. We may all reach an age where the latest game system is beyond our physical capabilities, and if there are still simple, fun games or systems for us to play when we’re 95 (versus Hearts and Rummikub!), I think that’s great.

    Also, I really wish my grandparents were still around so that I could have played some Wii games with them. They may not have schooled me, but it would have been a fantastic way for us to spend a weekend evening here and there.

    You also neglected that New Super Mario Bros. Wii (and Galaxy 2) has its “Super Guide” feature to help new or young gamers get through tough levels and continue on. From these angles, I think Nintendo’s doing an admirable balancing act of trying to satisfy core gamers as well as create new gamers on both ends of the age spectrum.

  • 1379 points
    xeacons says...

    No one said Nintendo was going to “abandon” younger gamers to focus on older ones. And by allowing older generations to play games, that helps parents and grandparents to get involved with younger gamers.

    Right now, we’re in a major dispute with the whole “Schwarzenegger vs. EMA” Bill. This is the worst the “Violence in games” has gotten, all the way to the SCOTUS! Because old geezers aren’t gamers! Imagine this could have been prevented if we just could have gotten them to play (and I’m talking more than just the “Wii Games” series, maybe into games like Red Steel 2, or Trauma Center)!

  • 393 points
    James Stank says...

    It’s not the same. The minute I reach an age and am not physically able to play Zelda and Mario, do you think I’ll be content with Wii Sports and Brain Age? No, and neither will you. It is different for us as we have played games our whole lives. The elderly that play Wii right now have no idea of what a good or bad game is.

    Saying the elderly can play games is like saying a 2 year old can type on a computer. All they do is swing, and smash with no real idea of what they are doing. I know that everyone is different, but I’d say the majority of hardcore gamers would not want to play with their grandparents, and I’d be one of them.

  • 702 points
    Matthew Tidman says...

    The thing with younger gamers is that Nintendo already gets those because of the older gamers who play the systems. There’s often a trickle-down effect where teenage gamers get a new system and pass their old one on to a younger sibling/relative/friend. From a business standpoint it doesn’t make sense to target a market that you already own.

    Also: “The elderly that play Wii right now have no idea of what a good or bad game is.” Neither does the four-year-old who ask his or her parents to get him or her the latest Dora The Explorer game.

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