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Senior Citizens: Wii's Growing Gaming Community

By Danny Davids(13,494) Danny Davids

Posted Thursday, December 06, 2007
View All Blog Posts submitted by Danny Davids

"Wii would like to play," the two Japanese men say as they bow politely to the camera, Wii game system and controllers firmly in hand.  Cut to teenaged girls playing the latest Mario game, followed by a family embroiled in a fishing competition, then a group of senior citizens playing bowling, and finally some young...wait a minute, back up there.  Senior citizens?  Playing video games?  What was Nintendo thinking when they put this commercial on the air?

Actually, they were thinking of appealing to the surprising high-growth market of older Americans, who more and more are picking up controllers and playing along with their kids and grandkids and even great-grandkids.  The numbers bear out the amazing truth:  In 1999, nine percent of people over age 50 played video games.  In 2007, the number rose to 24 percent.  Considering that the baby boomer generation in the U. S. is starting to enter retirement, the percentages translate into huge numbers of people that Nintendo is aggressively seeking out.

The problem with older Americans and video games is twofold:  Today's games are too complicated, and there aren't any games geared towards seniors' interests.  Nintendo decided to address those issues, starting with the release in 2006 of the Nintendo DS game "Brain Age".  The combination of mental challenge and hand-eye coordination was a hit with the silver and gold generations.  Now with the Wii, Nintendo has incorporated a series of games--including tennis, baseball, and bowling--into their initial game offering which can be enjoyed by young and old alike, because the motions required to play the console game are similar to the ones you make when playing the real game.

The interest in the Wii is not lost on the organizations that help care for aging Americans.  Last October, at the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging in Orlando, Florida, the Nintendo booth was the busiest one in the conference.  Places like retirement communities and nursing homes are using grants to purchase the Nintendo devices for their clients, encouraging use by holding gaming tournaments complete with prizes for the winners.  Nintendo emphasizes the health benefits for seniors, pointing out that the Wii is a more active entertainment solution, and therefore more physically and mentally stimulating, than playing bingo.  And Nintendo is planning on releasing more games that appeal to this growing sector of the market.

The only problem?  For some strange reason, the older generation is less adaptable to change.  Some senior centers report that even after purchasing the devices, holding demos, and even holding classes on how to use the equipment, participation is slow.  Not to worry, though.  As baby boomers who immersed themselves fully in the Computer Age find themselves joining the Golden Age, the trepidation towards playing games will decrease.  At least that's what Nintendo and other gaming manufacturers are hoping.  There's nothing more they'd like to see than seniors spending their children's inheritance on the latest Wii console and a few games.

This Blog Post has been read 431 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Thursday, December 06, 2007
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