The Organizational Strategist

March 31, 2010

Assessing Nintendo’s Strategic Move into Schools

Filed under: Strategy, Technology — Tags: , , , — Whit @ 10:29 pm


Recently in one of the news feeds that I monitor, I saw that Nintendo plans on expanding its offerings to include educational materials. CBS News has the article here. You may be thinking, “That seems odd. Nintendo makes video games with plumbers getting super-sized from touching magic mushrooms.” The strategy Nintendo is taking does seem like a huge departure, at first. However, the move into the educational realm looks to be a new strong offering in Nintendo’s market portfolio.


-Nintendo Strategy Analysis-

Strategy is the alignment of resources and capabilities to win in the market. Strategy can be done at an entire organizational level or to less encompassing levels like on a product or service level. Nintendo has the brain power, technical prowess, brand recognition, and more which makes it a competitive and profitable player in the video game industry. A vital question when evaluating entering into a new market space is if the new market is a logical fit with the organization’s current resources and capabilities. If there are gaps or risks, then steps should be taken to supplement or cultivate the new resources or capabilities needed to then win in the new market. An organization that is considering entering into an entirely new market space is akin to an idea coming out of the Futurist Horizon from the 3 Horizon’s of Growth.

Since I am an outside reviewer of this strategic approach, my knowledge is limited to what I know of the company and its recent progress. The employee level knowledge of the underpinnings of execution, internal alignment, and leadership vision are unknown. What can be addressed are the logical needs of the educational market space and comparing that to what is known of Nintendo.

Nintendo is planning on using its DS platform to bring forth educational games. That answers one of my initial questions of what would be the method that Nintendo will use to deliver the educational games. Thus Nintendo already has the technical prowess, supply chain, and other elements in place to deliver those systems to both the video game market and the educational market.

Another avenue of interest would be to know if Nintendo is capable of creating the right kind of software content in its games to be appealing to the users and actually provide educational value. Reaching and bringing in different demographics of users (different genders, younger to older) has been a strength of Nintendo. I remember hearing about the Nintendo Dogs game, a virtual pet game, and how that was not appealing to me. However, I kept hearing about its success with women, people my parent’s age, and players who like the animal games. A Forbes article highlights how Nintendo has had great success with its 2006 Brain Age game and how there was a study done by the government of Scotland  that indicated math scores did, in fact, increase after using the game over time. In a Nintendo World Report article, a reputable game design company, Intelligent Systems, the creator of acclaimed Fire Emblem game, has plans to make vocabulary enhancing offerings in mid-March this year. Also, another Nintendo World Report article reports that McDonald’s restaurants in Japan will be using the DS system to train employees. These findings show that Nintendo has the potential for creating games that fit the needs of many different kinds of users and has the means to deliver the material effectively.

Taking into account these glimpses into Nintendo’s offerings and activity, the strategy to expand into the educational space seems to fit. There are documented results indicating success, positive movement with initial products like Brain Age, which may have been a pilot to test the market, and a reach through the DS system to users of many ages.

-Considerations for Implementation-

In pondering Nintendo’s strategy and how to help make it effective as Nintendo’s offerings grow in this space, I came up with the following ideas:

  • Partner with teachers, administrators, parents and other important stakholders: These groups are gatekeepers into spending for educational efforts in class and at home. By actively engaging these stakeholder groups to find out what learning goals or curriculum aids are most needed, Nintendo’s games can be made to best fit those needs. At a larger scale, partnership with politicians, government agencies and more would be of immense benefit.
  • Start with the low hanging fruit: Japan is a good market to start in due to the high saturation of Nintendo products. When expanding into other geographies, find out the areas that are already familiar with the Nintendo brand and utilize a lot of technology in daily life. This will help make the new technological use in educational systems easily accepted. Building on success creates momentum and makes it easier to progress.
  • Continue to track and measure success: Academic circles are heavily influenced by metrics and continual learning. The case study done by Scotland’s government is a good start to this effort.
  • Expand in areas that can augment and complement the DS offerings: The Wii system, as an example, allows for at-home, multiplayer engagement and easy downloads. Making educational family games would be a good way to keep the learning happening and bring the whole family in to help the students.



Nintendo may be new to the educational space, but has been making solid steps to build its own resources and capabilities. Early indicators of success make this strategic plan appear feasible. It will be interesting to see if characters like the famous plumbers will become an every-day classroom appearance or not.


Nintendo to put consoles in schools:

3 Horizons of Growth:

Forbes article on Nintendo’s Brainy Strategy:

Fire Emblem company makes vocabulary games:


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