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Aug 2006

Touch Generations: Fun on the Run for Busy People

While video game technology is going through a sort of coming-of-age, some experts feel there’s been a clear decline in video game innovation. One of the biggest problems with today’s most popular games is the time it takes to play them. Many potential players are lost because their agendas are already full. This is the gap Nintendo intends to fill with its “Touch Generations” line; a series of games launched a few months ago, which are designed for the occasional player.

Brain Age, Nintendo’s current flagship product, is a strange game that is equals parts sudoku puzzle, memory and math exercise. The game is supposed to be a sort of brain training program that was inspired by the work of Ryuta Kawashima, a Japanese cerebral imaging expert. While its scientific origins are impressive, the game also boasts a quality that is all too rare these days: players can enjoy the game, even if they only have a few minute to play it on the fly.

Nintendo’s people have understood that there’s a good market for quality games that don’t require players to set aside extended playing time. I myself opted for the portable Nintendo console, and I’m not alone. Nintendo has already sold 21 million of these devices. The games maker seems to have grasped its user’s needs. They aren’t interested in a portable Grand Theft Auto. They would rather have a game that does the job in 20 minutes or less.

This console and its games have been successful for a few key reasons:

  • The games are simple, which keeps learning to a minimum.
  • The instructions are straightforward and can even be skipped.
  • The game itself can be accessed in a matter of seconds, as it loads almost instantly, and there’s practically nothing to configure.
  • Game information is often saved automatically, reducing the number of user prompts.
  • The console can be put into sleep mode (on pause) by simply lowering the upper panel. To return to the game, simply raise it again.
  • The combination of stylus and touch screen makes is easy for people who “fear” buttons and joysticks to interact with the system. This approach is particularly appropriate for puzzle-style game.

Overall, this is an excellent example of human factors in action: designers took users’ real needs, developed a product that’s easy to use and has their needs in mind…and are generating lots of profit!

Now who could argue against that kind of strategy?

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