Nintendo is planning to promote the health benefits of its Wii games console, according to executives.
The move could open new markets for the Japanese manufacturer, which has seen its products criticised for allegedly causing injury and damage from overenthusiastic use.
Nintendo has even been accused of being responsible for a type of repetitive strain injury dubbed 'Nintendonitis' by doctors.
The company hopes that making the Wii the centre of a healthcare program will attract new users and encourage them to use the console every day.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told journalists at Tokyo's Foreign Correspondents' Club that the new health-focused games would be more likely to attract older players and women.
Nintendo is attempting to market the Wii to people who do not traditionally play video games, as well as attracting experienced gamers.
This strategy has been forced on Nintendo by the need to compete for market share with its two much larger rivals, Sony and Microsoft.
Nintendo's Wii is cheaper than Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360, but tries to make up in innovation what it lacks in power.
The company is developing games for the Wii based around a physical exercise regime, according to statements Iwata made to Bloomberg in August.
Some Japanese media reports have speculated that the company may also be developing bio-feedback add-ons for the console, such as a blood pressure, heart rate and pulse rate monitors. Nintendo has not confirmed these reports.
A series of 'brain training' games developed by Nintendo has had great success over the past two years and has been widely imitated. The Brain Age game has sold more than four million copies worldwide.
Nintendo's marketing implies that the games can improve intelligence and mental agility, although the firm has been careful to make no medical claims to this effect, describing the games as "entertainment products".
Making claims of medical benefit could open products to costly legal liability cases and to scrutiny from strict medical regulatory bodies.
The health benefits of a small number of games which reward great physical exertion, such as Dance Dance Revolution, have been known for some time.
However, Nintendo's new 'Wiimote' controller encourages this more active style of play in many games, so active in fact that gamers have been injured and TVs broken during use.
"Ironically, the very enemy that is often blamed for being a major factor in the obesity epidemic is now being used to help in this fight: video games," said Dr Ernie Medina, a researcher into the use of so-called 'exergaming' as tool to fight obesity.
Nintendo Wii can 'keep you healthy'
By Simon Burns on Dec 12, 2006 9:46AM