De-Japanized Wii

Nintendo Wii finally arrived in my home beginning of the month. As many of you probably know, this is pretty fun and addictive even for "non-gamers" like me. It’s been giving me sore muscles.

Although I was quite familiar with this kind of sensor based immersive controller technology, I am still surprised by the well-made and cleverly inclusive software.

Especially Wii Fit is a fascinating application. The first set of default programs may not be the most effective workout, but it has certainly brought enjoyment of games into fitness and showed lots of potential for third party development. I could not believe that it turned even my super lazy husband into a daily exerciser.

But what struck me most was the global nature of these games.

There are some Japanese cartoon like emotion expressions and other Japanese things in the games, but the language and context seem quite natural or at least “not odd” in US version. The encouraging training method is rather “western” to me.

With 2 out of 3 game console companies being Japanese, it may be granted that these companies know plenty about attracting gamers outside of Japan. And I am sure they have long history of doing business that way. But knowing how many of even the most prestigious Japanese companies screw up at crossing the border in any significance, it seems remarkable to me.

With regards to globalizing software, lots of people know that mere translation of language would not be enough and many other cultural things have to be localized.  I don’t think companies like Nintendo have huge product development organizations outside of Japan (as many complains “everything gets decided in Japan”), and wonder what kind of teams and processes they employed to embrace the global view.

It could be that entertainment like music, game, and movie have certain commonality and easier to get across, but there might also be some secrets these companies have obtained over the years that others could learn from.