The Nintendo – Dreams about the Future

February 17, 2015

The year of 2014 has come to an end and put on display that hardware power is not the answer to our search for more fun. Aligning almost disproportionally to its sales numbers, in many peoples´ eyes the Wii U delivered the highest number of the most fun games released on gaming systems last year. However, such a moral victory cannot stand as a lasting remark. Nintendo is in need of raising their profits, they need ways to further survive, to eventually thrive like they did during the GameBoy-days, during the Wii-/NDS-combo. With the advent of the New Nintendo 3DS, a somewhat beefed up version of the original 3DS akin to the DSi, and the continuing low sales numbers of the Wii U, the gaming world loves to speculate about the real successors to both Nintendo´s home console and handheld console. Will 2016 be the year? Whenever it is, the FlyingFisch has its own conglomerate of ideas to share.

Unlike the obvious proposition of the question for new Nintendo hardware, hardware is the least important aspect of the company´s future plans. Do not read this wrongly, Nintendo needs capable, compelling hardware, they absolutely do. But their first and foremost goal needs to be expansion. And it is what Nintendo has begun with the introduction of their QoL-line. This Quality of Life-brand is a first step into a new area of businesses. It is one of many hardware endeavors that the traditional Japanese company needs to take risk in. Nintendo´s best bet for long-lasting future success lies in the creation of their own ecosystem. You can see it happening everywhere these days. Apple has it (iOS), Microsoft has it and is further building on it (Xbox and Windows), Sony has a store for all their devices. and reaches into various product areas. Disney not-so-recently acquired Marvel, making their overall market appeal so frighteningly broad that most people aren´t even aware anymore that what they´re watching is part of Disney. All of these companies as well as many others are expanding, they´re trying to converge as many assets as possible into their own dna. And who doubts to see Apple and Disney staying around for a looong time to come? As a as-of-yet video game-making only company, though, Nintendo´s next steps need to find a grip someplace realistic. It´s fun thinking about Nintendo simply buying other publishers like Capcom, Sega or Square Enix and use their franchises to form a stronger software lineup, but not only is it far from easily doable, it could also pose a high risk to the company´s overall stability. Moreover, it wouldn´t solve any of the deeper issues within the current Nintendo. If buying up a whole industry was possible, it wouldn´t be Nintendo to do so. No, their next step is internal unification.

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The newly built Kyoto building is part of this unification process. By accumulating many of its developers under one roof, all different projects get a greater chance to profit from one another. Software- and hardware teams can work hand in hand. And that´s a crass necessity for reasons that are to follow below. Unification needs to happen with Nintendo´s products, too, however. That is what the gaming community is waiting for at the moment. Hints had been given, near-confirmations been done. Nintendo is expected to be working on NOS – short for Nintendo Operating System. This OS-level software is supposed to bring a long needed independence from specific hardware machines and free the entertainment world of Nintendo´s. NOS could be accessed from a Wii U, 3DS, smartphone or PC. It´d be the unbound central hub of every Nintendo consumer. Away with the fears of losing a certain hardware and therefore losing the games bought for it. NOS lets you see all the eShop-titles you purchased and will let you re-download them as long as you have some device that runs those titles. Your Nintendo hub is wherever you are, all you need is your nickname and password. In a way, NOS could be looked at as the firm´s true next generation vehicle. Hardware is only the executionable part of the experience, but software is what it´s defined by. One big and important aspect of this unification process under NOS is crossbuys and crossplay.

There´s already some games that are released on both 3DS and Wii U. However, consumers usually have to pay twice to be able to play the same game on two different devices. That is especially bad for Virtual Console-titles that by no right should be limited to either device. But future Nintendo hardware must take it a step even further: Major new releases ought to be playable on both the new handheld console and the home console. This is not about some hybrid-console that lots of fans enjoy thinking about. While somewhere down the road a hybrid-device is inevitable, what we´re talking about here today is simply a shared software-lineup between similar, but not exactly the same machines. It makes sense for several reasons to keep certain titles exclusive to one system. But it also makes a lot of sense for a relatively small company like Nintendo to make a large junk of their projects crossplay-compatible. A core belief of this thought-process is our stance that we don´t see third-party relations as something that will ever be part of Nintendo´s dna. Finding ways to get third-party developers back on Nintendo´s console business is bound to end in fruitless attempts. A system that is so samey to that of Microsoft´s and Sony´s that it, in theory, salavages third-parties´ wants and needs would cost Nintendo an absurd amount of money. Moreover, it would not change the current realities, which sees the Call of Duty-crowd with Xbox and PlayStation. And not a single current CoD-player will forsaken his Xbox Live- or PSN- friendslist for the “newcomer” Nintendo. Somebody who has all of his achievements of Assassin´s Creed-games will want to continue gathering achievement points on Xbox Live. Someone who has all trophies of three Mass Effect-games will want to see Mass Effect 4´s trophies next to them. Not one of those players will be willing to give up the comfort of the existing ecosystem for another one that might feature the same basic premise, but lacks all the long built-up environment. Third-party developers are not central to Nintendo´s future sucess/failure. They should always be welcome and be supported in reasonable ways (like Bayonetta 2 or Super Smash Bros. 4), but they should never again be catered to as if they´re required for sustainable success. It doesn´t matter who´s fault it is at this point, all that matters is the realization of the status quo, which is: Third-party developers don´t matter a lot within Nintendo´s business. That´s what we´re starting from.

Without delving into any absurd speaking-around-the-bush, we´d like to outline drafts for some of the possible future products of Nintendo´s. With the exception of one of them, those are all products that have a reasonable chance of becoming exactly what Nintendo might do – this is not purely fantastical speculation, it is what we truly believe might be in the coming. The devices (given names for fun) that we will go into detail below consist of:

– (The) Nintendo /home console

– (The) Nintendo Go /handheld console

– (The) Nintendo Fun /handheld console

– (The) Nintendo Q /smart device

– Qudy /companion device

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A simple box is all that’s needed

The Nintendo /home console

Before we paint a clearer picture about the next home console, let us tell you that we think the Wii U will be alive for longer than most people would believe at the moment. The Wii U will never be a great success, it won´t magically turn things around – but it also is just enough for the company´s purposes. This is an important finding: Nintendo does not need a high end-hardware for fanciest graphical detail. Mario 3D World and Captain Toad look like a perfectly realized Mushroom Kingdom-game. Pikmin 3 and Mario Kart 8 look fantastic. And both Zelda U and Xenoblade Chronicles X manage to create breathtaking worlds. We expect a Wii U-successor to match or slightly trump the PS4´s graphical capabilities, but not much more than that. With third-party developers out of the bigger picture, a Nintendo-home console with PS4-power is just enough. When Xenoblade Chronicles X Infinity and Metroid 5 are released on this next gen-system, people will be in absolute awe, despite Xbox Two and PS5 being capable of significant better graphics on a purely technical level. And it won´t matter one bit. Since graphics are only part of the equation, anyways. By simply calling the system “Nintendo”, the company will position its system as an integral part of the living room. Featuring not only the latest AAA-games, but also granting access to a Virtual Console-catalogue of hundreds of games, from NES to N64 and even GameCube and Wii. As well as GameBoy, Nintendo DS and certain systems from other manufacturers, such as Sega. Offering 4-player local-coop gaming. And finally getting multimedia features right, such as video-stream services, Karaoke-services or letting you play videos/mp3s from your own collection. Also accepting Android. Instead of trying to fight hundreds of millions of customers that already use Android in their daily life, the new Nintendo-system should incorporate it as part of their own. No, Android won´t be the OS of any Nintendo-hardware, but it will be accessable quickly and naturally from your Nintendo. Letting you play all your favorite Android-games with a controller. This also means access to a near fininite amount of non-gaming apps. To finish the feature set of the Nintendo, it will also act as a hub center for all of your other Nintendo-devices. Offering overview of your streetpass encounters or organizing your QoL-data. This home console is the go-to point in your living room that will serve all gaming purposes and more. It´s not a fancy hardware, but it is the ultimate convergence of everything that is Nintendo, past and present. A neat, perfect Nintendo box, relatively low in cost and well-built.

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A capable 2016-hardware and a Nintendo logo is all that’s in need of change here

The Nintendo Go /handheld

Unlike past portables of the firm, this next generation handheld is not intended to play second fidel to its home console counterpart. The Nintendo Go will be slightly weaker in terms of raw hardware power when compared to the stationary system detailed above. However, these differences only matter for a small portion of games. Being born from the changed Japanese market, this handheld is a fully realized portable entertainment device, built for fullfilling gaming experiences that aren´t compromised in any way due to being displayed on a smaller screen. After over a decade of dual-screen gaming, Nintendo releases its first single-screen handheld console since the GameBoy Advance back then. This is no flashy hardware, think of it as a different-flavored PlayStation Vita in terms of design. One big screen, dual-analogues, four shoulder buttons, d-pad and four face buttons. Also a capacitive touchscreen and the usual features such as camera in the back and front, gyrometer, nfc, and so on. Whereas Nintendo relied on fresh gimmicks in the past to sell its handheld devices, the Nintendo Go is an attempt to simply offer the perfect handheld build, including everything that gamers want, not wasting ressources on “weird” stuff. Thanks to the crossplay philosophy, gamers will be able to choose to play games like Fire Emblem, Kirby or Mario Kart on either the home console or this handheld console. And if you own both hardwares, you can freely switch between both and continue from the same save state, only paying once for the game. Only the most complex home console-titles might not work on this handheld. Meanwhile, you can play all the Virtual Console-games and access Android on the Nintendo Go, too. Accept the competition, don´t fight it, that is the mindset behind the inclusion of Android. People want to play CandyCrush, AngryBird or PlantsVSZombies, so let them play these games – on a Nintendo-device.There´s not a whole lot to add here; the Nintendo Go marks the perfection of the traditional handheld, while opening up to market realities. It is a final attempt that will decide the fate of future handheld projects.

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Courtesy to neogaf-user Yurinka

The Nintendo Fun /handheld console

Remember all the rumors about Nintendo and Sharp working on some weird doughnut-shaped screen, a new kind of free-form displays? The idea here is that the whole front of the device would be a screen, only broken up by those areas where analogue sticks and buttons are placed in. The Nintendo Fun would be a low-cost product, that increases its actual value by virtue of the gimmick free-form screen it features. Well-made mock-ups have shown how cool this can look. Yet we wouldn´t really want it as the single go-to handheld of Nintendo´s, simply because the whole buttons-breaking-up-the-screen kinda ruins the atmosphere for games that rely on immersion, exploration and escapism. But a cheap, 99 Dollar-handheld with a screen that´s made from brand new technology, that allowed you to play tons of Virtual Console-titels as well as many of the less hardware-intensive retail games, say Mario Kart, could very well position itself as a fashion product. Yes, its target audience would be children and … hipsters.

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A dual-touchscreen device for Nintendo-fans´ everyday life

The Nintendo Q /smart device

Heavily supporting all future QoL-plans, the Nintendo Q is a chic portable device that focuses on many non-gaming features such as keeping track of weight, your daily diet and making notes about whatever you choose to write about. An extensive diary app would conclude the attempt to turn it into an everday-device that people keep with them despite already having a smartphone in their possession. What´s most interesting is the Q´s form factor. Finally bringing to reality the concept of Microsoft´s forsaken Courier, a dual screen device that was supposed to feature two touchscreens and be held like a book when opened. That is exactly what the Nintendo Q will look like and Nintendo is in the fortunate position to claim that this is a natural evolution of the NDS-design, not a rip off of Microsoft´s Courier. Lucky them. Anyway, another central feature of the Q would be its system-wide pseudo-A.I. that exists to interact with the user in a helpful and playful manner both. This A.I. would be capable of learning about its users preferences, remembering important calender dates and reminding the user of his schedule. Voice-recognition and voice-to-text features make it a well-rounded experience. Of course, the Nintendo Q wouldn´t be completely devoid of actual games. Due to the lack of any physical buttons, it´d be limited to touchscreen-only games, making it a prime candidate for puzzle-games or visual novels. Once again, Android-compatability would ensure a variety of software offerings. To summarize, the Nintendo Q is the perfect hardware for the matured Nintendo-fan who´s tired of sterile, boring GUIs found in smartphones, yet doesn´t need a full-on gaming device any longer. This is as close as we´d ever get to a “Nintendo phone”. And depending on Nintendo´s willingness to cooperate with an experienced partner, a version of the Q with SIM-card support might not be outside the realm of possibilities.

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Qudy – the first mainstream robotic companion

Qudy /companion device

We left the only completely out-of-nowhere option for last. Qudy is the name Nintendo registered a couple of months ago. Nobody knows what it is supposed to be used for, but … doesn´t it sound kinda – cute? Maybe we´ve watched too many anime series, but one recurring element in Japanese scifi-shows are pseudo-intelligent robotic companions that will always support the hero in acquiring much needed information. Now, we don´t have any such companions in our everyday lives, but we do have smartphones. Smartphones with Siri or Cortana or any such voice-supported apps. It´d take only one more step to go the full mile and give people their companion, a device centered around a smartly coded A.I. that keeps learning its user´s/owner´s behavior, thus being able to operate without any user-initiated input. For more detail on this, honestly, weird concept, we recommend reading our full-length article on Qudy.

That concludes TheFlyingfisch´ pitch for Nintendo´s future hardware endeavors. Of course, no company often appears as unpredictable as Nintendo, thinking back at the sudden revelations of motion controls or glassless stereoscopic 3D. But now is not the time to release another major home console iteration that´s based on a risky, unproven gimmick. The incredible demand for Sony´s PlayStation 4 shows that gamers are perfectly fine with just a typical upgrade in power. It´s not quite as simple for Nintendo, since hardware power cannot work as their primary driving factor in selling units. They need to focus on what makes them special, makes them unique. Which is: Their incredible first-party software and unparalleled history of making said games. Unifying software-lineups between all available devices as much as technically possible; offering a range of different valued devices that are targeted at different audiences/age groups; continuing attempts at crazier, riskier concepts, but putting it a bit to the sidelines. All that could become a fantastic, economically viable way for building a strong and successful business for the foreseeable future. Unification, Distribution, Innovation – people want Nintendo, all Nintendo´s gotta do is provide it to them.

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A Fictional Story: Special Announcement // Iwata unveils QoL-device “Qudy” // Details plans for 2015 and beyond

September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The following article is entirely made-up by its author. Other than some sources taken from reality, nothing you are going to read is true or fact. It is supposed to be a fun expression of the author´s wishes and hopes for future hardware endeavors. Why do this? Because it´s fun to speculate and write about it. Start!

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Special Announcement // Iwata unveils QoL-device “Qudy” // Details plans for 2015 and beyond

Earlier this year, Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo, made many fans´ heads turn when he started talking about the firm´s future plans. Accompanied by several images that didn´t really help making any more sense of it, he explained that Nintendo would venture into new markets, starting with the health and fitness sector. To make this happen, they would somehow, citation needed, “leap-frog” the competition´s mobile and wearable devices and enter a whole new market of so-called “non-wearables”. A new blue ocean, is what Iwata would say. Up to this day, Nintendo kept quiet about their Quality of Life-device (QoL) that they promised to talk more about later in 2014 and launch in the first half of 2015. This silence was broken last night, and we´re still confused by what´s happening. It is definitely a completely new market, though, that Nintendo is opening here.

Iwata opened his speech by outlining the need for major changes to keep a thriving business in the advent of affordable high tech. He didn´t mention specific competitors, but by saying how capable tablet devices are now available for less than 100 Dollar, it is clear that Nintendo´s aware of Amazon´s new kindle fire line. He also touched upon the widely used practice of handing down old phones to family members when getting a new one, also resulting in casual consumers owning highly capable devices. Nintendo would have to factor this into the planning and, thus, pricing of future systems. Despite those very predictable future hardships, Iwata believes that dedicated handheld gaming, as seen in the Nintendo 3DS, is there to stay. It is, however, not enough, he continues.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has undergone major internal changes to be ready for the next decade and beyond. These changes are also partly at fault for the less than stellar first-party software support during the Wii U´s first year, Iwata follows up. Moving their teams to a new building, where each team would be more closely intervined, was but one step. The next step is NOS. NOS is an abbreviation for Nintendo Operating System, and will be the center of all upcoming Nintendo offerings. A powerpoint slide shows the graphical user-interace running on Wii U, then on the New Nintendo 3DS. Clean, friendly, well-thought out is our initial impression. What´s important, though, is that NOS is the same on both systems. On three. No, on four. Or on how many systems there might be. Besides Wii U and N3DS, NOS will also have a web-based platform, granting access from every PC and smartphone. There´ll also be web-based access for the original 3DS-system. Featuring hardware-independent accounts, NOS is all about converging Nintendo´s offerings into one single place, reachable from just about every hardware a consumer might own. Part of the difficulty for this Nintendo OS, Iwata thinks, will be to make it clear to the consumer that not every piece of software available on the NOS´ eshop will be usable on every piece of hardware. So while you will be able to purchase Wii U-games using a 3DS, those games obviously won´t run on the 3DS. Right now, that isn´t all that obvious for Nintendo-gamers, who always had separate eshops. It is the New Nintendo 3DS´s task to introduce this concept to Nintendo-gamers, using the popular Xenoblade Chronicles as a gateway, with more exclusives coming down the road. Iwata, however, went on saying that even this convergence of software wouldn´t be enough to sustain a growing business. That´s when this speech of the company´s CEO dove down into crazy-territory.

While looking for a new blue ocean ever since the success of the Wii-console, we made many different attempts at broadening our product variety. None of our latest systems, however, were able to come close to the success of the Wii and its fitness line of software. Therefore, we at Nintendo decided to further dig into that area of health and fitness, the so-called quality of life-products. Unlike a lot of rumors and speculation, worries about Nintendo forgetting about its roots as an entertainment company are unnecessary. Quite the opposite, it is this expertise of ours that allows for the next step in consumer technology, passing by mobile and wearable devices. This next generation device is what we´d like to call Qudy.
And then a video presentation introduced Qudy to the world. Or, rather, Qudy introduced itself.

At first glimpse, Qudy looks like a smaller, but bulkier, fatter smartphone. There´s a screen on one side, somewhere between three to four inches in size. First glimpse end. No, Nintendo did not begin their venture into the smartphone business, so this is where any such comparisons will have to come to an end. Qudy features a display, capable of displaying information, pictures and videos. But you wouldn´t ever use it as a substitute for your smartphone. Yet.
The widescreen device sits on top of a compact, but sturdy base that allows for three options: Attaching it to your backpack´s carrying strap. Putting it on top of a plane surface. And clipping it on top of a flat screen monitor, like a webcam. Aside from the first option, a small, energy-effecient motor inside the base allows Qudy to rotate, meaning that if you put it on a table, it can freely rotate by 360°. One last question: WHY would it need to be capable of this?! The answer lies within Qudy´s intended purpose: Qudy is neither a gaming handheld, nor is it a mobile phone, nor is it a wearable device like GoogleGlasses or smartwatches. It is the first of its own kind, that is: Qudy is a mobile companion. A robot, yes, dear nerd-colleagues!

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When our internal hardware development teams researched the current market for health and fitness, one key aspect caught their attention. This core problem for many people who are trying to lose weight or stay in shape can be summarized in one word: motivation. Many people create elaborate plans and goals for what they´re trying to achieve, but ultimately fail once some time has passed. To our surprise, it did not matter if these people used professional tools, like heart rate sensors or dieting plans, or none of that. The outcome would be the same: Most people would stop their new lifestyle not long after starting. Those with the highest success rate were the ones that would go to a gym or have friends joining them in their decision. After conducting a lengthy internal study, we arrived at first drafts for a new project. A project that combines elements of health and fitness with elements of entertainment. In other words, this is something that we at Nintendo believe ourselves to be in a most unique position to deliver. The result of this is Qudy“, Iwata explains.

A slideshow shows many different design prototypes for the new mobile companion, one or two eerily similar to the famous R.O.B. for NES. The modern companion, Qudy, however, is designed to be reasonably sleek, portable and eye-pleasing. The screen features saturated, deep colors, with a fantastic viewing angle. When we described its size to be between three to four inches, that was because it isn´t a typical rectangle-shaped display. Rather, it´s oval, with heavly rounded edges. That´s because the whole device isn´t a rectangle, no sharp corners to be found anywhere. If you were to look at it as a smartphone, it´d be terrible. But that changes when Qudy wakes up. Upon activating, the screen brightens, matching the bright white of the device itself. But it´s not a menu you´ll see on display next. Instead, two eyes appear. And a mouth. In terms of asthetics, it appears to intentionally match the looks of Tamagotchi devices from twenty years ago. But it´s animated extremely well, very smoothly. It needs to be, when next the on-display mouth starts moving and … talking. “Hello! My name is Qudy! From this day on, I will be your companion. Let´s have a fun time!”, a video presentation shows. Next up is a summary of functions that Qudy is made to deliver. A quick run-down as follows:

– Virtual A.I., featuring animation and speech
– Qudy originated loosly from Latin, meaning “every day” or “daily”
– 3.8 oval AMOLED touch-screen
– built-in camera and stereo-microphone
– advanced camera recognition software
– various notifying led
– motorized base, doubles as stand and clip
– wireless connectivity features (connects to Nintendo devices, smartphones, smartwatches, computers, hotspots)
– heart rate-, temperature-, velocity-sensors
– gyroscope
– compass
– lightweight design, most of which stems from the battery
– microSD slot

Iwata explained that more features might be added to the consumer version of Qudy, which is set to launch prior to Golden Week 2015 in Japan. International availability is said to be set for 2015, too, closer to the christmas holidays, for both the US and Europe. Pricing is not yet decided, but expected to be similar to a gaming handheld´s.
The heart of Qudy is its virtual A.I. that is capable of actual communication with its user. The experience with Tomodachi Collection for 3DS (Tomodachi Life) made Nintendo realize that it works we´ll enough to be implemented on a larger scale. Cooperating with leading A.I.-technology companies, Qudy was born. While still restricted by reality (true A.I.s aren´t possible, yet), its capabilities seem to be astounding. Communication between A.I. and user appears to be natural and easy-going. The camera-software can differentiate between who it is that is talking and will actually rotate to face whoever is doing the talking. Sounding tacky and gimmicky at first, Nintendo found it crucial to have this moving, mechanical feature as part of Qudy. Internal tests proved that people react vastly differently to a device that actually moves in real life as opposed to mere on-screen notifications. Based on the contents of your communication with Qudy, the A.I.´s personality develops differently – some examples are: polite, playful, casually, caring, blunt. And it´s actually up to the user to give Qudy an individual name on the first boot-up sequence.

Setting aside the option of rather random communication, Qudy follows the very serious need of motivating the user. To that goal, the first iteration of the mobile companion comes with various health and fitness routines in its software. You decide to tell Qudy what you want to achieve, what you will try to do, even what you plan on eating. Qudy will then act as central core for all of your day. From reminders, to check-ups, or analysis – Qudy will gather data and present advice, motivation and help as best as it can. And that´s surprisingly much. Iwata mentioned that something simple as confirming what you ate for lunch can be annoying to do by yourself for a lot of people. With Qudy, you simply tell your companion and it´s saved for later analysis. You can tell Qudy your daily weight (or link it with a WiiFit balance board) and it´ll display graphs of your weight progression, automatically correlating all other available data, like showing what you ate each day at what weight. However, Qudy is not only about strictly body health-related matters. It´s also designed to be a strong tool to assist you in your everyday planning in general. Thus, it becomes an intelligent calendar that will never forget to remind you of future events. When connected to the internet, it can quickly gather information about any kind of subject and, if you wish so, save it for later use.

What´s most important and making it fundamentally different from existing devices, is the indirect interaction with Qudy. Rather than typing and touching it by yourself, you speak to Qudy and Qudy will do all the work. No typing, no saving, no looking for specific functionality. It´s all there with a simple word of yours. Obviously, there are times you won´t want to speak aloud, so touchscreen-functionality will cover those times. Iwata expects that this will be important especially in the beginning of this new era of mobile companions, where most people will find it weird or awkward to actually talk to a machine. But as apparent with his wording: Nintendo looks at Qudy as the start into a new era of communication, life-planning and self-motivation. And as time flies by, people will use their mobile companion as a natural tool in their personal and professional life, feeling better about themselves and being more likely to reach their goals, be it in health, fitness or any other aspect of life. We´re not yet sure what to think of Qudy, a decive that sits in a weird spot between entertainment device, health device and serious tool. But we´re eager to find out!