This Tuesday, Nintendo announced via Japan’s economics newspaper, Nikkei, that they will soon begin releasing e-books geared toward children on their 3DS platform. Over the years, Nintendo has had notable success with the grade school demographic within Japan, and so, in order to take advantage of this popularity, they have amassed a collection of approximately 300 Japanese children’s books and will begin releasing them this fall.

In recent years, Nintendo has had a bit of a struggle on the world market. Although their kid-friendly systems, such as the 3DS, have had satisfactory sales on the company’s home turf of Japan, the company has failed to reach its sales targets abroad. Industry experts state that this is due to the rise of smartphone games and the competition that they present. It certainly doesn’t help that their next generation console, the Wii U has seen underwhelming support from developers as well.


And so, in order to bring their numbers up, Nintendo is once again exploring new markets. Right now, they’ve got their eyes set on the growing eBook market. In 2012 Japan’s internal eBook market pulled in approximately 72 billion yen (US$270 million), and those figures are expected to more than triple in the next four to five years! One might wonder how compatible Nintendo’s 3DS system is with such digital reading material—the hand console’s horizontal screen alignment is not exactly ideal for reading Japanese kanji in the vertical line format used by most books—but hopes are high that by narrowing their demographic to youth, with whom the 3DS system is already hugely popular, Nintendo will reach success. Their slated stories include mostly action, fantasy, and heroic titles at a cost that people expect to be somewhere around 700 to 800 yen (US$7-8).

The greatest challenge that Nintendo is likely to face in this endeavor will be its ability to stand against all of the smartphones and tablet computers that cut into the company’s sales in the first place! These days, even some grade schoolers carry iPhones and Android-powered devices, and a large number of households own tablet computers for the whole family to use. Would anyone really choose a 3DS game system over a cell phone with extensive functions and a longer battery life? Would they want to read a book on their portable game system when they could view it on the larger screen of their tablet computer? This may be Nintendo’s attempt at fighting back in an age of apps, but aside from the curiosity and impressionability of their young target audience, I sense that they’re at quite the disadvantage.

Perhaps, if Nintendo can find ways to ways to emblazon their books with 3-D effects and special features, that will draw more curious consumers to their cause. Perhaps somewhere down the line we will see eReader systems optimized for the Wii U’s screen-equipped controller as well. There’s no news as of now on how many world regions these reader systems will function in, but for all we know, that might depend on the books’ successes within Japan. What’s your level of interest? What additional functions would you like to see incorporated into game systems?

Source: Gadget Sokuhou (Japanese)
Images: Nintendo