Nintendo's Health Warning on 3D Game: Good PR

Last Updated Jan 4, 2011 10:45 AM EST

It's a killer headline: Nintendo (NTYDO) says its upcoming Nintendo 3DS handheld may be harmful to young children's eyesight. While critics feel like it is dampening the device's current buzz, Nintendo's honesty now will help it avoid pain later -- and perhaps even convince more parents that Nintendo has their back when it comes to their kids' health.

3D-related eye strain has been a medical concern for a while, whether it is on a glasses-free handheld device like the Nintendo 3DS or an IMAX glasses experience like Tron. Evidently, strain comes from continually focusing on two images, one for your right eye and one for your left eye, which is how the 3D illusion is created. Other companies like Sony (SNE) included 3D warnings in, say, their TV instruction manuals, but none in recent memory have been as vocal as Nintendo.

Nintendo says the health warning isn't about its 3DS product per se, but that the company is just following doctor recommendations for 3D in general:

Children under 6 may face difficulty training their brains to focus their eyes after too much strain caused by the 3-D viewing, Nintendo fears, evidently heeding the advice of doctors.


Some critics believe the health warning is a virtual suicide for the popular device, but it is actually a savvy three-pronged attack on Nintendo's part.

Why? The announcement simultaneously makes Nintendo look good and competitors seem heartless.

Unlike competitors, Nintendo is on your side: First, it makes Nintendo seem genuinely concerned for the well being of its younger demographic. It's almost if the company is saying "We want to make sure your kids are safe, even if it means we sell a million less units." It doesn't matter if Nintendo actually cares or not, but the impression that it cares about Nintendo consumers and/or their children.

It forces the hand of competitors: It also begs the question: Why hasn't anyone else brought this up in such an upfront way before? 3D was a huge driver over the past year, mostly through younger generations:

The Nintendo announcement throws a grenade into the 3D hype, especially right before this week's Consumer Electronics Show. We can expect other companies to make similar announcements during and after the expo -- though, because they didn't announce it first, their health warnings won't seem as sincere.

Nintendo comes clean before it is necessary: The highly-anticipated 3DS isn't coming out until March or April of this year, so Nintendo's health warning is well before any potential concerns or lawsuits are thrown its way. From a business culture standpoint, Nintendo seems to have learned from fellow long-standing Japanese company Toyota and its massive recall -- by cutting off any issues early.

Photo courtesy of darkpatator // CC 2.0
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