Since launching in Japan in May 2005, the Brain Training series has sold over 5 million copies and been responsible for attracting a mature audience to gaming. Launching today on the Nintendo DS as 'Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How old is your Brain?', the game includes number and word exercises, as well as Sudoku, and gives you a brain age based on your ability.
With the DS Lite finally reaching the UK on June 23, we talk to Nintendo UK's David Yarnton to discuss if the combination of a novel new title and more fashionable hardware will attract the same kind of people as it has in Japan.
GameSpot UK: Brain Training launches today in Europe--do you think it will prove to be as popular here as it's been in Japan?
David Yarnton: I think that there's been a really big swing of people looking at self-improvement and self-development, and we see a lot of programmes about health and exercise. People see their body as a temple but their mind as a junkyard, so I think there's very much a trend toward self-improvement, and I think that [Brain Training] will fall into that category.
GameSpot UK: The game launched in Japan over a year ago and has been a fixture in the games charts since. Why has it taken so long to make it over to the UK?
DY: One of the reasons is obviously adaptation to English countries, we've launched Brain Training in America in April and now we're launching here. It's also just about the life cycle of the product.
GameSpot UK: A lot of the big titles for the DS, most recently Nintendogs and Animal Crossing, have originated from Japan. More specifically, they've all come from Nintendo's internal development teams. Has part of the staggered release been to give European developers a chance to catch up?
DY: It's a combination of that, but it's also for the hardware base to get to a sufficient size. We've had great success with the DS hardware, and we're shortly going to be releasing the DS Lite, which I think will appeal to a lot of people that Brain Training will appeal to, as well.
GameSpot UK: Looking at the issue of keeping your brain healthy, how does Brain Training actually help you?
DY: Well, we don't profess this to be a medical product--it is purely a number of exercises that will help keep your mind alert and your brain active. Dr. Kawashima has done a lot of research over time about looking after the brain, and some of the principles and ideas that he developed have been adapted into the game. He endorses the software because the simple arithmetic, memorisation and reading exercises are all very much a part of his principles on keeping the left and right part of the brain active.
GameSpot UK: So what are the main benefits of playing Brain Training regularly?
DY: I think that one of the most important things is that people can enjoy themselves playing it, but it helps to exercise and stimulate your brain. All the simple exercises such as arithmetic, memorization, and reading work as a treadmill and allow you to exercise your mind. One of the reasons the game has been so successful is that you use both the touch screen and voice control, and this is why it effectively challenges many different aspects of the mind.
GameSpot UK: This is an important year for Nintendo, with the DS Lite released this month in the UK and the Wii following in Q4. The DS Lite sold out almost immediately in Japan and was difficult to find for some weeks after launch, so are you anticipating a similar response in the UK?
DY: We feel very positively about the console and think it's a great product. The DS itself has done very well in the UK, and this is an extension that will expand the market into a new area.
GameSpot UK: The Touch generations line was announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and Brain Training is one of the first titles to be released under the brand. Are we going to see a lot more of these nontraditional games genres from Nintendo?
DY: Very much so. The trends that we've had in Japan show that the whole series of Brain Training-type games have sold over 5 million in Japan, with something like 50 percent of registered users being over 35. If we draw that down even further, there are 20 percent of users that are over 55. But there are still a lot of what you would consider normal gamers, and even though [Brain Training] will appeal to people who don't normally play games, it does appeal to normal gamers, as well. It's more important to think about the hardware, as well, because the DS makes it easy for people to go and play.
GameSpot UK: You can see evidence of that in Japan, where businesswomen play on their DS Lite during their lunch hour. Do you think that a more fashionable version of the console will result in this happening in the UK?
DY: I very much hope so! I think one of the great things is that Brain Training includes Sudoku, and I imagine people riding on the tube to work will play this. I think they'll be a bit reluctant to do some of the voice recognition in the game, but they can use this time to do some of the exercises, and like I said, Sudoku, as well. It's very easy to pick up and play whenever you get a spare 5 or 10 minutes.
GameSpot UK: Thanks for your time.