September 17, 2019

Nintendo to Offer Lower-Cost Game Device

Nintendo on Wednesday introduced a new portable gaming system, the Nintendo 2DS. The device will cost $130, or about $40 less than its 3DS sibling, when it is released Oct. 12. It is capable of running all the games made for the 3DS, but without 3-D effects.

For Nintendo, the price drop is a hedge against a future filled with tablet computers made by companies like Apple, Samsung and Amazon.

The growing popularity of tablets among adults means children are increasingly exposed to tablets at an early age. About one-third of American adults own tablets. But that figure rises to about 50 percent among parents with children living at home, according to Pew Internet Research. And games are routinely played on those tablets, making a dedicated gaming device less appealing.

“Forty bucks may not be a lot, but for families it’s a lot,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, in an interview. Mr. Fils-Aime said the 2DS was intended for the “entry gamer,” especially in families with multiple children.

Also on Wednesday, Nintendo said it would reduce by $50 the price of its console for the living room, the Wii U, which has had disappointing sales. The new price will be $300.

The gaming market has expanded over the last several years thanks in part to smartphones and tablets. The new devices have attracted what analysts call casual gamers — the people who yank out their smartphones and tablets to play games a few minutes on the commute to work, or the toddlers who play Angry Birds at family dinners.

Despite all that competition, Nintendo’s portable gaming device has been doing well.

The 3DS has been the best-selling piece of gaming hardware over the last three months, according to NPD Group. The last, best-selling portable gaming device was the Nintendo DS; with over 150 million units sold, it has become the best-selling portable gaming device in history.

With the addition of the 2DS, Nintendo now offers three portable devices, including the 3DS and the larger 3DS XL.

Tablets are considered a threat to Nintendo because games can be downloaded for a few dollars, or even free. Nintendo’s strategy has been to make most of its money from sales of the games it produces exclusively for Nintendo devices. Therefore, it has refused to offer its games to makers of tablets and smartphones.

That means famous titles native to Nintendo, like Super Mario or Donkey Kong, could be left to earlier generations. And that’s bad news for the Japanese company.

“The longer that they abstain from those platforms, the longer they risk failing to acquaint children with that stable of characters,” said Ross Rubin, an independent technology analyst for Reticle Research. “Since there is virtually no presence on these screens that kids are starting to increasingly spend more and more time with, Nintendo is going to have to work harder to gain exposure to that audience.”

Mr. Rubin said there were several ways for Nintendo to participate in the mobile market outside of selling games for its own devices — without cannibalizing its own business. The company could offer software that complements its games and systems, like iPad apps that turn the tablet into an extra controller for the 3DS or Wii U. Nintendo could also create lightweight versions of its games for tablets and phones, using them to promote the superior versions of the games available only for Nintendo systems, he said.

For the moment, however, cost-cutting appears to be Nintendo’s answer.

“All we’re doing is making available a device that, for consumers who want a lower price point but want to play all these great games, now you have the opportunity,” Mr. Fils-Aime said. “And we think it’s going to work.”

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Advertising: A Campaign to Help People Learn Internet Skills

THE Advertising Council and Connect2Compete, a nonprofit group whose goal is to eliminate the digital divide in the United States, are introducing a public service campaign to help those who are not digitally literate find free training to obtain these skills.

In remarks prepared for a speech in Washington last month about Connect2Compete’s efforts, the Federal Communications Commission chairman, Julius Genachowski, said approximately one in three Americans, or 100 million people, still do not have broadband in their homes, with low-income Americans and minorities “disproportionately on the wrong side of the digital divide.”

This matters, he continued, because “over 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies post job openings exclusively online. Over half of today’s jobs require technology skills, and nearly 80 percent of jobs in the next decade are projected to require digital skills.”

According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, one in five American adults — about 62 million people — do not use the Internet. The 2012 Pew Internet and American Life Project said the main reason these people “don’t go online is because they don’t think the Internet is relevant to them.”

To reach adults who share this sentiment, Connect2Compete approached the Advertising Council last year for help creating a public service campaign “with messages that get at the relevance of the Internet, how you can do something, or do something better that you may already do, by being online,” said Zach Leverenz, chief executive of Connect2Compete.

To that end, the Ad Council and the New York office of Young Rubicam, part of the WPP Group, created a multimedia advertising campaign that begins on Thursday, a date chosen because its numbers (3-21) stand for a three-two-one countdown to get “everyone on” the Internet. The campaign’s Web site is

Advertising being distributed by the Ad Council includes a TV spot featuring Reginald, an actual truck driver from California whose instructor shows him how to use a computer, get on the Internet, and buy a plane ticket as a surprise for his wife. “She’s going to love me all over again now,” he says. The spot concludes, “But first, he’s going to surprise himself. Get online. Find a free class near you.”

Radio ads feature actors portraying individuals who do not know how to use the Internet. One is a man named Peter, whose instructor shows him how to look for electrician jobs online. The voice-over says, “This is Peter. Recently he got help going on the Internet for the first time to look for a new job. In the past, Peter’s gotten work through people he knew. But he heard there were more jobs online.”

One outdoor ad features a row of people — resembling paper doll cutouts — holding hands; the text says “1 in 5 Americans don’t use the Internet. Luckily help is all around.”

Once the audience for all advertising — which is running in both English and Spanish — calls the toll-free number, they are asked for their ZIP code and given the location of free training classes nearby. Class information is also available via texting. In addition, the campaign’s Web site locates classes — which are being offered by over 21,000 libraries and other centers — by ZIP code.

The advertising being introduced on Thursday was preceded this month by related digital advertising and Facebook and Twitter outreach, directed at those who are already digitally literate and encouraging them to help those who are not.

Cheryl Chapman, a creative director at Young Rubicam in New York, said the agency “knew we couldn’t scare people into using the Internet, so we wanted the advertising to feel disarming, to capture the real emotion of learning something new.”

According to Dzu Bui, campaign director of the Advertising Council, the campaign is directed primarily at adults who are not digitally literate, “since they are the ones who have control over accessing the Internet, they are the decision makers, they make choices for their families.”

Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive of the Ad Council, said the goal of the campaign — the group’s first to address digital literacy issues — was to “overcome the barriers people have to going online.”

She also predicted media outlets — which donate time and space to run all Ad Council advertising — might be motivated to carry this campaign, because it could “help increase their audiences. An informed citizenry is a stronger citizenry. There are many reasons this is good for everybody.”

Experts differed about the campaign and its strategy.

Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor who teaches the economics of information at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, called the campaign’s goals “on target,” since, he said, the median wage of Americans today is lower than it was 15 years ago, in part because they have “not kept up with digital technologies.”

Ruth Small, director of the Center for Digital Literacy at Syracuse University, commended the campaign for addressing specific subjects that interest people, like job hunting.

Although Dan Wagner, Unesco chair in learning and literacy at the graduate school of education of the University of Pennsylvania, said “anything that helps people, especially the poor, get access to technology is good,” he called creating relevant content for those who are not digitally literate just as important as showing them how to get online.

James McQuivey, who follows consumer technology adoption for Forrester Research, questioned the campaign’s prospects. “I don’t think it will have the impact they want it to have because most people who are not connected to the Internet are not there by choice. It’s not that these people are sitting and waiting for the Internet and can’t get it.”

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Economix Blog: Defining Middle Class



Dollars to doughnuts.

In a discussion on “Good Morning America” about his tax plan, Mitt Romney suggested the cutoff for middle income was for households earning “$200,000 to $250,000 and less.” President Obama has used a similar threshold in talking about extending tax cuts for the middle class.

To be clear, both politicians appear to be talking about the ceiling for the middle class, not its midpoint. It’s a pretty high ceiling, though; here’s a chart showing household income distributions for 2011, based on calculations from the Tax Policy Center:

Source: Tax Policy Center

As you can see in the chart, households earning $250,000 fall somewhere just above the 96th percentile. For context, the Tax Policy Center placed the median household at about $42,000 in cash income in 2011. (Using a slightly different metric, the Census Bureau reported on Wednesday that the median household income was about $50,000.)

As broad as these politicians’ definition might be for middle class, historically Americans of all income levels have predominantly self-identified with that category. In a survey conducted in July by Pew Research Center, about half of American adults surveyed said they were middle class, including almost half of those earning more than $100,000.

Those self-identifications are changing, though.

Pew also found that the share of people who self-identify as lower class or lower middle class has risen substantially, from 25 percent in 2008 to 32 percent in 2012. The greatest growth is among younger Americans.

Since people seem to define middle class by culture and values as much by income, it will be interesting to see if this growing self-identification with lower class sticks in the years ahead as this younger cohort ages, and if it does, what kind of pressure (if any) that might put on politicians to redefine their stated socioeconomic class categories. As I mentioned in an earlier post, even as the median American family has gotten poorer, Americans overall have lowered their expectations for what the rich should pay in taxes.

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Bucks Blog: Many Struggling With Prescription Drug Costs

Pills line the shelves of a pharmacy in Los Angeles.ReutersPills line the shelves of a pharmacy in Los Angeles.

While health insurance premiums may be increasing more modestly than they were a year or two ago, consumers who take multiple drugs but lack prescription drug coverage are nearing a “crisis point” because they can’t afford to pay for them, a new report finds.

Consumer Reports’ annual prescription drug poll finds that more Americans who lack a drug benefit are failing to fill prescriptions because of cost. Almost half of Americans (45 percent) under 65 who lack drug coverage failed to fill a prescription because of cost, the report found — up from 27 percent last year.

Those without drug coverage also reported being more likely to cut back on other costs, including groceries, to pay for medications.

Nearly half (46 percent) of American adults take prescription drugs; the average is 4.1 prescriptions. A fourth of those ages 18 to 39 regularly take two prescription drugs, the report noted, suggesting that a reliance on multiple drugs is no longer confined to older Americans.

The poll was conducted in May and June by the Consumer Reports National Research Center using a telephone survey of a total of 1,158 interviews with adults 18 years of age and older. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Consumer Reports suggests saving on drug costs by using $4 generic versions available at many chain drug stores, switching to generics if you haven’t already and even splitting pills “where appropriate.”

Have you skipped a prescription in the last year due to costs?

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Economix Blog: The Happiest States of America: North Dakota on the Rise

North Dakota is not only the most employment-rich state in the country. It’s also on its way to becoming the happiest.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on a daily survey of Americans that tries to measure the elements of “the good life,” North Dakota is the second happiest state, behind Hawaii. (Hawaii has been the happiest state for a while now.) North Dakota has been in the Top 10 list for the last couple of years, but has been steadily climbing its way upward.

North Dakota’s Well-Being Index score has also moved up proportionally more than any other state in the last year.



Dollars to doughnuts.

The index is based on an average of six component indices, which reflect Americans’ answers to questions about how they evaluate their lives; their emotional health; how they feel about their work environment; their physical health; the kinds of healthy behaviors they do (or don’t) engage in; and how much access they have to basic necessities. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the state’s fleet-footed job growth, North Dakota’s score benefited most from respondents’ views of their work environment.

Poor West Virginia once again claimed the lowest rank in the latest Well-Being Index report, a spot where it has languished for several years. In general, Southern and Rust Belt states rank lowest on this index, while the Plains states and Pacific states rank best, as shown in the interactive map above.

The latest scores are based on daily polls conducted from January through June 2011, in which more than 177,000 American adults were surveyed.

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