The Ring Fit Experiment
By: Danson Nguyen
If you haven’t been paying attention to the video gaming world, you might be surprised to find out that the old stereotype of the video game experience has been overhauled. It’s been a while since the most accurate image of a gamer was a young boy sitting in front of his TV or computer screen as a mere hobby. In the US, a staggering 39% of gamers are over 35 years old, and 46% are women as of 2019. Mobile gaming, pulling players from traditional screens to their phones, is growing to the point that it is predicted to have the highest share of video game revenue by 2021.
And with the esports industry recently reaching 1.1 billion USD, competitive play is increasingly attractive as a career rather than just a hobby. I’ll focus on another minor aspect of the stereotype: the sitting.
In October 2019, Nintendo released Ring Fit Adventure, a game for its Nintendo Switch console that is named after a plastic ring apparatus that comes with it. After proper setup, the game is able to collect information on your leg movement and your interactions with the ring. This data enables the game to pursue its mission: to get you to exercise, forcing you to move your body to clear in-game challenges. Being perceived as a strong departure from most video games in recent memory, Ring Fit Adventure quickly gained notoriety. Numerous video gaming personalities live streamed or filmed YouTube videos of them playing, with many joking that they might get a heart attack on camera. Meanwhile the game hit #1 in sales in Japan and Korea.
But what is so innovative about it? Mixing exercise with video games is hardly new. “Exergaming” dates back to the 1980s, with the first major success considered to be Dance Dance Revolution, a game frequently seen in arcades requiring players to hit buttons with their feet to music. The biggest success in exergaming has been Nintendo’s 2007 title Wii Fit, so it should be no surprise that they would continue their attempts at innovating the genre. But later developments in Nintendo’s Wii Fit franchise mostly made only small adjustments from their predecessors. Meanwhile, competitors developed their own sophisticated technology, like the Microsoft Kinect boasting the capability of letting you use your body as a controller. Still, exercise games mostly fell into a stereotype of being primarily exercise and technology focused, with a few casual gaming elements thrown in.
Nintendo’s decision was to allow Ring Fit Adventure to slightly stray from the stereotype. Unlike its predecessors, the gaming aspect of it is not completely casual. Players should pay attention to their in-game health, think about what attacks are most effective on which enemies, and be prepared for grueling boss battles much like a traditional RPG (role playing game). This is a risky choice, as RPGs do not have significant appeal while casual games do (although they are quite popular in Japan, which may explain the game topping the Japanese sales charts). However, speaking as someone who has watched the transformation of the video gaming experience for a long time, this change appears to fit well into modern gaming.
New ideas for video games should consider the fact that video games are officially a spectator sport. Live streaming and lets-play videos of people playing video games have become immensely popular. Even if not on camera, watching other people play is a growing activity as people who don’t consider themselves strong gamers can still enjoy the game. Consequently, it is increasingly important that games interact with people who are not even playing the game but still watching it. Exercise games that merely give feedback that is only meaningful to the player can be boring to watch. With Ring Fit Adventure though, there is a story progression and the tension of battle during gameplay, making the more game spectator friendly. During a college campus event I attended called the Nintendo Switch Together Tour 2019, Ring Fit Adventure was even featured on the big screen as unabashed players proceeded through the story for everyone to watch.
While it is too early to judge its commercial success, having only been released a month before writing this, I can appreciate its success as an innovator in the exergaming genre. Exergaming has not had an innovation that has seen so much initial popularity for a while, and Ring Fit’s initial popularity can be attributed to its better fit into gaming spectator culture. It will probably be up to the success of Ring Fit Adventure to determine if such innovation will continue in the genre.
Goldilocks Interest Rates: Federal Reserve Decisions and Startup Financing
By: Sejal Naik
You have an innovative business idea, you have an action plan, you have found people who believe in your mission and are ready to support you reach your goals. But the path to turning your startup dreams into reality is still missing a crucial element – money. Entrepreneurs can pick from a variety of different ways to fund their business ideas which include personal or family savings, traditional bank loans and venture capital financing. As per an April 2019 report by the Kauffman Foundation, second only to personal or family savings, about 17% of startups were financed through business loans from banks or financial institutions. Did you know that a Federal Reserve Board announcement every six weeks affects an entrepreneur’s ability to affordably secure this startup loan? Enter Federal Funds Rate.
The Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee meets eight times every year to set the federal funds rate. This is the rate that banks defer to while lending funds to other banks overnight in order to meet the Federal Reserve’s stipulated reserve requirements. This rate is also used as a starting point above which banks and financial institutions set interest rates on products that they offer to the market such as personal loans, business loans and credit cards. Essentially, a higher federal funds rate limits the amount of money that banks can lend to the market, while a lower federal funds rate encourages banks to lend more money to borrowers at mutually favorable lending rates. After the 2008 financial crisis, the federal funds rate was essentially zero. In such a low rate environment and the resulting lack of profitable lending potential, banks were reluctant to lend to new businesses. Even then, many entrepreneurs found great financing options during this time, albeit from a very limited pool of lenders. After 2015, owing mostly to the economic recovery, the Federal Reserve started increasing the target federal funds rate, indirectly raising other interest rates in the market. After several rate increases, the Federal Reserve started lowering rates again in July 2019, which now sit in the 1.50-1.75 percent range. The current rates are high enough for banks and other lenders to find it lucrative to make loans, while also making startup loan interest rates low enough to be affordable for borrowers. Moreover, an increasing number of credit unions and other lending institutions want to seize this business opportunity and enter the small business lending arena. More lenders mean borrowers can now choose from a wide range of competitive financing rates. This current interest rate environment along with a healthy labor market, as Goldilocks would say, is “just right” for entrepreneurs to finance their startups and reap the benefits of favorable interest rates.