But video game devices are not being negatively impacted by the slump, the chief executive of Nintendo Korea said.
"Regardless of downturns, consumers pursue something fun," Mineo Koda said in an interview with The Korea Herald.
He said Nintendo`s video game consoles Wii and DS are selling well in Korea and overseas, which shows they are immune to downturns.
"Sales of our products does not depend on whether the economy is good or not, but whether we introduce fun products or not. I realized this through my experience in the video game industry," said Koda, who has been working for Nintendo for 25 years.
Nintendo`s latest video game, Wii Fit, has been posting rapid growth in sales since it was launched in Korea a month ago. He declined to disclose the sales figure.
Wii Fit has combined fun with fitness, allowing consumers to do 40 types of exercises such as yoga and push-ups and to measure their "Wii Fit age," using the motion-sensing balance board.
The company`s other hit video game console, DS, also allows consumers to do things they may have never imagined doing through video games - raising pets, learning English and training their brain.
The device, which was launched in January 2007 in Korea, saw its unit sales pass the 1 million-mark that year and the 2-million-level in 2008.
Nintendo`s video game consoles have attracted not only men but also women and middle-aged people thanks to their easy-to-use controllers and familiar game themes, Koda said.
He said many people lost their appetite for traditional video games because their controllers were complicated and their themes were not appealing.
"There were many people who have distanced themselves from games. We felt a sense of crisis that there would be no future if the game industry remained unchanged" he said.
"That is one of the biggest reasons we adopted a strategy to expand the game population."
DS has a user-friendly touchscreen, allowing consumers to navigate games with the touch of a finger or with the included stylus. Wii`s motion-sensing controller is shaped like a remote control.
"We have hoped to make those who do not play games play games," he said.
He said when Nintendo Korea first made inroads into the Korean market, doubts persisted about its success as the local game market was dominated by online games.
But he has seen opportunities in the Korean market as online games have a limited audience.
"We believe that the Korean market has growth potential as there are many people who are not interested in online games and who used to play online games, but do not play them anymore," he said.
The introduction of Nintendo products brought a major change to the landscape of games in Korea, making them played not only by hardcore gamers but also by people who were not interested in games before.
He showed several photos of electronics shops in Seoul, which were taken before and after the launch of Nintendo games. Before the launch, the shops were filled with male consumers, while photos taken after the launch showed many women and middle-aged consumers looking around Nintendo products.
"We would like to continue our challenge of broadening our customer base in Korea," he said.
He did not disclose its sales target for this year, but said the company aims to increase sales of the Wii and DS, the two flagship products of Nintendo. He added that Wii, which was launched in April last year, lags behind Nintendo DS, but the company seeks to boost Wii`s sales, driven by brisk sales of Wii Fit.
He also said Nintendo Korea faces another major challenge of changing the negative perception of games among Koreans.
"As there were many violent games, many parents had negative images of games. We face a major challenge of changing those negative images," he said.
When asked about rivalry with Microsoft`s Xbox and Sony`s PlayStation, he said, "People often ask such questions, and we say our competitor is neither those companies, but consumer indifference to games," he said.
By Jin Hyun-joo