On July 11, 2007 famed video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage at a Santa Monica gaming convention to reveal a peripheral and game designed to bring exercise and fitness to the Nintendo Wii gaming platform. Wednesday, Nintendo took advantage of another trade show, this time in San Francisco, to announce the Wii Fit launch schedule for the U.S. and Europe.
Part of Nintendo’s ongoing strategy to expand the gaming market by appealing to mainstream audiences, the Wii fit package uses a specially designed balance board controller to turn exercise into games (or games into exercise). Like the Wii’s other innovative controllers, the board (which is primarily designed to be stood on) senses motion and movement. The device is also sensitive to shifts in weight. Reportedly its scale-like design was inspired by Sumo wrestlers who often need to weigh themselves with two scales.
Almost two years were spent engineering the balance board and insuring the cost factor would allow it to be affordable. The combined Wii Fit package, including its own Wii Sports game, will be priced at under $100.
The initial games bundled with the controller are very much exercise focused. A little like a personal trainer that emphasizes fun challenges over “feeling the burn,” the games include Yoga instruction, rhythmic step aerobics, ski jumping, tightrope walking, push up exercises and ski jumping.
Namco Bandai is in the process of developing a more intensive skiing game that will require a player to shift their weight in a manner similar to actual skiing. Other developers are also working to expand the application of the balance board.
The Wii Fit platform will enter into a competitive but incredibly hot gaming industry. But like Activision’s immensely successful Guitar Hero franchise, the Wii itself, and a handful of other titles, it’s breaking down traditional barriers by presenting a creative new user interface and new categories of game play.
As explained by Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s U.S. division president, “Wii Fit is about breaking the definition of video gaming.” That similar to the logic behind the industry shaking Wii and some of Nintendo’s other experiments, including a little known pilot last July to explore using the DS Portable in baseball stadiums to augment the fan experience.
Shigeru Miyamoto, who oversaw the design for the Wii Fit project is among the most famous and celebrated of game developers. After joining Nintendo as an artist in 1977, he went on to create Donkey Kong, Mario (the forefather of the entire Mario Brothers franchise) and the Legend of Zelda: all among the most loved and bestselling titles of all time. Wii Fit, though not necessarily likely to generate equivalent fanfare, is also poised to be a hit (though perhaps with different audiences).
Wii Fit was previously released in Japan on December 1, 2007. The bundle sold more than 250k copies in its first week of retail sales. It has sold more than 1.4m copies (in Japan only) to date.
Wii Fit will launch April 25th in Europe and May 19th in the U.S.
In other news, Nintendo will also launch an expanded online publisher distribution platform (Wii Ware) on May 12th. The service will allow downloading of a broader array of titles.
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