Staying fit by playing a video game. That dream of humankind, possibly second only to losing weight by eating, is the object of Nintendo's U.S. launch Monday of the Wii Fit exercise game.
Nintendo said its new product "combines fun and fitness in ways that will have people getting up off their couches," maybe even "breaking a sweat."
Yoga, Aerobics, Strength Training, Balance
With a suggested retail price of about $90, Wii Fit includes a balance board accessory and software. The board connects wirelessly to a Wii console, and it senses weight as well as shifts in movement and balance. More than 40 activities offer challenges in yoga, aerobics, strength training, and balance.
The Wii Fit begins the exercise program by measuring an adult user's BMI, or Body Mass Index. This is a common measurement of body fat based on height and weight.
The board can also be used as a platform for twirling a virtual hula hoop, "shredding" on a virtual snowboard, doing leg extensions, or undertaking a down-facing dog yoga pose. As a user progresses and as proficiency increases, his or her Wii caricature, which every user can create, reflects fitness levels.
If you slack off during an exercise routine, virtual trainers can talk you through different exercises and make suggestions for improvement. Users' progress can be tracked via scores.
'Interactive Release Party'
Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing, said the new product "will get you moving whether you've been playing video games for years or this is your first time." To help with its launch in the U.S., Nintendo was to have "an interactive release party" in the southwest corner of New York City's Central Park, with celebrity trainer Ashley Borden on hand to have attendees "get on board."
In Japan, more than two million customers have gotten on board with the Wii Fit so far. Nintendo also notes that the Wii is the first video-game system ever included in the President's Challenge, part of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with industry research firm JupiterResearch, pointed out that, from its launch, the Wii console has been promoted as something "more than a video game" and many users have seen its motion-based games as a form of exercise. The Wii's remote control senses motion and has been the central feature of the Wii's different approach to gaming.
Given this background for the console, Gartenberg predicted that the Wii Fit "is going to be a hit" in the U.S. He noted that there have been previous, not-very-successful efforts to sell gaming-based exercise, such as with Sony's EyeToy, but it and others were "maybe a bit ahead of their time."