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Posted by: Matt Vella on May 09
As Nintendo gears up its next big thing – the May 19 release of Wii Fit – games blogs and websites are abuzz over what might be described as the accessory’s lack of tact. In fact, if you’re overweight, Wii Fit may just call you fat.
Ok, not exactly. But, the Wii Fit – a $90 kit that includes a motion- and pressure-sensitive board and software to help players lose weight and improve their fitness – doesn’t pull any punches. Interestingly, when Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s president and CEO, visited BusinessWeek’s offices last month, he said the Fit’s designers had toyed with sugar coating results, worrying about alienating players by potentially calling them overweight or even obese. But, to make the product “useful and honest,” they ultimately decided not to.
Still, gamers are wondering if Wii Fit may come off as harsh. It analyzes a player’s fitness in part via their body mass index. (See the picture to the right below.) But, according to this discussion thread that might turn some players off. User “Mrs Hobbes” relates the story of her ten year old grand-daughter who 4ft, 9in tall, weighs 92lbs and was deemed over-weight by Wii Fit. (This BMI calculator says she would be “normal weight.”) Mrs Hobbes wrote:
She is solidly built but not fat. She was devasted to be called fat and we had to work hard to convince her that she isn’t. I know it is just a game but seriously we already have to worry about young girls starving themselves to look like the magazine models and now we have a game that tells them their fat. This to me is very worrying and I hope that is doesn’t cause emotional problems for any youngsters out there :(
For more, games site Gamespy has an in-depth look at the experience of being deemed overweight by the new Nintendo accessory.
Still, the minor flap hasn’t done anything to dampen excitement for Wii Fit, which is already selling briskly. In fact, some retailers have stopped taking pre-orders thanks to strong demand. Amazon blew through its entire stock in about a month, according to blog WiiFanBoy. Another blog, GoNintendo, is also reporting that Toys R Us may be doing the same thing.
Nintendo is preparing one of the biggest roll-outs in its history, targeting an even broader range of non-traditional gamers than it did when it launched the Wii. Think advertising in The View and Women’s Health. “Consumer-level advocacy is marketing nirvana,” Fils-Aime told me last month, underscoring how important the company anticipates word-of-mouth being.
He added that he’s expecting two big waves of Wii Fit sales, an initial surge made up largely of people who already own Wii consoles and a later wave of players that would be new to the system.
No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.