Nintendo’s Wii Fit was recently released in Japan just in time for the holidays at around $80. Online retailers such as play-asia have it on stock for $189.90. As I heard this news, I couldn’t help but flashback to this years E3. Specifically, when Miyamato’s next big game was revealed, Wii Fit. At this point, I believe a deafening silence swept Nintendo fan-boys everywhere. The same Nintendo faithful, that stood by Nintendo through the N64 and Gamecube era, were seemingly shafted for the casual market. In years past, we were treated to things like Mario Galaxy and Zelda Twilight Princess, franchises that were symbolic of the Nintendo brand, but instead we got what was effectively an interactive weighing scale. With that announcement, it became clear that Nintendo’s approach to gaming was in a new direction, “Audience Expansion”.
Wii Fit will be, comparably, the second coming of Wii Sports. It will be at the forefront of Nintendo’s campaign to draw-in people that don’t play games to buy the Wii. With a name like Wii Fit, it is obviously targeted to the older and more health conscious demographic. With activities such as yoga, aerobics, stretching and “games”, Nintendo will be earning a lot of positive attention from mainstream media. This is why traditional hard-core gamers need to be cautious about the kind of success that Wii Fit will have. Mario Galaxy, the 2nd highest reviewed game in history (according to Game Rankings), did not sell as well as expected in Japan, compared to New Super Mario Bros. for the DS. If, in the next few months, Wii Fit goes on to outsell Mario Galaxy in Japan and in other major regions, say goodbye.
In all likely-hood, Wii Fit will outsell Mario Galaxy. The Japanese market will eat this thing up, it will be like the Wii launch all over again. A few months after, Wii Fit will come out in the U.S. market starting all sorts of media mayhem. I can imagine seeing this thing on Oprahs favorite things list, the Today Show, Good Morning America and making #1 on Times invention of the year. When that time comes, Nintendo will have even less incentive to pour development efforts into franchises like Mario or Zelda, that require so much more money and will not sell as well. Miyamoto might even be ‘expected’ to come out at next years E3 with his next ‘casual gaming gem’ instead of an actual game.
Sure there is always the argument that any money going into casual games is good for the industry as a whole, but as the Wiis line-up of games has shown, that is not the case, and the forth-coming Wii Fit will cement this argument as a good or bad thing for the traditional gamer.