When Nintendo rolled out its long anticipated exercise peripheral the Wii Fit, marketers pitched it as the ultimate couch-potato killer. But the expectations inside the game developers' community are much larger. The Fit is seen as part of a strategy by Nintendo to create a wave of immersive devices.
Yes, the Fit offers a good workout, but the tool also captures a full range of movements. These gestures can be integrated into a number of virtual gaming experiences such as sports or even narrative storytelling. Marketers looking for fresh terrain to mine should note the Wii's blockbuster growth - it outsold the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 by nearly four to one in April, according to the NPD Group.
But there is a hitch. Wii users tend to buy less software for their games compared with owners of similar gaming systems. And with lower uptake rates for new software, the device is already running the risk of not developing as fast as competitors.
Some experts still believe in the Wii's power to sell games, though. "I don't accept the premise that the Wii has a hard time rolling out software," says Michael Pachter, managing director for research at Wedbush Morgan Securities, an investment firm based in Los Angeles. "The sell-through for the Wii is higher than the GameCube at a similar point in its life cycle."But underneath the hype surrounding the Wii, there is a chance that the device will ultimately become an interactive appliance targeted at a very particular market rather the take-all-comers gaming war horse it is touted to be.