Tipping Point

WiiFitThe bathroom scale has long been a panic-inducing object for women everywhere. Traditional norms not only dictate that women should be a certain (low) weight, but can also cause women to confuse their weight with their self-worth. With this in mind, it's hard to imagine why Nintendo would make a device that so closely resembles a scale the centerpiece of its Wii Fit game.

Wii Fit, which lets users keep track of their weight, body mass index (BMI) and other fitness-related stats, was rolled out May 19 in the United States, following the product's massive success in Japan. While the U.S. campaign (produced by Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners) includes advertising in TV and print media, Nintendo's main outlet for drumming up attention is via public relations efforts. Wii Fit has appeared on shows like NBC's Today, a program viewed primarily by women. And that's the point: Wii Fit is arguably Nintendo's first product aimed directly at an adult female demographic. Under the slogan "How will it move you?", Wii Fit print ads feature a woman in her 30s using the Wii Fit Balance Board, a $90 add-on that allows users to perform various exercises.

Vivian May, Ph.D., assistant professor of women's studies at Syracuse University, says Wii Fit has not strayed far from harping upon insecurites in female body image: "The fact that the Balance Board looks so much like a bathroom scale certainly reinforces this problematic collapsing of fitness with self-image."

So, will the board gain the widespread success it enjoyed in Japan? Matt Hawkins, a video game journalist and designer, says, "People in Japan are not only more health conscious in general, but they have healthier diets. One unadvertised fact is how the Balance Board had been redesigned to accommodate the generally heavier weight that most Americans have." The Wii Fit's success will depend not only on consumer response to the company's campaign, but also on whether Americans can stand to put down the fried chicken for video game aerobics - oh, and not break the reinforced board.
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