Tag Archives | Wii

Enough With the Wii Fitness Studies

Every week, it seems like there’s a new study that either praises or decries Nintendo’s Wii as a vehicle for getting into shape.

The most recent comes from the University of Mississippi. The study loaned Wii Fit units to eight families, who spent three months without the console and Balance Board, and three months using it. In conclusion, moderate Wii Fit use “may have provided insufficient stimulus for fitness changes,” said the study.

Nintendo would beg to differ. The company recently funded a study by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, which found that a third of the games in Wii Fit and Wii Sports meet the American Health Association’s guidelines for moderate exercise.

Yet another recent study from the American Council on Exercise found that the Wii Fit provides “underwhelming” health benefits. However, ACE conceded that Wii Sports is more strenuous, and could help people meet minimum intensity guidelines for exercise.

Do we really need all these studies to declare whether the Wii is an exercise machine? Of course not. If you’re sweating a little after a round of Wii Sports Boxing, chances are you got some exercise. You also probably understand that it’s less of a work out than actual boxing, but it’s better than sitting on the couch. Duh.

The bigger problem with trying to quantify the Wii’s fitness value is that there are too many variables. You can play Wii Sports Tennis from your couch, or you can flail around like maniac. You can play Wii Fit every day for two months, and then never touch it again. Like any exercise, the Wii is totally dependent on what you put into it.

Indeed, the most important point in the University of Mississippi study is glossed over as an afterthought: After three months, the amount of time families spent playing Wii Fit dropped by 82 percent. Sounds a lot like my gym-going habits.

I can’t say it better than Kotaku editor Brian Crecente did in a Forbes feature on the matter: “What Nintendo did is they tapped into that desire people have to be healthier… Everyone wants to work out, but nobody really wants to put the effort into it.”

No amount of scientific fitness measurements can account for that.


3 in 5 Homes Have Game Consoles

With Nintendo’s Wii worming its way into the homes of unlikely gamers, the number of U.S. households with video game consoles has spiked dramatically.

VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi has the details on the State of Media Democracy report from consultancy Deloitte, which found that game console ownership jumped from 44 percent of homes three years ago to 60 percent this year.

That’s probably because Generation X and Baby Boomers have either rekindled a lost love for video games or discovered it anew thanks to the Wii. Roughly 70 percent of Gen Xers now own a game console, compared to 53 percent in 2006, and 44 percent of Boomers own a console, up 13 percent from three years ago.

There are certainly other contributing factors besides the Wii. The recession may have caused people to seek video games, which provide more hours of entertainment on the dollar than a vacation or even a movie. I’m also hesitant to pin the entire rise in game console ownership on the Nintendo. Though the Wii has dominated sales charts since its debut, the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 have appealed to broader audiences by functioning as Blu-ray and DVD players, respectively, and by offering videos on demand. But the Wii’s success shows that people don’t necessarily need those extra multimedia features in a game console. They want to play games, and in that regard, the Wii still reigns.

As I read back over this information, a lot of it seems pretty obvious, but when you realize that the majority of households have a game console — not just a PC for playing casual browser games — it’s pretty remarkable.


Playstation 3 Gets Netflix. What About the Wii?

netflixps3Starting next month, the Playstation 3 will be able to stream Netflix Instant Watch movies, and just like that, the Xbox 360 and Netflix are no longer an exclusive couple. But does this open relationship signal a similar offering for Nintendo’s Wii? Doubtful, for now at least.

The details thus far: PS3 owners will be able to order a free Blu-ray disc from Netflix that taps the Internet through BD-Live. This connects you to the streaming content through your Instant Queue or directly from Netflix’s Web site. The ship date for these magical discs wasn’t announced, but you can now sign-up for an alert. It’s not the ideal solution, but Sony and Netflix use the word “initially” when describing the process, so maybe a firmware update can fix this.

I’m wondering about the Wii because in June, Netflix surveyed some users on whether they’d like to see disc-assisted streaming on Nintendo’s console, just as Netflix conducted at least two similar surveys for Playstation 3 owners. The curious thing is that the Wii doesn’t have a Blu-ray player, and therefore, no BD-Live access, but I imagine something similar could be worked up with a regular game disc.

That’s assuming there’s enough interest in Netflix for the Wii to begin with. I don’t see why people wouldn’t want it, especially if they don’t already have another capable set-top box handy. But Nintendo might not love the idea, as its console has avoided multimedia features like the plague. Nintendo has been building a video channel in Japan, even adding Hollywood movies last June, but there hasn’t been any word that the “Minna no Theater Wii” (”Everyone’s Theater Wii”) will be available elsewhere.

If Nintendo does ever bring its video channel here, it’ll make Netflix look like a glaring omission, but right now, its absence bolsters the Wii’s posture as a straight-up gaming console, one that looks ever more different from both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.

Update: For the record, Netflix told Joystiq that “the Wii represents a great opportunity given the size of its installed base, but we have nothing specific to say about it at this point.”

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10 Awesome Free Wii Browser Games

Free Wii GamesNintendo recently made the Wii’s Opera Web browser free to all, perhaps realizing that only a fool would pay $5 for it. But even with the Internet at the command of your Wii Remote, it’s not clear what to do, especially with no support for Hulu and premium content withheld from YouTube.

Why not play some Wii browser-based video games? The Wii’s browser may only support Flash Lite, but that hasn’t hampered a handful of games designed specifically for the console’s Web browser. I’ve picked 10 of the best, including two-player Tetris, a working Galaxian clone and a full MMORPG, all of which can be bookmarked to play again at any time (To do so, click on the star icon in the browser, then click the icon with the plus sign to bookmark the page you’re on).

So grab a pen and write some of these URLs down, or even better, head to Technologizer through your console, and enjoy some Wii browser games that won’t cost you a dime.


Wii Price Drops, Sony and Microsoft Beat Chests

Nintendo WiiNintendo finally responded to the pressure from Sony and Microsoft, cutting the Wii’s price to $200, effective this Sunday. There were plenty of warning signs — store circulars, retailer’s internal e-mails, and plain old common sense — but now it’s official.

I’ve said my piece about the Wii’s holiday prospects, but I had to chuckle today at the indirect responses from Sony and Microsoft, who individually offered the same message. To paraphrase: “Hey, we’re making motion controllers too, you know!”

Exhibit A is Microsoft’s brag-laden press release about Project Natal, an upcoming 3D motion-sensing camera peripheral for the Xbox 360. Microsoft name-dropped a dozen publishers who are “actively working on games” for the motion controller, and spoke of a “high-powered panel” at Tokyo Game Show, in which a few top game designers will talk about how they love the new technology.

The message is that Microsoft loves third-party development, and wants to get publishers on board early on. That’s a not-so-subtle dig at Nintendo, which has a reputation for putting its in-house work on a pedestal. I’m still waiting to see whether the accuracy-boosting Wii Motion Plus will be adopted by more than a half dozen brave publishers.

Not to be outdone, Sony revealed some concrete information on its remote-like motion controller. Resident Evil 5, which was released earlier this year, will get a “Directors Cut” with motion controls, and 13 other titles are in development now. Some are existing games, like Flower and EyePet, while others are mysterious working titles, such as “Champions of Time” and “Eccentric Slider.”

I’d say Sony has been far more open about its technology than Microsoft, which makes sense because the Playstation 3 motion controller isn’t that revolutionary. It’s merely a ticket for the motion control bandwagon, and Sony’s trying to get on board by next spring.

Will the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360 beat Nintendo at its own game? We’ve barely seen either in action, so it’s hard to tell on quality alone. But the Wii’s price cut, combined with undying interest in franchises such as Mario, will ensure Nintendo’s success for a long time.


The Video Game Bundle Wars of 2009

wii-360-ps3Evidence that the Wii will become a $200 console is piling up, with the latest rumor coming from Best Buy management. Engadget scored a screen grab of a company letter, warning that the price drop will happen on Sunday, following an official announcement this Friday.

Alongside price cuts for the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 Elite, this is great news for anyone looking to buy a gaming console this holiday season. But even if you’ve got the itch now, consider holding out for the inevitable software bundles that will follow.

The Best Buy letter notes that stores should “use bundle bands to create bundles that tell a story and truly meet customers’ needs.” I’m not exactly sure what it means to tell a story with products, but I’ll bet Best Buy will try tacking on games and extra controllers to get you spending a little more. Those deals can work out in your favor if you are, in fact, buying the same things you planned to purchase a la carte.

Another thing to watch for are official bundles from the console maker. Ars Technica has a rumor that Xbox 360 Elites will include two games, Pure and Lego Batman, for the same $300 starting in mid-October. Sure, those wouldn’t be the first two games I’d choose, but for the same price tag they do sweeten the pot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony and Nintendo started offering their own added incentives.

Just remember that your brand new gaming console is worthless without at least one game, and it’s not as fun without two controllers. As the holiday shopping season approaches, keep an eye out for bundles that will save you from spending too much beyond the console’s initial price tag.


Mario, and Why the Wii Will Still Reign

Super MarioIt’s been rumored lately that Nintendo will cut the Wii’s price from $250 to $200 some time this month. That wouldn’t be a surprising maneuver, as Sony and Microsoft have recently tinkered with their own home console pricing.

But at first, I laughed off the news. Nintendo doesn’t even have a killer app for the holidays, I thought to myself, wondering whether a measly $50 price cut would really help juice the lead between the Wii and its competitors.

Then again, I initially forgot about Mario.

Confession: I’ve had enough of Mario ever since 2007’s Super Mario Galaxy — hailed by critics as nothing short of perfection. In my eyes, Mario 64 was the last game to bring with it a sense of magic, so either I simply grew out of Mario, or Nintendo dropped the ball. Either way, after 20-plus years of playing video games, I approached Galaxy with a “been there, done that” mindset, and the game didn’t sway me.

But I’m in the minority, and sometimes I lose sight of Mario’s enduring popularity. That’s why, when I looked at NPD’s August sales figures, I was shocked to see New Super Mario Bros., a Nintendo DS game that is 3 years old, hanging in 12th place for software sales. And that doesn’t count the number of people who bought a used copy of the game. The Nintendo DS was the top-selling console last month, at 552,900 units, and I’m sure many of those consumers chose New Super Mario Bros. as one of their first purchases.

Here’s the kicker: New Super Mario Bros. Wii is coming out in November. It’s essentially the same side-scrolling, 2D Mario game you’ve been playing for decades, but with up to four players at a time. The idea couldn’t bore me any more, but I know people will lap it up. Pair that with a Wii price cut, and Nintendo’s golden again.

I know, I said 2009 is the Year of the Playstation 3, and I still believe it, in that Sony will hit a major turning point this year. But Nintendo, which has reigned since the Wii debuted in 2006, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


Nintendo’s Wii Vitality Sensor: Vaporware?

260px-64DD_with_Nintendo64Okay, so it’s becoming clear that Nintendo doesn’t know exactly what to do with the Wii Vitality Sensor. The gadget, which supposedly measures pulse and other vitals from a player’s finger, was briefly introduced at E3 to a curious, if not bewildered press. Two months later, Nintendo brainchild Shigeru Miyamoto still won’t say how, exactly, the peripheral will be used.

“Ideally we would have been able to talk about this in terms of the software implementation rather than just the sensor itself,” Miyamoto told Mercury News. “I don’t have any indication for you (of what we have in the works) other than to say that we have lots of very creative ideas.”

Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera calls the sensor’s unveiling a misstep, because Nintendo failed to furnish any software that makes the hardware seem irresistible. I’ll take this a step further and say the Wii Vitality Sensor is headed towards Nintendo’s small but historically significant pile of video gaming vaporware.

The most notable of these half-baked failures is the Nintendo 64DD. This hardware expansion had considerable clout among my neighborhood friends, promising what seemed like infinite gaming muscle and endless possibilities. We read about it in Nintendo Power, waiting for a North American release that never came. Long after we had forgotten it, the Nintendo 64DD was released mainly as a subscription service in Japan, where it flopped.

There are other examples, like the Sony-developed SNES CD that ultimately evolved into the Playstation, along with “Project Atlantis,” a powerful successor to the Game Boy that was never officially confirmed, though it surfaced from obscurity this year. Though not exactly vaporware, there was also an unnamed, unexplained Nintendo handheld that was completed a few years ago and then scrapped.

It’s said that when Nintendo shelves an idea, the company tends to recycle it into future projects. This happened with a touch screen peripheral for the Game Boy Advance that eventually became the Nintendo DS, and I can see it happening again with the Wii Vitality Sensor. It’s not a flat-out bad idea, but it’ll have a tough time standing on its own. If we ever start hearing about the sensor in any significant detail, I’m guessing it will have already morphed into a different product altogether.


The iPhone Outpowers the Wii? Who Cares.

iphonewiiA game programmer is getting mouthy about the Wii, saying that an iPhone is more powerful for gaming.

This argument transpired at the forums (via GameZine) for TellTale, which developed Tales of Monkey Island as a downloadable title from the WiiWare online store. A programmer with the handle “Yare” explained that the Wii is just not meaty enough to address all of the issues players are having, including blurry textures and choppy framerates.

“Frame rate issues will probably get sorted out eventually, but keep in mind that the Wii is just not a powerful console,” Yare wrote. “An iPhone is much more powerful than a Wii, even.”

A boisterous claim, no doubt, but does it hold water? It’s hard to say given that neither Apple nor Nintendo freely discusses hardware specs. You can take a look at the leaked specs for both the Wii and the iPhone and be the judge, but even then you’d have a hard time making a direct comparison.

In any case, I don’t think it really matters. One of the things I like about WiiWare is how it forces simplicity. The console space is so otherwise littered with face-melting graphics that a space for constraint in game design and visual aesthetics is welcome. To that end, a couple of my favorite games for this generation of consoles — World of Goo and Bit.Trip Beat — are downloadable WiiWare titles. Both games have simple foundations, but they manage to create complex challenges without relying on technical muscle.

I understand some of Yare’s concerns, particularly that WiiWare titles can be no larger than 40 MB in size (Nintendo has not explicitly confirmed this, but has said the company encourages smaller games). With Nintendo now allowing access to games directly from an SD card, there’s room to relax those constraints, but that doesn’t mean the floodgates should open for games of all sizes. I don’t want WiiWare to become musclebound.

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Wii Getting Hollywood Movies (In Japan)

wiivideo1Nintendo is getting closer to a streaming Wii video service that would translate well to Western audiences.

In Japan, where the Wii’s video channel launched in April, Hollywood films will be available through the same service that powers Blockbuster’s on demand offerings. Sonic Solutions, with its Roxio CinemaNow service, will partner with Fujisoft, which handles Nintendo’s “Minna no Theater Wii” (“Everyone’s Theater Wii”) channel.

It’s no stretch of the imagination to see this video service coming to the US and Europe. In addition to Blockbuster, CinemaNow is already available in the West through LG Blu-ray players, Dell PCs and Archos portable media players.

Paramount Pictures will be the first to offer content on Japanese Wiis, with new releases and catalog titles. Presumably, other studios will follow, and if I had to venture a guess, I’d say Nintendo will line up more content before considering a western migration.

In its current form, the Japanese video service is vastly different from those of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. It’s more like Second Life, with Mii avatars socializing in a virtual living room. There are also coupons to download onto Nintendo DS handhelds and celebrities who drop in to peddle their own content. Before the CinemaNow partnership, videos were created specifically for the Wii.

I’m not sure whether that format would work outside of Japan, but with the addition of Hollywood films, a Wii video channel seems readier for export than ever.