The Wii Fit–Too Good To Be True?

The Wii Fit’s US release has resulted in one of the biggest video game buzzes in recent history. Consumers have reacted with a mixture of excitement, curiosity, and skepticism, curious over whether a video game can really be used to exercise. The question everybody is asking is whether it really works, or if it’s simply a way for couch potato video gamers to feel healthy while continuing to lounge.

The Wii Fit game consists mainly of minigame-style exercises, such as yoga, pushups, lunges, and jogging, executed on the Wii system’s Balance Board peripheral. The game measures the users weight and center of gravity, and can calculate the user’s Body Mass Index when his or her height is input. Wii Fit activities are divided into yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance games, and the system has a feature to track a user’s athletic progress over time, which includes a way to input activities done away from the Wii.

Though designer Shigeru Miyamoto created the game as a way to make exercise less intimidating and encourage families to exercise together, serious criticism has been leveled at capabilities as a real exercise regimen. Some have noted that because of players’ total freedom in designing their workout, they are less likely to adequately exert themselves. Others have criticized the menus between activities, making it difficult to maintain an elevated heart rate. Other criticism has been centered around the game’s labeling of some young users as overweight, despite a healthy weight and height.

However, despite skepticism over the system’s limitations, testing has shown that the Wii Fit does elevate the heart rate and has cardiovascular and aerobic benefits. Though it does not provide a truly rigorous athletic regimen, it may prove to be quite useful for those foreign to the world of fitness, those who are sedentary or overweight, or those with a stigma about exercising in public.

Since its Japanese release in December 2007 and its US release in April 2008, the Wii Fit has sold well, although not extraordinarily. Seeking to take advantage of the relative strength of the Euro, Nintendo prioritized sales in Europe over the United States, where the game sold 690,000 units in May.

Miyamoto, the world’s most successful game designer and creator of such famed characters as Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong, says that the game took over a year to develop, with the peripheral Balance Board taking twice as long. In an interview with 1up.com, Miyamoto explained that his inspiration for the system came when his family decided to become more health-conscious and began to exercise more.