/ 11 October 2007

Battle the bulge with the Wii balance board

Couch potatoes beware: Wii owners will be able to get an even more vigorous workout from December when Nintendo launches a new fitness balance board for its hit video-game console. The ''Wii Fit'' board and software can be used for exercising, sports and games including yoga, virtual snowboarding, ski-jumping and aerobics.

Couch potatoes beware: Wii owners will be able to get an even more vigorous workout from December when Nintendo launches a new fitness balance board for its hit video-game console.

The ”Wii Fit” board and software can be used for exercising, sports and games including yoga, virtual snowboarding, ski-jumping and aerobics to help users battle the bulge in their living rooms.

The board, which looks like a set of bathroom scales, is the latest salvo in Nintendo’s battle to widen the appeal of video games beyond just teenagers locked away in their bedrooms.

Nintendo announced on Wednesday that the package will go on sale in Japan from December 1 for 8 800 yen ($75). Launch dates for other countries were not announced.

Last year’s launch of the Wii and its motion-sensitive controller — which can be used like a tennis racket, golf club or bowling ball — triggered a slew of reports of aching backs, sore shoulders and what has been dubbed ”Wii elbow”.

Nintendo said it discourages players weighing more than 136kg from using the new balance board.

The company also announced it will launch ”Wii Ware” — a new service to download games and other software via the internet — from next March.

”We know that any player will get bored with any type of game console,” Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told a packed press conference near Tokyo. ”In order not to have the Wii end up as a temporary phenomenon, we need to enlarge the gaming population.”

Iwata said he wanted to expand the usage of the Wii beyond the home and into the online world. Although 51% of Japanese households have broadband internet access, only 40% of Wii users go online with their console, he said.

Nintendo is enjoying huge success with the Wii, far outselling rival Sony with its PlayStation 3.

While Sony put the emphasis on chip power and ultra-realistic graphics for the latest addition to the PlayStation series, Nintendo opted to develop an easy-to-use console that would appeal to a wider audience.

Kyoto-based Nintendo announced it will launch 70 brand-new software titles in the coming months for the Wii, including Super Mario Galaxy and Mario and Sonic at Beijing Olympics. But the long-awaited Smash Brothers X will be delayed by several months until January 24.

The price of Nintendo shares soared 2 600 yen or 4,1% to 65 700 yen as investors cheered news that the new fitness game would be available in time for the crucial year-end shopping period.

Nintendo, which started out in 1889 making playing cards, overtook Sony earlier this year in market value despite the fact that in terms of revenue it is about eight times smaller than the Japanese consumer electronics icon.

In an effort to catch up with Nintendo’s Wii, Sony recently announced it would slash the PlayStation 3’s price by 10% and launch a slimmed-down version in Japan and Europe this month. — Sapa-AFP