Mark your calendars, folks. On May 19, gaming will change forever in this country.
That’s the scheduled North American release date for “Wii Fit,” the exergaming title now moving out of game stores in Japan like crushed ice at a frozen-drink bar. The game employs the Nintendo Wii console’s signature motion-sensing technology and a wireless balance board to engage gamers in fitness-related challenges.
Upon debut in Japan four months ago, “Wii Fit” sold more than 1 million copies in its first week, and that’s in a nation with only about 5 million Wiis in use.
Market estimates just announced put projected sales in this country around 4 million — in “Halo 3″ territory. But more than 9 million Wiis are scattered around the United States, and demand for the devices continues to outstrip supply.
The number of Wiis alone in this country suggest “Wii Fit” will sell much better here than in Japan — that and the dearth of good games using Wii technology. (”Wii Sports” and “Wii Play,” two games customized for Wii and released with the console’s debut in late 2006, are still the best selling games in this category.)
Critics may scoff at the notion of “Wii Fit” outdoing the current sales king, the Xbox-only “Halo 3,” in part because there are almost three times more Xbox 360s in use than Wiis.
But Nintendo says it plans a $40 million marketing campaign in this country, the company’s biggest ever for a single U.S. title. The “Halo 3″ campaign orchestrated by Xbox 360 maker Microsoft topped out around $10 million.
Furthermore, games customized for Wii seem to have a broader audience than just gamers. “Wii Sports” and “Wii Play” appeal to almost all ages — anyone who can wave the Wii’s wand controller — and even have shown up in medical and rehabilitation facilities as tools to help clients redevelop mobility and hand-eye coordination.
The great demand for the first-person shooter “Halo 3,” which sold almost 5 million units last year alone, came in part due to great marketing, but mainly from loyal fans of “Halo” who had followed the franchise since its debut in 2001.
“Wii Fit,” on the other hand, is said to incorporate more than 40 different activities, including yoga poses, step aerobics and dancing. It monitors body mass and weight, and can be customized for individual fitness levels and needs.
And in our weight-conscious society that’s always searching for new ways to lose pounds and have fun at the same time, “Wii Fit” is bound to attract a much broader audience — so to speak — than a game that works thumbs more than thighs.
So, if you manage to get in line and secure a copy of “Wii Fit” soon after its release, consider yourself blessed. Game Guy predicts that tens of thousands of Americans will throw a fit after May 19 if they don’t obtain “Wii Fit” right away.