Wii Fit: Innovation in Gaming or Marketing?

I'm on the road again today with my wife, son and two dogs. Trish is driving us back from El Paso, Texas to Denver. I spent a longish weekend visiting my mom and step-dad and since I'm going to be reviewing Wii Fit soon for Kotaku, I decided to bring along my Wii and a copy of the game.

Shortly after setting it up my step-dad wandered into the room to see what was going on. My son was hammering away at the Ski Jump mini game and it wasn't long until he wanted to give it a try. My step-dad, you may recall, is the one who fell asleep watching me play Grand Theft Auto IV. It's an understatement to say that gaming isn't his thing. But after about 15 minutes with the game he went to go get my mom. I think she'd really like this, he said.

Turns out she did. She likes it so much that I left my Wii Fit with them, but only after they promised to buy a Wii once they could locate one. Even more surprising, my wife, someone who doesn't like to talk about games or watch me game, let alone play games, actually stepped onto the Balance Board to give it a try and said she wanted to "check it out" in more depth when we got home. Chills, it gave me chills.

The thing is, I'm still slightly convinced that the Wii Fit is the Brain Age for the Wii. Brain Age was the game that convinced thousands of aging baby boomers, including my mom, to buy the DS only to use it for a week, maybe a month, and then forget the device. I can say with 100 percent authority that my mom hasn't just given up on the DS, she's forgotten she owns it.

The Wii Fit will certainly strike a chord with some aging baby boomers, but I think it will strike a bigger chord for that group one generation younger so worried about their health and physique. But will it really get them into gaming? I don't think so.

When deciding whether they were going to buy a Wii, my mom and step-dad asked me if it came with Wii Sports. Then they asked if they would ever need to buy another game again. I'm thinking this is more about buying an ideal, a concept: That Wii Fit will make them fit, or healthier, than it is about getting them interested in gaming.

As much as I want to believe Nintendo's line, that the Wii in breaking from tradition and cutting a path into the untapped non-gamer, general population, I think what they're really doing is finding ways to attract people to gaming who will rarely stick to it by tapping into the fears of an aging population.