I spent the first half of this week hanging out with the likes of Michael Pachter, Peter Moore, Mike Gallagher and Nintendo of America's recently appointed vice president of marketing, Cammie Dunaway at Ziff Davis' Electronic Gaming Summit.
It was the first time I met Dunaway and we ended up chatting quite a bit during a dinner on the last night, hosted at a nearby vineyard, held in a castle of all places.
Dunaway, it turns out, had just flown in from New York where she helped kick off the launch of the Wii Fit in Central Park.
"I'm sure Wii Fit is going to sell very well," I told her, "but I suspect it's going to be like every other piece of exercise equipment people buy for themselves: In a few weeks or a month it's going to have laundry piled on it or be back in its box."
Not so, Dunaway insisted.
"Wii Fit incorporated the magic of video games," she said. "You get ranked, you unlock new levels, you can compete against each other, there's a lot of video game hooks that will help people stay motivated."
The next day, while reiterating our conversation to the summit during her speech, she added that there are also a lot of other exciting things that can be done with the balance board, specifically new games using it as a controller. Games like Namco-Bandai's skiing title or EA's Skate It or Ubi's upcoming Rayman title.
I buy the second argument, I'm not so sure about the first. But it's still a good model: You get people to buy the Balance Board by making people think working out will be fun, even though deep down everyone knows it really isn't, then you start releasing other games using the peripheral, removing the fit from the balance board and emphasizing the fun. It's almost a bait-and-switch, but without the negative connotations.
What I found more fascinating than Dunaway's insistence that Wii Fit, and not just the balance board, would be a game with lasting value, was her explanation of how Shigeru Miyamoto came up with the idea.
The story goes that Miyamoto placed a piece of graph paper on a wall in his house to track his weight and that every day he would plot it. Over time his family started questioning his weight gains and losses. Why did he lose weight on this day? Why did he gain weight on that day? That's when inspiration struck and Miyamoto went into the office and told his developers "Let's create a video game based on weighing yourself."
Can you imagine if anyone other than Miyamoto suggested that?