When big game releases come out I usually get called for interviews by mainstream reporters. That happened last Spring for Wii Fit. On those calls I told writers it was only a matter of time until we heard about consumers losing hundreds of pounds on the Balance Board. In retrospect that probably never happened – otherwise Nintendo would be rolling those biggest losers out on the talkshow circuit. Still, Wii Fit must be doing something right to stay at the top of the NPD sales charts. Maybe the mere idea of getting fit is intoxicating enough.
Which brings me to EA Sports Active. Let me tell you about the game “home fitness product.” Last week in San Francisco EA showed the game “product” to the game press for the first time. I strapped on the leg strap (which snugly fits the Nunchuck to track lower body movements), picked up the Wiimote, and spent a good 5 minutes going through a high-intensity workout that included boxing and in line skating. As EA Sports PR rep Jen Riley reported on Twitter, yes, I even broke a sweat. (She is forgiven for this disclosure since she impressed me by correctly spelling my last name on the Wii menu, unaided).
My early review? It seems like EA Sports Active’s more aggressive approach to fitness is the perfect counter to Wii Fit’s focus on yoga and balance. The visuals even look quite good for a Wii game. I was impressed with the product, its level of customization and ultimately, its market potential. Maybe there will be a “biggest loser” for EA Sports Active. (Let’s hope it happens before THQ ships the official “Biggest Loser” game this Fall).
But here’s where it’s about to get really weird. For all the chatter about Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space being great new intellectual properties for EA, could EA Sports Active actually be the company’s #1 new IP for 2009? As the Killers intone on their latest CD, yes, “This is the world that we live. I feel myself get tired.” Now you understand why THQ has that Biggest Loser game coming, and Ubisoft’s quick-to-market Gold’s Gym game was announced the week before it shipped. (To be honest we did not aggressively pursue this world exclusive for GTTV, so maybe it was announced earlier). But wait…in the midst of all this fitness hysteria you really have to wonder WHERE THE HECK is Richard Simmons? Dude, you need a new agent, stat!
One final thought: I’m not sure I buy the whole idea of a “virtual trainer.” I think most Americans would rather learn a routine and then work out to music or TV, not canned “Good job!” commentary as you hear in Active. Which begs the question: Are Steve Schnur and his team at EA Trax going to deliver a custom soundtrack for Active? Or if you really want to get progressive, imagine being able to import your Rock Band songs and listen to them while you work out.
And now I return you to your regularly scheduled hardcore gaming. At least until EA Sports Cooking arrives.