Nintendo recently announced their going to focus on health applications using non-wearable devices in the near future. Sadly this is all they were willing to say at this point in time and so it’s pretty much anyone’s guess what their actually working on. While Nintendo has developed successful exergames with the likes of the Wii-Fit their entry into more physiologically driven gaming for health applications never really got off the drawing board. As such I’d hazard a guess that their working on a camera based heart monitor similar to the one supported by the new Xbox Kinect for use in the Wii-Fit U.
It looks like Nintendo have put the Vitality sensor on an indefinite hold. In answer to a question at a recent shareholder meeting, Nintendo explained that while player physiology opened interesting avenues for play the mechanics they tried didn’t work for everybody, that being 10% of the players they tested. As I posted back in 2011, when Nintendo first raised this issue, the bar Nintendo had set for the percentage of players who could successfully control their physiology was simply too high at 99%.
At a recent investor conference, Nintendo was rumoured to of stated that the reason the Wii Vitality has not been released was because it only works for 80% of players and before they release it they want it to work for 99%. If this issue concerns the physiological game mechanic (i.e. only 80% of players can control their physiology according to the requirements of the game mechanic), then the product will be on hold for a very long time.
Note: For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume Nintendo are experimenting with a heartbeat (HR) rate based biofeedback relaxation game which they’ve alluded to previously at E3 2009. However what I’m going to say applies equally to all physiological game mechanics I know of and should be borne in mind when developing your own physiological game.
At this year’s E3 Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all presented their own vision of how the player will interact with games in the future. Microsoft introduced Project Natal, a full-body hands-free game controller, which had previously been hinted upon early last month. You can check the concept video here. Sony demonstrated a wand like motion controller which works in conjunction with the Playstation Eye. And Nintendo revealed the Wii Vitality Sensor, a biosensor add-on for the Wii controller.
Sadly Nintendo didn’t reveal any specific details (or games for that matter) on how they intend to use the sensor. However from what little they did provide its likely Nintendo are going to start with stress management games similar in nature to Healing Rhythm’s Journey to Wild Divine series. Given the relax-to-win game format is very common in biofeedback based stress management, I’m suprised a game demo was not forthcoming. Oh well, E3 isn’t over as of yet, so they might reveal some more information.
Next we’ll have a look at the type of experiences the Wii Vitality can be expected to provide.