Nintendo and Heart Association Team Up, Fall Short

The American Heart Association just gave Nintendo an encouraging slap on the rear by endorsing the Wii and a couple of games.

It’s a great development for Nintendo. The AHA will stick a stamp of approval on two of Nintendo’s in-house titles, Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus, along with the console itself. The association will also showcase the Wii at “Find a Start! Heart Walk” events around the country. You can’t buy marketing like that.

The AHA’s gains from the partnership are more ambiguous. Exposure? The appearance of being on the cutting edge of fitness? Neither motivation would trouble me if the association were doing more than just declaring Nintendo to be its star player.

If I were an executive at Electronic Arts, I’d be livid. Last year, the publisher released EA Sports Active, a game specifically designed for exercise, unlike Nintendo’s fun-oriented Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit Plus. Beyond EA, there are plenty of other third-party games with an eye towards fitness, such as The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum and Just Dance. Where’s the AHA stamp of approval for those titles? For that matter, should the AHA still pledge allegiance to Nintendo when Microsoft and Sony release their own motion controllers?

The AHA could be doing so much more with the active play concept. It could rate individual games based on the difficulty of their workouts. It could give advice on how to make the most of each exercise game. Heck, if the group really had some ambition, it could create an online metagame for people to share and track their progress through multiple AHA-approved titles.

As it stands, the partnership between Nintendo and the AHA is a gimmick whose value barely exceeds the bullet points on the back of game boxes. Once the Wii Fit Plus gets stowed away in a dusty corner, with no endorsed products to replace it, the stamp of approval is meaningless.

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