Nintendo’s last laugh goes straight for the heart

wii-vitality-sensorIn an interview with Financial Times, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata elaborated a bit more on that Wii Vitality Sensor that had the gaming press openly laughing during the keynote. I hate to gloat, but Infendo may have logged another accurate Nintendo prediction.

But first, we’ll start with the what I’ll call the “balance board theory.” Basically, this theory states that whenever Nintendo reveals anything in this day and age, people who consider themselves experts in the video game field will immediately laugh at it. Then, a few months later, Nintendo reveals that their mocked technology has led all top 10 lists in the U.S. and Europe for 12 months straight, and that the total unit sales for this accessory are almost as much as the third place company’s console sales.

Mr. Iwata, about that Vitality Sensor, if you please:

[L]et me say why we made an announcement about it at this time. Take the example of Wii Fit. When we talked about it two years ago, a lot of people thought the Wii Balance Board was crazy. They thought Nintendo would start selling a bathroom scale. But Wii Fit became a success because we saw a “blue ocean strategy.” But now a lot of companies are fighting in the red ocean of follow-up exercise games […] The advantage for Nintendo is that we always try to do things that other companies don’t try to do. That is something that the general public appreciates. That’s why we have to introduce this Wii Vitality Sensor. A lot of people must be wondering what the hell this is about. But that’s exactly the way people felt two years ago with the Wii Balance Board.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve learned to never, ever laugh at a Nintendo project or new game announcement when it’s first revealed by Nintendo. Wii Music? Stalwart supporter even today, and even though I never plan to buy or even borrow it.

But enough BS. On to the prediction. Earlier this week, Infendo hypothesized that the senor could be used in tandem with a survival horror game; or could serve as a source of additional immersion for combat games that track vitals. Lo and behold:

SI: We have been trying a variety of different technologies and possibilities. We have found that a lot of information can be found through the pulse of a human being. The pulse is not the simple measurement of just your heartbeat. It provides a number of other signals through your body. It can show how your automatic nervous system is operating […] By trying to sense the nerves, it can tell a lot. The pulse can include this information. You may feel totally relaxed. Maybe you will play a horror game and the sensor can tell how scared you are. Several other things can be learned from the pulse, like if you are breathing in or breathing out. We may come up with interesting new software that we sell with the new Wii Vitality Sensor, much like we sold the Wii Balance Board with Wii Fit.

Iwata-san, you sneaky git. You read Infendo, don’t you?!

But anyway, I really, seriously, cannot understand how anyone can laugh at or mock Nintendo’s quirky ideas anymore. Wii Fit is a phenomenon. The Wii wheel, which does absolutely nothing new, was responsible for making Maro Kart Wii ann evergreen console title. Even Wii Music is a million-seller. The Vitality Sensor, openly mocked as a geezer meter for retirement homes, will be packaged with something that could surprise us all (indeed, someone needs to give me a tally on the number of times Iwata, Miyamoto and Reggie said the word “surprise” this week).

And one more thing. Seems this Vitality Sensor could get a bit… freaky:

A long time ago we sold something called a Love Tester. A boy and girl would shake hands to see how passionate they were. I think boys simply wanted to touch girls’ hands. There was no science behind this. Now we may be able to do a real Love Tester.

Of course, Wii Speak will continue to be ignored, much to David’s chagrin.