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Nintendo, AHA: The Wii is good for your heart

Does the American Heart Association's official endorsement of the Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit give Nintendo a game-changing advantage against its competitors?


What can a game company facing outdated hardware, aggressive and innovating competitors, and game-changing newcomers do to stay afloat in the video game business?

Well, how about getting official American Heart Association branding?

While it may come as a surprise to no one, Nintendo on Monday announced that it has formally partnered with the American Heart Association to promote active play through its Wii and Wii Fit gaming hardware.

What does that mean, exactly? In the long run, Nintendo is promising an upcoming summit with medical, self-help, and other industry professionals to help tackle issues of physical activity in children and the world population in general. In the short term, it means Nintendo's key gaming products will now be officially endorsed and branded by the AHA: the Wii, Wii Fit Plus, and Wii Sports Resort will all bear the American Heart Association label starting this summer. Wii Sports Resort is now being packed in with current Wii systems since the debut of the black Wii.

Nintendo's new Web site pushes the heart-healthy aspects of the Wii even further. Nintendo

At a press conference in New York City, Nintendo and American Heart Association representatives including Nintendo of America's Cammie Dunaway discussed the importance of physical activity in America, and proceeded to demonstrate the Wii Fit Plus, a game that's already more than half a year old. No new products were announced--we were expecting perhaps the Wii Vitality Sensor, but not a word was spoken of it--making the conference a bit of a shaggy-dog story. On the other hand, it doesn't take much of an imagination to think of what this official branding might do to prolong sales of Nintendo fitness gaming products, and the Wii in general.

The American Heart Association is focusing on the "active play" initiative to reinforce their recommendation of 30 minutes of active play a day for five days a week to promote better health, emphasizing that Americans spend more than eight hours a day sitting down.

Introducing the Wii Vitality Sensor now seems like a no-brainer with this branding, especially if it can monitor heart rates effectively and possibly teach stress reduction through biofeedback. It seems like the inevitable next step to Nintendo's clever jump into the world of home fitness--and until Sony or Microsoft can snag an endorsement this strong, it might be Nintendo's ace in the hole for the next few years.

Will the Wii now be recommended by doctors as part of a fitness solution even more than they already were? Will the Wii now definitively be this generation's Soloflex? Or is this just more of what people were already expecting from Nintendo? More analysis on this partnership and what it means for gaming will follow, but for now, discuss: does this change how you see the Wii, or the American Heart Association?