Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

What happened to the Vitality Sensor?

Nintendo's E3 2010 was missing a certain odd product from 2009...what happened to the much-maligned Vitality Sensor?

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

A few weeks ago, Nintendo developed a partnership with the American Heart Association. The Wii Fit is one of Nintendo's most successful product/game combinations ever. All new Wiis are now packaged with Wii Sports Resort and Wii MotionPlus, along with an approval stamp from the AHA.

It seemed like the stage was perfectly set to trot back out with the Vitality Sensor Satoru Iwata unveiled at last year's E3 press conference.

So, what happened?

Instead of fitness, motion, and heart health, Nintendo's presser was full of retro games and the 3DS. We're not complaining; far from it. In fact, it was one of the smartest Nintendo showings in years. But beforehand, we (or at least, I) was convinced that the Vitality Sensor would be unveiled as a destressing biofeedback tool that could also measure heart rate, a perfect addition to the Wii as trendy health accessory.

As for its sudden and complete absence, there could be several explanations.

  • It wasn't ready yet. Maybe the "heart healthy" elements of the Vitality Sensor weren't AHA-approved, or Nintendo had a hard time making a compelling game to go with it. It's funny, since Iwata seemed quite confident last year that Nintendo's "glimpse into the future" would all make sense eventually.
  • The 3DS happened. Once the ball started rolling on the groundbreaking 3D technology of the 3DS, how could an already-absurd Vitality Sensor compete?
  • Nintendo realized its retro games were making as much money as its casual games were. Yes, Wii Fit sold over 22 million copies worldwide. But New Super Mario Bros. Wii has sold 14 million copies and counting, and that can't be overlooked. Nintendo's following the money. Is it any surprise that 3D revamps of Kirby and Donkey Kong Country were announced this year? Side-scrolling platformers are cheaper to make and can stand to reap lots of profit, plus they have universal and family appeal. The formula might be even better than having endless activity games.
  • Nintendo wanted to distance itself from the Kinect/Move. When your competitors are moving full-forward with the same casual/activity sales pitch you started years ago, the best approach can often be to take a completely opposite stance. Rather than blend in, Nintendo might have chosen to beef up on its game announcements instead.
The mystery remains unsolved. What do you think?