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'Wii Fit,' WiiWare due in U.S. in mid-May

Nintendo announces launch dates for its balance-board-based exercise game and an independent development and digital distribution channel.

SAN FRANCISCO--On the morning the Game Developers Conference began to shift into high gear, Nintendo stole some of the thunder surrounding expected announcements by Microsoft when it announced release dates for two of the most anticipated projects for its wildly successful Wii console--Wii Fit and WiiWare.

The Wii Fit will go on sale on May 19 across North America, according to the Japanese game giant's U.S. arm, Nintendo of America. (It will hit the U.K. and Europe earlier, on April 25.) The game, which has not yet been officially priced, will have players engage in exercise-like activities--including yoga and low-impact calisthenics--via its balance-board peripheral. Players can track their health and exercise progress through a new Wii Fit channel, which will launch alongside the game.

Despite some debate about exactly how much exercise the game will entail, Wii Fit has sold more than 1.4 million units in Japan to date. Nintendo also said that third-party publishers are already working on games that use the balance board, such as Namco Bandai's snow sports title Family Ski. The Wall Street Journal confirmed Tuesday that the game, which is already available in Japan, is coming to the U.S. later this year.

One week before Wii Fit sparks another retail run on the still-hard-to-find Wii console, Nintendo will launch its eagerly anticipated WiiWare channel. The channel will offer a series of all-new games developed by both independent developers, such as Frontier's LostWinds, and major publishers, such as Square Enix's fantasy monarch-lifestyle sim Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King.

Nintendo will be touting the development side of WiiWare on Thursday during a GDC panel devoted to the subject. Though the WiiWare toolset has remained largely out of the public eye, Nintendo of America is playing up how its "combination of low development barriers and unique game experiences found only on Wii should enable developers to try new ideas with lower risk in a quicker, more creative, and affordable way."

Thor Thorsen of GameSpot reported from San Francisco.