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E3 07: Nintendo press conference

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Hardcore Nintendo fans certainly weren't the focus of this year's press conference. True, we saw the Wii Zapper revealed and finally got confirmation on Mario Kart Wii (due Q1 next year) and Super Mario Galaxy's release date (November 12), but the real focus was the company's continued audience expansion. In addition to showing Brain Age 2 and a new visual acuity game called Flash Focus, Nintendo unveiled its secret weapon for its next casual carpet bomb - Wii Fit, an exercise program that uses a wireless mat.

Called the Wii Balance Board, the device measures weight, body mass indices and balance. It's allegedly so fine tuned that it can detect shifts in weight and feet, enabling you to actually control games with your entire body. The demo reel showed a hula minigame where you continually swirl while extending your hands to catch more incoming hula hoops, and another that's essentially step aerobics with Mii graphics. There are 40 activities in all, including yoga exercises, muscle conditioning, balance training and aerobic activities. A new Wii channel will let people share their healthy progress with others around the world. Wii Fit is set to launch in the first half of 2008.

The mat itself looks like a true extension of Wii, as it's entirely white and slim as it could possibly be. Though the emphasis is clearly on grabbing more non-gamers and plopping them down in front of the Wii, there will be minigames to play using the weight-shifting idea. We saw a balance game where you have to guide a marble into a hole and a Mii-powered soccer game that had you leaning into incoming balls and head butting them away.

It initially seems very Power Pad. That idea didn't stick around too long, but the board's improved tech and body recognition could make this work. There are practical applications for hardcore games here (combining the Zapper with duck-and-cover tactics, for example), so longtime gamers shouldn't immediately dismiss the concept. For now though, the Balance Board is aimed squarely at fitness-minded peeps who need a more exciting way to exercise.

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