can keep you active in the office
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
July 17-23, 2007; issue 925
High Tech Office column
been looking at gear to take away on holiday this summer, stuff to let
you remain in touch, keep from getting lost or ensure that you can
still watch “All My Children” far from home. But some of us may not get
holidays at all this summer.
If you can’t get out to the tennis
court or the fairway you can bring them to you with a Nintendo Wii game
console ($279). Released in Canada just before last Christmas, it’s
become a runaway bestseller both here and abroad. Some might find this
surprising. While game console competitors like Sony’s Playstation 3
(PS3) and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 have focused on making game systems
increasingly powerful to produce increasingly life-like visuals, the
Wii (pronounced “wee”) graphics are definitely down-market.
not needing to disguise a super-computer in a game console, the Wii is
smaller then the competition and about half the price. It’s also
outselling the PS3 in Japan about two to one.
the other guys were focusing on the graphics, Nintendo focused on the
fun. In the Wii’s case, what makes the difference is the controller.
Traditionally, game systems have used hand-held controllers where the
user’s thumbs did all the work. The Wii, however, ships with an
innovative motion sensitive wireless controller. It uses Bluetooth
radio to transmit its position in 3D space to a sensor placed by your
TV. It can be swung like a tennis racket, golf club or baseball bat
with the game software responding appropriately.
nunchuk controller is also included. It’s a joystick-like piece that
plugs into the wireless controller allowing it to be used in a more
traditional and sedate manner.)
While game developers like
Burnaby-based Electronic Arts are busy bringing add-on games for the
Wii to market, Nintendo cleverly packs every unit with a disc bundling
five sports games – tennis, golf, bowling, boxing, and wrestling –
getting users hooked into the system’s controller. The graphics are
minimalist, a step or two above stick figures, but players don’t seem
The result appeals to people who’ve never been
interested in computer or video gaming. When I had the loan of a Wii,
my wife, daughter and their friends surprised themselves enjoying
virtual tennis. Prior to the Wii’s release, Ron Bertram, Nintendo
Canada vice-president-GM, said, “Wii breaks the wall separating players
from non-players by delivering the best game experience for the most
affordable price. We believe the next leap is games for the masses,
young and old, gamer or non, alone, with a friend or with the whole
My family would agree with him. (Be sure to pick up a second ($45)
while traditional game players just exercise their thumbs, Wii users
seem to throw their whole bodies into it. A round of Wii tennis is a
pretty solid workout – make sure to move furniture out of the way! The
Internet has numerous examples of Wii-based exercise programs.
like to see businesses buy these things and place them in staff rooms
to give employees a way to take an active break from sedentary desk
The Wii uses disc-based games, but unlike the Playstation
or Xbox consoles it can’t be used to play DVD movies or audio CDs.
Nintendo is promising an upgrade to add this capability. It does
include built-in 802.11g wireless networking and can go online to
download software updates. This capability also lets users go online to
connect to Nintendo’s WiiConnect24 service to download and play
inexpensive ($5 to $10) “classic” games originally developed for older
Nintendo game platforms or to view weather or news information. With a
downloadable version of the Opera web browser, it can even be used to
surf the Net.
But that’s not why anyone would buy it. If you
can’t get out this summer, Nintendo’s Wii might let you have an active
summer without leaving your workplace or home.