Wii Fit U has had an odd history to date, with little mention for much of 2013 before Nintendo then announced a terrific trial download offer. We knew it was still a project very much on the way, however, because it was part of quite possibly the oddest E3 reveal in recent memory — to the point that we initially thought it was a hoax. Crazy times for one of Nintendo's most ground-breaking young franchises.
The Wii Fit brand could yet prove to be big business for Nintendo on the Wii U. It was part of the sales revolution that drove the Wii — and Nintendo's finances — to impressive heights; both the original Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus passed 20 million sales each worldwide. It perfectly captured the excitement many consumers had for the experiences that the Wii could offer, leading to sell-outs and low stock in various territories in its early months. The Wii Balance Board may look like an over-sized weighing scale, but its ability to measure not just weight but create balance-based tasks and mini-games made it a hugely popular accessory.
Wii Fit U isn't without its own smart ideas, even if it's yet to truly take off in terms of commercial success — or even be released in North America at retail due to another delay. The Wii Fit Metre is more than a simple pedometer, but a clever gizmo that accurately reads energy spent and calories consumed by judging factors such as altitude. After clipping it onto your belt and waistband you then simply synchronise it with the GamePad — remember that IR Sensor, it now has a purpose! — and your results are collated and added to your profile within the software. You can then cater your workout for the day on how much exercise you've had, while targeting areas not covered already; it personalises Wii Fit to another level.
That Meter ties into the excellent trial download offer that's targeting those that jumped on the craze in its Wii days. Available since 1st November, a one month trial of the full software can be downloaded from the Wii U eShop; if a Wii Fit Meter is synchronised in that time — which costs $19.99 / £19.99 — you get to keep the download permanently. This allows current Wii U owners to pick up the title at a budget price, though Nintendo has limited the offer up to 31st January 2014; as a promotion it's certainly clever, and feels like a reward for those that were eager Wii gamers and have already invested in a Wii U.
The challenge for Nintendo, most likely in the New Year as we all gaze at our expanded waistlines in horror, will be to get the message and stock onto the high street. The download trial has essentially been a soft launch, but Nintendo of America pushing its physical retail release into January is telling as it will surely seek to drive early 2014 sales for the hardware. As a brand that shifted a staggering number of units in the last generation, we suspect Nintendo would be happy to replicate just part of that success on Wii U; it certainly fits the "upgrade" messaging that's been prominent in the big N's marketing.
And it deserves that success, as despite a fairly limited Community aspect it's an excellent piece of software — once again it serves as a tool for light exercise and provides useful routines to strengthen key areas of the body. It can also be fun, while making innovative use of the GamePad for dual-screen interactivity and to allow participants to keep up with their routines and Wii Fit Meter synchronisations away from the TV.
2014 may be the ultimate commercial test for the software, as Nintendo of Europe will seek to shine a light on it — despite its December release — and its North American contemporaries push into a full launch. Yet its initial release in 2013 deserves credit for rewarding loyal Nintendo gamers, with the download trial / Wii Fit Meter offer an undoubtedly attractive proposition.
Of course Wii Fit, as a franchise, made another surprise appearance. There's the reveal we initially doubted in Nintendo Life HQ during E3 but, in hindsight, rather like. Wii Fit Trainer will be in the new Super Smash Bros.; we're not sure what to expect, but the developer video below (the Trainer appears at around six minutes) has us intrigued.