Last night Nintendo dropped a mysterious trailer for some new software and bit of kit that has the internet buzzing. A Nintendo Direct presentation was broadcast less than 48 hours ago, but there's more?! The fact that this 'new experience for Nintendo Switch' wasn't included in the Direct is noteworthy, suggesting that this won't be a 'game' in the traditional sense. It's possible that the new peripheral is linked to patents filed before the Switch launched and, in fact, all that stretching and activity has lots of people assuming this is the Switch equivalent of Wii Fit.
Those comparisons are certainly understandable, although after taking a closer look at the trailer we're not so sure. It seems Nintendo is focusing on fun, social gameplay here, while admittedly also evoking the 'fitness-lite' gameplay that went down so well in the Wii era. Our initial impression - based solely on this trailer - is of something closer to Wii Sports Resort or 1-2-Switch than the health-focused phenomenon that had people the world over doing the Hula-Hoop challenge on a Wii Balance Board a decade ago.
Let's take a closer look at the trailer and speculate as to what it all means...
It starts with a group gathering, and focuses on the shared, social experience - we're surprised they're not on a rooftop. They're all saying 'Ooo, What's this fun thing?'
Cut to Paris:
Here we see a woman in relaxed attire discovering the 'ring' (for the purposes of this article, we'll call it that) for herself. It's flex-y, it's fun - which way up does it go? The right Joy-Con slides and clicks into it, and she straps another to her thigh before engaging in some stretchy-type activity, and possibly some form of archery. Are there sensors in those grips?
Straight from the start, Nintendo is emphasising universality - everyone wants to have fun and be fit, whether you're alone or with friends. The 'lifestyle' approach is loud and clear and immediately signals why this product was kept apart from the games in the Nintendo Direct.
We then cut to Madrid:
A group of friends are egging each other on and having fun. The tension and flexibility of the ring is highlighted here - it really looks like a Pilates ring, although they're certainly not exercising. Note that there's only one ring here, and throughout the entire trailer. That might just be to keep things simple for the reveal, but the emphasis is on how this thing brings friends together.
Next stop on this city hop: Rome...
Again, not a sweatband in sight. Instead we see middle-aged Italian men goofing around and having fun with family and friends. It's a similar story in San Francisco:
The guy in the t-shirt might look like he's toning his triceps, but we doubt he's getting much of a workout. Also notice that the focus is very much on the TV. "Oh, I did a backflip!" the man in the shirt exclaims. We can safely assume he's referring to his onscreen avatar, whatever that may be.
We than jump to yet another fabulous living room, this time in Kyoto, Nintendo's home city. We're back to emphasising the yoga-like health benefits as the players here stretch, rotate and balance. 'Fun' is still the focus, although the core-muscle ability demonstrated here arguably exceeds that of the Italian man wiggling his legs in the air.
In Dallas the hats have come off, so things are getting serious. Again, Nintendo is highlighting the social fun of the ring here (and that it's for all ages). Notice that in one shot the ring is on the floor with only the thigh-holstered left Joy-Con sending data to the console. Just as with Wii Fit, it seems a variety of games will require different inputs. Ah, we can see those warning splash screens already!
So, what should we make of this? Is this Switch Fit? Well, on the strength of this mysterious reveal, we're not convinced. The Parisian woman is the only person wearing anything remotely gym-worthy (doing a sit-up while wearing the belt buckle sported by the guy in Dallas could cause some serious internal injuries), and while it's significant that Nintendo cuts to a lone player after introducing the ring with the initial group shots, the fun, social aspect is the clear focus. It's highlighted from the beginning that there's a solo experience to enjoy, with a possibility of health and fitness benefits, but they're clearly de-emphasised in comparison to something like Wii Fit.
It appears that Nintendo may be trying to have its cake and eat it by combining the fitness-lite aspects of Fitness Boxing with the party gameplay of 1-2-Switch. While neither of those titles are going to get core gamers' pulses racing (exactly the reason why this wasn't part of the Nintendo Direct presentation), Fitness Boxing has been a big hit. Although that game might have 'fitness' is in the name, it's just as much a rhythm game as something to shed a few pounds, so widening the appeal of that sort of content with a broader 'social' context seems like a sound plan to expand Switch's audience further. If this simple peripheral evokes memories of Wii Fit in the minds of the casual audience, that's just dandy, but crucially this flexible hoop appears to function with just the Joy-Con. That should keep it cheap enough for curious gamers to investigate, even if they're not sold on keep-fit software. Everyone's a winner.
It's important to remember that the landscape for health and fitness aids is very different to how it was when Wii Fit briefly caught the world's imagination. Fitbits, Apple Watches and other wearables with health-monitoring applications are utterly commonplace and nobody's going to put down 100 notes for a pair of overblown bathroom scales in 2019. By reframing this as 'social' software and de-emphasising the mild health benefits, Nintendo gets to wear two different hats and, potentially, attract the widest possible audience.
Whatever this ring turns out to be (and we'd expect a name that highlights how it brings people together - the Switch Ring or Circle or some such thing), we'll find out more on 12th September.
What do you make of this flexible little peripheral? Is it simply Wii Fit for a new generation or is Nintendo hoping to win over the social crowd as well as the health-conscious? Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings below, and give us your best guess at a name for this peripheral. We're going with the 'Halo' - nobody's got that trademark tied up, right?
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