Yesterday, Nintendo held a day-long "Wii Fit" launch event in New York City's Central Park.
The press release promised that I'd see "Hundreds of consumers of all ages twisting and tilting their bodies atop the innovative Wii Balance Board."
As I left MTV's Time Square office at 11:30a.m. yesterday, on a somewhat rainy and overcast day, I didn't expect to see "hundreds" of people there.
But I was wrong. Under little tents at the Merchants' Gate area of the park, throngs of people were playing "Wii Fit," each with a "trainer" (read: promotions company employee in "Wii Fit" garb) showing them different activities. (You can check out our photo gallery of the event.)
Although celebrity personal trainers such as Harley Pasternak and Ashley Borden were also on hand, I wanted to talk to the contorting "consumers" brave enough to slip off their shoes and try the game amidst a crazed media frenzy.
Here are a few people's first feet-on impressions of the game:
Daryl, 47, and Tracey, 38, New York
It was hard to miss Daryl and Tracey -- they were two transit authority workers wearing bright orange vests ("We're on break!" they insisted). Both also loved the game for being a fun way to be fit. Daryl, who already owns a Wii, said he was "definitely getting [the game]." He already does some strength training three times a week, but he thinks that "Wii Fit" will help keep him motivated and be fun for his children, too.
Tracey doesn't own a Wii yet, but plans on picking one up this week along with "Wii Fit." "I love it, I love it, I love it," she said, even after doing poorly in the slalom balance game. She said she doesn't exercise at all, but that she'll use "Wii Fit" to start. "Everybody loves that Xbox and all that, but that's nothing compared to the Wii!"
Gemma, 22, and Linda, 59, New York
Gemma used to do yoga with a trainer in college, but hasn't since she graduated. However, the yoga portion of "Wii Fit" may make her want to start up again, and she wants to buy a Wii and the game just to do it. "It's a great way to get exercise without getting out of the house, especially in the winter" she said.
But for her, there was still one thing missing from "Wii Fit": "There's no real person yelling at you to tell you what to do," she said, laughing. "But it's a great start for anybody." That included Gemma's aunt Linda, who also tried out the game. Though Linda doesn't exercise regularly and doesn't see herself using the game, she admitted it's "more fun than walking on a treadmill."
Jose, 24, Guatemala
In town for a business trip, Jose stopped by Central Park to see what the hubbub was all about. As someone who runs marathons regularly, he doesn't see "Wii Fit" as something to use for a source of exercise. "I don't think it's a good supplement," he said. "It's more of just a game." Regardless of the exercise, Jose is considering buying a console just to play "Wii Fit" for fun, and he hopes that they'll be plenty of other games to make good use of the Wii Balance Board. "I've always wanted a Wii, but I think I would have some problems with my work and my sleeping time." (Amen, brother.)
Edward, 53, Kansas
Visiting New York City because his wife is auditioning for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," Edward couldn't stop laughing as he got hit in the head with shoes (in-game) during the soccer portion of "Wii Fit." "I think the game is beyond my scope of talent," he said, while stumbling to put his own shoes on. "But I liked it, I thought it was enjoyable."
He says he doesn't exercise nearly enough -- though his wife insisted that his raising buffalo and lifting bales of hay counts as exercise -- but if he had a Wii he might use the game two or three times a week just to get hit in the head with flying shoes. So is "Wii Fit" a good supplement to lifting bales of hay? "I don't know about that!" he said.
Sheila, 45, Canada
Sheila had a copy of "Wii Fit" already when I spotted her trying the game. She had heard about "Wii Fit" for a while and went to the Nintendo Store beforehand to pick up her copy. Then she came to Central Park to get her feet on the game -- she didn't regret her purchase. She regularly practices Tae Kwon Do five times a week, but thinks she'll use it for fun. She told me her friends in the U.K. had bought it for their children and grandchildren but then they began to use the game, too. "They're usually couch potatoes, but now they're losing weight," she said. While she doesn't think that "Wii Fit" should replace Tae Kwon Do, she thinks it's a good start for people who don't exercise at all.
Greg, 24, Washington D.C.
Greg was the only person I saw doing strength training that wasn't a trainer. He exercises "all the time" -- he plays Frisbee, racquetball and basketball, and he also lifts weights and goes rowing and running. "What's good about it is that you can be in the comfort of your own home," he said. "You can wear whatever you want. You don't have to pay for a gym. So it's good in that way." He even said it's a convenient way to do muscle training for the abs and legs.
However, despite his praises, he doesn't have time for a Wii, and ultimately, he prefers going to the gym. Working in campus ministry, he said the reason he goes to the gym is to meet and talk with students, and he thinks the social aspect of outside sports is better for everyone. "If you are already doing exercise, getting enough sleep and eating well, this would be great. But there's no substitute for going out and just exercising and playing sports."
What do you think? If you don't exercise, will "Wii Fit" make you start? And if you do exercise, would you incorporate "Wii Fit" into your regimen?
[All photos courtesy of JesseAngelo.net.]