Nintendo Looks to Build on Its Anti-Couch-Potato Game Play

Will Tie Wii, DS Systems Into Real-Life Sporting Events

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- Sports video gaming used to mean sitting around on couches frantically punching buttons on a controller -- with the only other minimal exertion being smack talk. Then came the Nintendo Wii. Suddenly, sports video gaming meant getting up off the couch to virtually play by actually jumping, running, swinging and pitching.
The 'Nintendo Fan Network' allows fans to get stats, player info, watch extra videos, order food and drinks and interact with each other during games.
The 'Nintendo Fan Network' allows fans to get stats, player info, watch extra videos, order food and drinks and interact with each other during games. Credit: AP

Now, Nintendo is tying its active game play to real-life sporting events. Its winter marketing plan includes a slate of baseball, golf and monster-truck sponsorships and events that put the Wii and DS in sports fans' hands.

Safeco Field's 'Fan Network'
Nintendo is doing more than just conducting hands-on demonstrations and interactive play at PGA tournaments and Major League Baseball training camps -- it is also building on its "Nintendo Fan Network," which already began at the Seattle Mariners' Safeco Field. The system allows fans with DS devices to download software that allows them to get stats and player info, watch extra videos, order food and drinks and interact with each other during games.

Nintendo of America's director-public relations, Marc Franklin, said that while other stadiums have approached Nintendo about the network, it will likely remain exclusive to the Seattle stadium for 2008. That said, he did promise "additional surprises" for Nintendo Fan Network users there.

IDC analyst Billy Pidgeon said moving the DS into stadiums and arenas helps Nintendo "integrate into users' lives as much as possible. Every place where they can convince users to carry them is a win for them."

The sports marketing push is a "great opportunity to reach another key audience," Mr. Franklin said. "Sports fans tend to be social and passionate ... and the energy and enthusiasm at live sporting events provide a great backdrop for showcasing Nintendo games."

Unique advantage
Indeed, analysts believe Nintendo is wise to capitalize on its unique and active sports advantage. "Nintendo showed they could do sports in a whole different way than anyone else could, and people got it -- in a big way," said JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg.

The sports and exercise marketing angle can also be effective because it adds another reason for consumers to buy, said analysts. "If you look at the real advantage the Wii has here, it's that you can justify it in ways other than just fun video games. You can argue [it has] a health advantage, plus its sustaining advantage is it's a helluva lot cheaper than the competition," said analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "They're building multiple reasons for purchase."

And it's likely we'll see Nintendo pushing even more of those reasons when it brings the Wii Fit "exergame" to the U.S. later this year. With a balance board, dozens of different exercises and fitness tracking software, Nintendo will be looking to engage exercise, yoga and fitness enthusiasts.

"Weight loss is one of those [things] people spend a lot of money on -- particularly if they think it's going to be easy," Mr. Enderle said. "The trick is going to be making sure people are using it and reporting back that it works."
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