Even though you play it with your feet, it's not that much different than holding a Wii remote.
Wii Fit has been known to be in the pipeline for some time (as Wii Fitness), but it was still interesting to see Nintendo devote so much time to it at its E3 press conference. After playing it for a good bit, though, I saw why.
The newly announced controller that will be packaged with the game, the Wii Fitness Board, is a very accurate pressure-sensitive plate that detects how far off-center your center of gravity is. When starting up the game a large dot appears on-screen. If this dot is in the dead-middle of the screen, you're standing perfectly straight and level. If it's not, you're standing a bit crookedly. The games I got to try out quickly made it apparent that my balance was not as good as I thought it to be.
First up was a weight-shifting exercise. Two red bars on the screen show how much weight is being distributed to the left or right side of the board. Blue target zones appear, and you've got to shift your weight (any way you'd like) so that the meters are aligned in the blue zone for three consecutive seconds. The first trick is to get the red meters in the vicinity of the blue targets, but then you must keep them inside for the time required. Each time you pass, the targets change location and narrow in size, making the target zone a little more difficult to stay inside. All of this is timed, so the primary challenge is to learn how to get your brain and your balancing muscles to work together as quickly as possible. It's quite interesting.
The next game I played was the soccer goalie challenge. This is the same game mode that Reggie and Miyamoto played during the press conference. Reggie's performance in the mode was remarkably impressive; keeping your balance in this game is hard. The idea is to head away soccer balls from going to goal while avoiding random objects like soccer cleats. The first few balls are easy to stop, but once more stuff comes flying in at a faster speed, you start to realize that your body can't keep up with the constant weight shifts. For instance, if you quickly lean to the right to try to avoid a panda head, you'll discover that shifting back over to the left is not an instant action. Your mind will say “left" but your body is still balancing on the right foot, trying not to fall over. Again, this game is truly an exercise to get the body and mind coordinated in a way to improve general fitness. It's also a lot of fun to play.
The third and final game I played was a ball rolling challenge. By shifting your weight on the board you tilt a play field in the same way as you would in Super Monkey Ball or Kororinpa. The goal is to roll a ball into a hole. Just as I was getting the hang of it, the game throws you off-balance by putting multiple balls on the board. You won't lose if one falls off the edge, but you will lose time while it resets. Clearing a board will give you a time extension, just like how it works in the timed games seen in Wii Play. Again, this is really a lot more difficult than it sounds. Even as you get a ball on the lip of the hole, the smallest shift in body position can ruin you. If you try to adjust and lose your balance, then you're in real trouble.
It was playing this game that I realized the Fitness Board is really no different than the Wii remote as held in the horizontal position. All the games displayed could just as easily be controlled with the Wiimote. People know how to use their arms and hands, so maintaining balance with them would make Wii Fit far too easy, even for the casual market. However, stepping onto the Wii Fitness Board is essentially like stepping onto a Wii remote. Rolling my feet on the board's surface was just like rolling the Wii remote around in my hands. The motions in my mind were exactly the same, but the big difference is that I really didn't know how to translate them into total body movement. That's what makes Wii Fit so intriguing to me.
Long story short, Wii Fit may just be thing that locks up the blue ocean crowd Nintendo is so eager to get to. Nintendo said that if everyone were to begin at the same starting point, no one would be intimidated by games. That's already proven true with the casual market explosion on Wii and DS, and Wii Fit will only make that explosion larger and louder. But you know what I think? Veterans are getting intimidated by “non-game" software that they believe threatens to overrun what they've grown up with over the past few decades. Surprisingly, Wii Fit may be the thing to finally convince the hardcore crowd to embrace the non-game. That is why it could be the first game that is truly for everyone. And that's an exciting prospect.