Q&A: EA Sports Active-ating Wii

Peter Moore reveals first installment in his company's long-rumored fitness franchise, which will combine aerobics, nutrition, and resistance training in spring 2009 for $59.99.

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When Wii Fit launched last year, it was advertised as the perfect union between working out and games. Billboards nationwide dangled the prospect that anyone could tone themselves by gyrating on a new peripheral from legendary Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Gamer religion meets physical fitness in a $90 box, if you will.

However, once people took Wii Fit out of its box, many were quickly disappointed. The game focused on the Asian model of fitness--stretching and balance--instead of the weight loss favored in the West. Only a few minigames offered aerobic exercise, and some of those had to be unlocked by playing other games for hours. The game's shame-based motivation and use of the widely criticized BMI metric made many a Mii droop their head by calling even stick-thin children obese.

Such critiques, though, have done nothing to dampen Wii Fit's popularity, especially among the "Blue Ocean" of nongamers. The game has sold more than 2.3 million copies domestically, according to the NPD Group, generating nearly $210 million in the US alone.

Wanting to get in on that massive payday, Electronic Arts today announced EA Sports Active, its long-rumored exercise game. As speculated, the game won't require the Wii Balance board at all, but will instead rely on a neoprene peripheral that will strap the Wii Remote or Nunchuk to a player's leg. The game will also come with a rubber resistance band for strength training when it launches next spring for $59.99.

EA Sports Active will feature more than 20 exercises as well as a range of fitness tools, including a calorie counter, virtual personal trainer, 30-day weight-loss program, and customizable workouts. To learn more about how the product will work and the philosophy behind it, GameSpot spoke with EA Sports' outspoken president Peter Moore.

GS: So my question to you is, if somebody owns Wii Fit, why would they want to buy EA Sports Active?

PM: It's a completely different fitness experience. There's a different philosophy between the East and West about what fitness means, and Wii Fit does very well with some of what I'll call the Eastern philosophy of fitness, which is balance and coordination. But you're rarely in danger of breaking a sweat and getting your heart rate up. It's just not intended for that. We looked at that when Wii Fit came out and said, "How can we be complementary and yet differentiate and be more applicable, if you will, to a Western consumer who looks for a different fitness experience?"

So we immediately started building the product with a view to having a condensed time period in which you can get your heart rate up. It will measure your calories burned. It will measure time as you're doing things. Of course, the real secret to the whole thing is building a peripheral that allows you to attach the Wii Remote to your body and then reflects the motion of your body on the screen with an avatar. Then, tuning that and getting it right. We've been working on this for a long time now.

Not that there's anything wrong with what Wii Fit is doing. We just think the applicability of what Western consumers look for in fitness is difficult to achieve with the Wii Fit board.

GS: Are you saying that this won't require the Wii Balance Board?

PM: That is correct. It will not require it, but if you have one, we've got enough exercises in there that you'll want to put it in front of the TV and use it.

GS: So, if you just have a Wii, and you don't have Wii Fit, this is actually an alternative to Wii Fit?

PM: Absolutely, but it's great complement if you've got it.

GS: And I guess for those of you who maybe found Wii Fit too expensive, pricing-wise, will this be generally more in line with a regular software?

Cue Van Halen's "Jump."

PM: Absolutely. This is suggested retail of $59.95. You get the software, you get the two straps, you get the resistance band, and you get the nutritional booklet, all for the same price of a single game.

GS: OK. So we'll continue with that. But first off, in terms of the peripheral, when I saw it, it was basically a little neoprene strap. I ride my bike to work every day and have something similar for my iPod, so I looked at it and said, "That's it?"

PM: Well, all that does on your bike is it just holds your iPod in place. We've spent a lot of time working with Nintendo on making sure it's snug, that it doesn't move, that it's not inadvertently hitting buttons on either the Nunchuk or the Wii Remote. Either of them can go into the pouch, so getting the pouch shaped right was crucial. So was getting the sizing right, as it will come with two strap sizes in the box, one large and one small.

The real secret is getting the remote snugly attached to the body through these straps. Then, obviously, the software recognizes what you're doing, and that's reflected on your character on the screen. It knows if you're going too deep in a squat or not going deep enough, and it knows if you're pounding away when you're running on the spot trying to catch up with two people on the track ahead of you. So that's a lot of the tuning we're doing here in getting this thing right.

GS: So, are you going to have any endorsements from celebrity trainers like Jillian Michaels?

GS: Bob Greene, who is Oprah's trainer, is endorsing the game and is helping us build the game out. He obviously will be a big link to that consumer, which is important to us, and we can talk about that in a moment. Then there'll be regular iterations of software updates that might be sports-specific, or it might be body-part-specific, like your lower body, your upper body. Then we're also working with licensees to have a line of peripherals that would enhance the workout experience in front of the television. It's a pretty expansive product line--just not a singular piece of software--that will be constantly refreshed and added to as the years go on.

GS: Now you just said "product line"...

Running in place? Sounds like PE all right.

PM: Yes, think of EA Sports Active as a pretty comprehensive product line. It's not just software but peripherals as well. Down the road, there will be more of a total workout [game]. But you can imagine there's an abs version down the road. There's a soccer version down the road. So, EA Sports Soccer, EA Sports Abs.

GS: EA Sports Soccer? Is there the possibility of an EA Active FIFA or something like that? You could train with [Brazilian soccer star] Ronaldo or something.

PM: We're looking at that, but for this consumer, we're not quite sure. We know that the authenticity of the experience is more important than the authenticity of the visuals. I'm sure mom would love to train alongside [Portuguese soccer star and heartthrob] Cristiano Ronaldo for a number of reasons. But I don't think that's integral right now.

Having said that, a couple of years from now, having Ronaldo or [Manchester United player] Wayne Rooney, or whomever in soccer be your trainer and doing something with them individually may not require the FIFA overall branding. Also, in terms of ways of making FIFA or Madden even more broad in reach, we could certainly look at that.

So, I'm not saying we're not going to use our licensed properties, but right now we're focusing on expansion of the EA Sports Active brand, bringing positive experiences into the living rooms for these consumers, and talking to a consumer we've never spoken to before.

The resistance band adds that special Bowflex flavor.

GS: Now, you said there's EA Active and EA Active Soccer. Do you eventually see the EA Sports Active technology carried over into other Wii EA Sports games? Or are you sticking to EA Sports All-Play?

PM: Yeah, I think right now our plan is to continue with our core business. In other words, if it's throwing the ball, we're already doing that quite a bit right now in our All-Play stuff.

But it's a great question. Who knows--when the Wii Motion Plus comes, when we figure out really how much more sensitivity that gives us--what we can do. And I think the long-term vision, yes, is to make what you do in front of the screen as an individual be reflected in what happens in the game, and that's always been nirvana for us in video game sports. But the technology really doesn't quite allow that yet.

But, yeah, the teams constantly look at where we will be five years from now. I don't think three years ago, if I had said we're going to be launching EA Sports Active and here's what it's going to be, you could have even imagined it.

GS: So this comes with a packed-in nutrition book. One thing that struck me is whereas Wii Fit offers you that advice via piecemeal tips--"Hey, don't eat at night!"--this seems like it's going to be a much more kind of, I guess, for lack of a better term, personal trainer-ish approach.

PM: That's exactly what it is. It's a trainer in a box. My background is, after working as a PE teacher for a number of years, I worked at Reebok building Reebok Step and Reebok Slide products. I know enough about this to be dangerous. I do not want people to think if you simply work out for 20 minutes doing this every day that all of a sudden the weight is going to drop off you if you then take a visit to the pizza parlor.

So this is about getting balance. We're going to try and help. Bob Greene is very good at this stuff. He's been very cooperative with us for months now in helping us think about this holistically and trying to help people out. We're going to be working with him both as an endorser as well as a very, very keen adviser, and he's very involved in the product line.

But, yeah, this is about balance. This is not only working out but also getting a little bit of, whether it's portion control or eating the right foods, this is going to be done in tandem with nutrition. It's just not going to work on its own, that's for sure.

GS: There's a calorie counter as well, right?

PM: Correct.

The EA Sports Active band in action.

GS: And apparently you can just randomize the exercises?

PM: You can do like a shuffle, but I think what most people will do is what I've started to do, is you can build custom exercise playlists. Imagine a playlist in music for workouts. Rather than just have an album, you build a bunch of songs that fit what you're doing. I do it when I'm running. I'll get something to get me going, and then there'll be some thrash metal in the middle, and then I'll probably come down to a bit of Coldplay on the way out.

I like to build the music for whatever mood I'm in for at the particular time, and we can do the same thing with EA Sports Active. I've already found myself building some of my favorite exercises. In there we've got cardio boxing. We've got cardio dance. We've got softball. We've got tennis. So, you can customize what you want to do or what exercises you think you need to do more of, as well as things like squats and lunges and running on the spot, and all the other stuff.

So, there's a very strong customization level. There's a 30-day custom workout that we'll build for you, and we think the elements of personalization and customization are very important as well here, allowing you to do whatever you want to do. But at the same time, we'll give you a lot of recommendations, what we think is good for you.

GS: Another one of the things I found frustrating on Wii Fit, was a lot of the exercises I wanted to play, like snowboarding, were locked, and it took forever to unlock them...

PM: No, there's no locking here. It's applying a game mechanic to something that we think is a real experience. You'll go in and you'll set up a profile and then it'll ask you what you want to do as a workout. It'll give you right now, I think, three levels, so let's say, easy, medium, and high. Then the best thing to do is probably just go through all the exercises and say, "Boy, I like that," or "Boy, that was a little hard, but I know I need to do that."

Then, you can either let us do it for you, which we can do with our custom 30-day workout, or you can do this drag-and-drop. It's not easy to explain, but simply think of pointing that Wii Remote, clicking on an exercise that's a module, and dragging it down into your playlist. At the same time, we have a music player, and we have music embedded in there, so you can also pick what mood of music you're in, what speed of music you're in on a beats-per-second level, and what genre.

GS: Will that music be licensed through the EA Trax program or EA's Artwerk label?

PM: Yeah, down the road we will. Right now, it's relatively generic, things you'll hear in a gym, if you've ever done spinning classes and stuff like that. Stuff that is more based on beats than particular artists and gets a level and a rhythm going. But then, down the road, I think, yeah, incorporating stuff on EA Trax, a little bit of Airborne, which I don't know if you know those guys, but they'll get you going. Junkie XL is an EA artist and so, obviously, the ability to build mixes and have a real DJ feel to the whole thing is important. We got one of the best in the world as part of our label [Artwerk].

Wait, aren't you Oprah's trainer?

GS: You mentioned the "Oprah demographic." Exactly what demographic is that?

PM: Well, this thing is aimed at everybody, you, me, girlfriends, wives, kids, anybody can do it, but we've also learned in marketing that you've got to have a focus. If I were to target a sweet spot, it would be a woman in her mid-30s, maybe got a couple of young kids, finds it difficult to get out, likes the idea of getting a 20-minute workout right in front of the television. It's convenient to her. You'll see her featured a lot on our packaging when we start launching that.

GS: She's the model on the video, you mean?

PM: Yeah, well, she may or may not be in the packaging, but that type of person will be. But at the same time, when you flip the box over, you'll see dad, you'll see the boyfriend, you'll see the kids also taking part. So, if there was a target, yes, that's our target. But it's gender-neutral, age-neutral, fitness-level-neutral.

GS: Is the inclusion and production of peripherals posing any challenges?

PM: We've got to make a lot of resistance bands and straps and get them shipped in and get them packed up. This is not a normal software launch by any stretch of the imagination! [Laughs.]

Discussion

56 comments
sunnystarz
sunnystarz

have a feeling that the balance board portion was just a last thought "add-on" to this game... it would be horrid if the only developer to really utilize the board is nintendo

OmegaCookie7
OmegaCookie7

Might as well... JUMP! Anyway, sounds kinda pointless. Just work out people.

Garren666
Garren666

The guy said himself that EA is not trying to eliminate Wii Fit from the market. If you read the article (and not just glance over it) you would have noticed him saying that Wii Fit uses the Eastern philosophies of fitness (ie; balance, and flexibility), whereas they are going for the Western philosophy (ie; body weight, % body fat, and cardiovascular workouts) with the intention for both programs to be used together.

Pfilosophy
Pfilosophy

Working out without all the messy social interaction? Count me in! Actually, the resistance training is what I'm pretty happy about. Not just counting my BMI and hoping it's "perfect," but actually building muscle. Say what you will about EA, they make money for a reason. Also, I agree with TehUndeadHorror. She's quite a milf.

dutch777
dutch777

gaming is for sitting down and being pulled into another world. getting fit is for running on the side walk or down the gym....end of!!!!

GoldenRamoth
GoldenRamoth

Oprah's trainer? No offense. but that guy failed. Oprah fit.. hm lol. But good idea for a game.

sphinx-shadow
sphinx-shadow

sounds interesting i guess time will tell if it will run well up against Wii Fit.

gobbo00
gobbo00

Great more non-games for the "Touch Generation" to lap up in droves. If Sony & Microsoft have motion controls. In the next Gen I will have to start PC gaming instead. Even though I dislike PC gaming like PSN ( mute ) with a keybord & mouse.

ewmgreendawg
ewmgreendawg

Whatever floats your boat i guess. I'd rather play DDR though. I can burn 1000+ calories in a couple hours with DDR.

MrPuzzlez
MrPuzzlez

@UltraHampster The thing is, it (meaning the Wii) doesn't HAVE to be an exercise machine, though a number of games actually make you move around. That's my point.

UltraHamster
UltraHamster

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

MrPuzzlez
MrPuzzlez

It's a good way to reach to those Who want interactive entertainment, but don't want the complexity of the PS3 or 360. Besides, the Wii is MEANT to get you off of your carcass anyway, so why not?

Media_Mind
Media_Mind

Sounds like there improving the fit genre

KhanhAgE
KhanhAgE

Pretty much an exercise program in the form of a video game. Fairly sure most people are able to run on the spot without the need for a video game to tell them to, that and hold a controller while doing it (I'm doing it right now with a PS3 controller).

V-Nine
V-Nine

...I guess this wont call actuall fat*** losers fat, niiiiice.....

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man

So charge $60 for a Wii Fit clone with some sort of rubber and no balance board support. This is why people hate EA. Wii Fit is good, this won't be.

RedEyedMouse
RedEyedMouse

I completely agree with Thrallia. It takes a long time to actually get in your 20 minutes of exercise if you have to drive to the gym. It's even worse if you don't have a gym nearby - I live in a small rural town which is about 1-1/2 hours from the nearest major city. I also find that the fact that since EA's game sets up a workout routine for you (way better than WiiFit with absolutely no sort of routine to it!), it might actually get people to stick with it a bit longer. I have WiiFit and like most people, I liked it at the start and had good intentions of keeping at it, but after a couple weeks, I got lazy and than the board was just a dust-collector. I think this might be a better choice. Let's just hope EA doesn't screw it up :P

XanderZane
XanderZane

Anyone see Jillian Michaels (The Biggest Loser) game on the Wii.? I was like what!?!? Whether the fitness game sucks or not, she's getting paid to endorse it. Wii Fit was cool, but I haven't used it in awhile. Most people will use it for a month or so and then abandoned it.

Toro_Nev
Toro_Nev

Sounds all right, but I wouldnt get it. Im not really into the whole 'fitness' games.

Thrallia
Thrallia

well, I know I'm a lot more likely to buy this and spend 20 minutes a day working out on it at home than I am to spend 20 minutes driving to the gym, 10 minutes getting set up at the gym, 20 minutes exercising, 10 minutes leaving the gym, and then 20 minutes driving home from the gym....I just don't have the time to spend 1.5 hours trying to get in 20 minutes of exercise.

necronaux
necronaux

Next up... Billy Banks Tai Bo for Wii... Chuck Noris Total Gym for Wii... BowFlex for Wii... getting the picture?

bigethan
bigethan

Why do they have to incorporate the wiimote into the activites? Yourself Fitness was a great trainer on it's own with no interaction. They should use the controllers to periodically measure progress.

VenomRitual
VenomRitual

if i want to exercise i'll go to my gym. games are meant for playing. if it's physical like the wii or DDR thats fine, but games soley devoted to exercise are not fun. with the $150 you spent on wii fit, you could have gotten a gym membership.

Pittfan666
Pittfan666

Go to an actual gym instead and get in shape.

UltraHamster
UltraHamster

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

stunt_boarder03
stunt_boarder03

Wow this game looks really interesting... it seems like the potential really is there to lose weight playing this game... I can't wait to hear more!

-hells-
-hells-

Are we gonna say some real AAA material soon on the wii or not

DeathByFrenchy
DeathByFrenchy

Hmmm yes a great game.. you know what would be better though? GETTING REAL EXERCISE lol.. wtf... a videogame for exercise thats redundant..lol

Jedifro
Jedifro

Looks like a great game where you may actually lose weight. I can't wait to hear more about this one!

phase4illini
phase4illini

As a personal trainer myself, I gave the WiiFit a go after my girlfriend bought one. All I have to say is that (outside the Yoga) it's a great tool if you are GROSSLY out of shape. Outside of that, it's a toy, and not a substitute for actual physical fitness training, particularly cardio training.

Radmetalmonk
Radmetalmonk

The only thing these fitness games seem to provide is motivation and tracking. Obviously, you can do all the workouts without the wiimote, nunchuck, or the balance board. Yes it checks your form, but even that isn't 100% accurate, so it defeats the purpose of it. I have wii fit and it's a fun game to play with friends, and it motivates me to work out more (a real workout outside of the wii). The exercises are a decent stretch (even though again, I can do the same ones without owning a wii...it just wouldn't be quite as fun).

darkmen909
darkmen909

i dont think i good game will ever come out for wii

LosDaddie
LosDaddie

I'm going to pre-order this game ASAP!! :D

360player_eq12
360player_eq12

what has it been almost a year now since a game worth buying has come out for wii?

skemaal
skemaal

might be interesting, we'll see when it comes out...

rexoverbey
rexoverbey

Does this come with a Richard Simmons workout tape. LAME!

shadowblade99
shadowblade99

IIt was only a matter of time until this came out. I enjoy the Wii Fit even though it is limited. This will never replace my personal training but I'd really like to continue to see where this is going. If it's something that will get me to play my Wii rather then it sitting around collecting dust then that would be nice.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Wii fit sold that well?! Queue the BIRDMEN!

crsastre
crsastre

some people will definitely have fun with this....not something I will though. I would rather break out the old school power pad then look like a tool with this game

mikemaj82
mikemaj82

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Hugomanen
Hugomanen

Why are people so hating? Not all people have the time to go the gym (if you are really busy, the travel time to and from the gym makes it impossible) Yes running in the woods or getting the excersize in a gym and stuff is better, but thats just not possible for everyone. Normally i dont like ea either, but just because they are making a game where you dont get to kill zombies they shouldnt be flamed. Think about it, if games like this can raise the public health just a little bit it will actually benefit society (and in the end you because the hospitals gets a break)

FalsePlacebo
FalsePlacebo

seems like a nice compliment to wii fit, might pick this up...

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

welcome to shovelware 2.0.... and oh how the masses will gobble it up ... : \

KrunkMastaX
KrunkMastaX

Ahhh now the might have fallen. Wait...*realizes what he just said* Nevermind.