Are you Wii Fit?

By Cihan Cobanoglu | June 10, 2008

When was the last time you played a video game? If you're over 40 years old like me, it's probably been a while. My perception has always been that video games are for children and teenagers. Statistics, however, show otherwise.

According to a 2007 study conducted by consumer market research firm The NPD Group, 63 percent of the U.S. population plays video games. And Nintendo reports that more than one third of its gamers are over the age of 25 (with 22 percent being female). Until two weeks ago, I was among the "not" category, but now that's changed for good.

Readers of this column may recall my writing about the University of Delaware's in-room technology experiment called X-Room, the eXperimental Guestroom, located at the University's Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. In this room, we test new technologies with real guests. The idea is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each technology in a real setting. The most recent addition to X-Room is a Nintendo Wii gaming system. Wii is a console game machine that targets a broader demographic than most others on the market. A distinguishing feature of the console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device, detecting movement in three dimensions.

Virtual workout
The representatives from Nintendo visited our campus and installed the Wii. While on-site, they also demonstrated Wii Fit, a new phenomena in fitness training. Wii Fit uses a unique platform peripheral called the Wii Balance Board that can measure a user's weight and their center of gravity, and calculate their body mass index when told the user's height. The game has about 40 different activities, including yoga, balance games, strength training and aerobics.

I've never been a fan of running on a treadmill (which perhaps explains my 'slightly inflated' BMI). However, Wii Fit changed my perception of fitness. Because it's a game, you never feel like you're exercising; it is all about the fun of the game and competition. And it's even less like a workout if you team up with (or against) family and friends. Every staff, student and guest who participated in the Wii and Wii Fit demonstrations loved the tools.

Hotel fit-ness?
So where does the Wii Fit actually fit in hotels? Video games can be a great tool for engaging guests while they're in the room and promoting overall health and well-being while traveling. Some hotels are discussing different business models for monetizing such offerings. Similar to in-room HSIA, some hotels may offer video gaming and in-room entertainment options to the guest free of charge, embedding the cost into the room rate. Others may opt to charge an extra fee for access, or perhaps combine the fee with Internet access and local/long distance telephone.

One University of Delaware study showed that business travelers tend to spend more money on room rates if extra options such as Internet access, in-room entertainment and access to the fitness center are part of the room rate, to ensure that personal funds wouldn't need to be spent on these amenities. As such, hoteliers need to understand their clientele and offer the best solution that will fit their guests.

At the University of Delaware convention center, we are exercising the option of a "Wii Break" instead of coffee breaks. In the name of networking, perhaps it will encourage our conference attendees to peel their eyes away from their hand-held e-mail devices, pick up a game controller, and have a little fun. Stay tuned to read about the results of our experiment in a future issue of Hospitality Technology.

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