Is it just me or does there seem to be a lack of any news of decent Wii Balance Board games for 2009? Yes there are titles lined up for next year (Kororinpa 2/Vertigo - variations of the same theme, Snowboard Riot and a few others) but to be honest nothing that really makes me go "yes - I have to have that!" Of course there's EA's Sports Active but then they're more interested in promoting their Wiimote strap thingy than the Wiiboard. So does that mean the Wii Balance Board honeymoon is over, certainly for third-party developers, and has Nintendo moved on to their next big thing, Wii Motion Plus?
A lot has been said recently about the inability of third-parties to capture any decent market share against Nintendo on the Wii platform and let's face it, that's not particularly surprising considering the amount of shovelware that third parties have been producing. Developers seem to be under the mistaken impression that since the Wii has attracted more casual gamers, this new market will be happy to buy any old rubbish. This is simply not the case. Unfortunately I think many developers have seen the balance board as an opportunity to deliver more of the same but when even the novelty of the Wiiboard fails to sell these games, where does it leave us.
Of course the exception to this trend and the real standout for me (although EA Skate It is pretty good) has to be Ubisoft and Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip which is currently my favourite game (apart from Rabbids TV Party when I feel like a bit of lunacy). In my view, Ubisoft did two things right with this game. Firstly they incorporated the balance board in a way that is both challenging and intuitive and secondly, although this is a multi-platform game, they developed a completely separate Wii version. And that's another gripe I have with developers of multi-platform titles. All too often, stunning graphics are used to distract users from lacklustre gameplay and while this might work for a while on PS3/360, the Wii’s graphics limitations end up meaning poor gameplay and poor graphics.
But the Wii's 'deficiency' can also be its greatest strength in that in order to produce a really good title, developers have to work much harder by being more artistic in their visual approach and concentrating on better interaction with the game. On both accounts I think Ubisoft got it right with Shaun White and the balance board (it doesn't feel like Wiiboard support was an afterthought). My only hope is that they can do more of the same in 2009.
So while I'm definitely no industry expert, here's my prediction for the balance board in 2009? I think you'll see less Wii Balance Board compatible titles produced as many developers realise it's just not worth the effort, and if sales of Shaun White and EA Skate It go as predicted, you'll see one or two new titles that will really make good use of the peripheral. Of course the unknown in all of this is the growing fitness/exergaming trend. Who knows, perhaps ResponDesign (Yourself!Fitness) will bring out a balance board compatible version of their title or someone else will try to capitalise on the trend. Whatever the case, let's hope that the Wii Balance Board is not doomed to becoming another dust-gathering peripheral.