Last month I mentioned Yourself!Fitness as an example of an exergame that developers should definitely refer to when creating a dedicated fitness title for the Wii. It seems that Ubisoft were meant to be doing just that but have now found themselves at the wrong end of a $26 million lawsuit as a result.
Up until now, ResponDesign has pretty much lead the way in the exergaming genre with Yourself!Fitness which it released in 2004 for PS2 and PC. In 2006 the company began developing a follow-up title for next-gen consoles (including Wii), titled Fitness Lifestyle. In early 2007 ResponDesign began negotiations with Ubisoft with the aim of licensing Yourself!Fitness and the Fitness Lifestyle code and all of the related game assets to Ubisoft which was to develop, publish and market a new Wii title called My Fitness Coach.
The agreement was signed in August 2007 and according to ResponDesign, Ubisoft received all of the required game assets and committed to delivering a "playable" first version of the game in November 2007. The aim was to start marketing in December 2007 for an April 2008 launch, which would have put the game in direct competition with Wii Fit. (Bear in mind that I have yet to ascertain whether or not there was ever any intention by ResponDesign or Ubisoft to include Wii Balance Board support but it just seems illogical not to.)
Clearly none of this happened and as of August 2008, we have yet to see any mention of a Wii fitness title from Ubisoft. According to ResponDesign, the release date for the agreed title is now Q1 2009, almost a year after it was originally intended to be released, and understandably, ResponDesign are not happy. Not only did Ubisoft miss the boat in terms of benefitting from the increased awareness of exergaming generated by the launch of Wii Fit, but ResponDesign feels it has missed out on millions of dollars worth of royalties for a game which never materialised. You have got to wonder why Ubisoft would miss out on an opportunity like this. Were they perhaps afraid to incur the wrath of Nintendo by releasing a competitor to Wii Fit or was there more to it than that? According to ResponDesign's claim there was.
In February this year, Ubisoft announced the release of a DS title called "My Weight Loss Coach" which was to include customised coaching sessions based on skill level, personalised profiles and objective setting, a success based rewards system and nutritional coaching. All of these features were critical components of Yourself!Fitness and Fitness Lifestyle and so according to ResponDesign were subject to the original license agreement for My Fitness Coach which was never intended for release on DS.
As this stage we have yet to see any kind of response to these allegations from Ubisoft but this will no doubt turn into another drawn out court case where only the lawyers win. And while all this is going on, it's ultimately us, the consumer, losing out. As a fitness title, Wii Fit can only go so far and as users begin to tire of the game and look for more fully featured exergaming titles, My Fitness Coach could have been the perfect solution.
It's not all bad news however as ResponDesign CEO Ted Spooner had this to say:
"The Wii Balance Board is a great peripheral and we are considering utilizing it in our future development. Wii Fit has been a great validation of the fitness category that we pioneered. It has shown there is tremendous pent up demand for content for this audience."
Let's hope that as the lawyers battle this lawsuit, ResponDesign continues to forge ahead and bring us the Wii exergaming titles we really want.