So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog or a Facebook fan, you’ll notice that the world of Wii fitness games has somewhat dried up over the last few months. From the number of visits to this site, I can see that the interest in exergaming is higher than ever, and yet we don’t see games like EA Sports Active 3 nor sequels to high-selling games like The Biggest Loser or Jillian Michaels. Highly anticipated games like Move Fitness for Playstation and Adidas MiCoach for Playstation and Xbox have been scuttled. One has to wonder why.
Making matters worse, as ArrowDynamicMom posted on a recent comment, EA is even pulling its support of online access for EA Sports Active. Given that many of the features of this game were only available online this is a tough blow, especially for a game that wasn’t even 1 1/2 years old yet (if you’re not happy about the loss of online support, post your thoughts on the EA forums).
I’ve been scratching my head wondering why there’s such a paucity of new exercise games. After all, Wii Fitness Games were improving and with the added competition from PS3 Fitness games and Xbox Fitness games (both of which have fallen silent as well), one would have thought that we’d be closer than ever to amazing games like Kung Fu High Impact where the exercise IS the gameplay and vice-versa.
A moderator on the EA Sports Active forums (speaking on her own behalf and not for the company) had an interesting theory. She mentioned one of the reasons for the silence may be a lawsuit that a company called Impulse Technologies against a number of companies, including EA, THQ, Majesco, Namco Bandai, and Ubisoft. In other words, every company that has released a Wii fitness game. The company has also sued Microsoft, Sega, and Konami.
It’s highly possible that this lawsuit is what has cast a pall over exergame development. The various companies involved probably aren’t even allowed to comment on it while litigation is underway, which explains the silence. But I am allowed to comment, and I’ll go on the record of saying that it really stinks.
There are so many ridiculous things about this lawsuit I don’t know where to begin.
First of all, imagine that I walked into the patent office and patented a flying car. Then, in 2030, Toyota invents their first real flying car. At that point, I get my lawyers to sue them, saying that I thought of the idea first. The concept of human interaction with a television screen has been around since television was first invented. Even when their patent was written in 1996, it was not “non-obvious” even then that cameras, accelerometers, and infared technology could be used to facilitate that. For this unknown company, whose own product is laughably weak, to assert that its ideas were stolen to create the Wii, DDR, and the Kinect is ludicrous.
Second, systems like the QuickCam, Nintendo Power Glove, Playstation EyeToy, and Konami MoCap Boxing have been around from around the time and even before this patent was first filed. Why did they wait until 2012 to file this lawsuit? Obviously, they are unhappy that the consumer exergame revolution took off without them, and so they’re trying to use the court system rather than their own innovations to get a piece of the action. Obviously, their hope is that these big companies will settle and pay a licensing fee to them.
Don’t get me wrong–I am a strong supporter of the patent system. It protects those who come up with truly innovative products to benefit from their inventions. The problem I have with this lawsuit is that exergaming technology evolved completely independently from this company, but this company in my opinion is abusing the patent system to try to take credit for something it had nothing to do with. I found it amusing that a man named Rick Baker left a comment on Berkeley’s Web site that all but shows that using the same criteria, THEY infringed on a patent that HE had filed two years earlier.
And so once again, patent trolls roll the dice, lawyers end up getting paid huge amounts of money, and game publishers have to invest money in litigating instead of innovating. Such is life in our litigious society today. So while all this is going on, the rapid improvements in exergaming seem to have ground to a halt. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anything we as consumers can do except wait for the legal system to run its course.