With the impending European release of two new Pokemon games, Pokemon SoulSilver and Pokemon HeartGold, Nintendo is giving gamers an additional accessory with the games: the Pokewalker, a Pokemon-themed pedometer which is intended to inspire gamers and kids to put down their DS’s and go outside…while still playing. As the Pokewalker’s press release states,
The Pokéwalker counts the number of steps you take in the real world as you walk with it, using these to earn vital experience points while strengthening the bond between you and your Pokémon. The more steps you take in the real world, the more Watts are gained. Watts are used within the Pokéwalker to encounter and catch wild Pokémon using the Poké Radar or to search for hidden items using the Dowsing Machine, which can then be transferred into Pokémon HeartGold Version and Pokémon SoulSilver Version.
This article from the Guardian goes into more detail, explaining how you can match your wander to the shops with an in-game route – perhaps a jaunt through the plains or along the coast. Each route has different wild Pokémon to find and grab, and some special Pokémon can only be found within certain routes. And to ensure you recruit friends to your Pokémon-based fitness drive, users can create an infrared connection between two Pokéwalkers, receiving a game item as a gift.
So…it basically sounds like a Tamagotchi with some elaborate Pokemon-themed mini games thrown into the mix. As the Guardian article mentions, this looks like an attempt by Nintendo to combat the fears adults and people always have that children who play so many video games are becoming more and more sedentary, and thus more and more out of shape and/or obese. By encouraging them to go outside and walk around while still playing their precious Pokemon games, the kids might actually get some exercise in the meantime. I think it’s a nice gesture, and I bet some percentages of the people who buy the games will actually go outside and use the Pokewalker as it is intended, but for the most part I doubt this will have much of a profound impact on the core audience for the games.
Still, it’s a nice gesture by Nintendo.