Mature Link: Nintendo Going Big Brother on Users?

maturelinkFor a company who was so defiant of offering anything other than ‘just games’ until very recently, Nintendo’s little white box is shaping up to be a real big brother (and I’m not talking about a plucky plumber here). I doubt Nintendo has a master plan for subjugating the world’s populace by way of Wii Sports, but the growing library of service channels and exponential install base is bringing them closer to that kind of power.

It all started with the News Channel where a single source (ok, it’s the reputable Associated Press, but you don’t get a choice) brings Wii users a handful of headlines each day scattered across an interactive globe. Want a second opinion or another perspective? Sorry, you’ll have to hit the internet for that. You could use the Internet Channel on the Wii but since it’s buried away in the Shop Channel and costs 500 Wii Points I’m guessing most users aren’t willing to splurge.

Then there’s the whole Wii Fit craze and its accompanying channel where Nintendo, with little guidance from any reputable health organization, tells people how healthy they are by doling out arbitrary numbers. Unsuspecting consumers everywhere are on the hunt for Wii Fit, the mantra of “losing weight while you play” solidifying the image of the perfect workout in their minds as each frantic second passes that they’re unable to find it. Getting people hooked on the unreliable and ever-fluctuating Wii Fit Age is the worst number scheme to hit healthy living since Weight Watchers.

Japan has even more specialized channels like the upcoming Food Delivery Channel where Nintendo passes your orders onto 8,500 restaurants, and the Wii no Ma Channel video service that will offer up paid and ad-supported anime and lifestyle programming. The most worrying of them all though is the recently announced Wii Fit Body Check Channel. Coming in April, the channel will take your Wii Fit Age records along with your Personal Trainer: Walking pedometer data and pass it along to a “health professional” who will give you a virtual check up.

I grew up as a geek in the 90’s so I can appreciate the idea of the all-in-one set-top box, and I’m all for personalized services and ease-of-use designs. But who the hell is Nintendo to be collecting data about my body and sending it to someone they deem worthy to tell me how healthy I am? Yes, I can choose not to use these channels but will anyone else even be made aware that this is what’s happening when they check in with Dr. Mario? The Wii does pre-game warning images pretty well but when it comes to the finer details even the Wii Shop Channel — that collects credit card data — isn’t very heavy on fine print.

I used to bitch at Nintendo for not making the GameCube or Wii play DVD movies, now all I want is for them to go back to making just games.

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