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Nintendo Intros Specialized Wii Controllers

At its presentation at this year’s E3 Expo, Nintendo outlined one way it intends to extend the sales dominance of its popular Wii gaming console: new controllers.

The Wii has captured attention from the gaming community and non-traditional gamers in part due to its price—cheaper than competing consoles from Microsoft and Sony—but also due to its innovative motion-sensitive controllers and how those controllers integrate into games like Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling. Now Nintendo plans to offer unique, custom controllers with a selection of forthcoming gaming titles, bringing the Wii experience to new places.

First, the gun-shaped Wii Zapper will likely appeal to traditional gaming enthusiasts, especially folks who enjoy first-person shooters. The Zapper isn’t a new controller in and of itself: instead, it’s a housing for the user’s existing Wii remote and Nunchuck. The Zapper features a tommy gun-like two-gripped design which can be used with either one or two hands. The housing will ship with a so-far unannounced gaming title later this year, although Nintendo says the Zapper will also be available separately at a price around $20.

Nintendo seems to know that no cart racer experience is really complete without a steering wheel controllers, so the company is planning a Wii Wheel to accompany its forthcoming Mario Kart game for the Wii. The diminutive wheel is about the size of a bread or salad plate—six or seven inches across—and Nintendo plans to offer the controller both with the Mario Kart title and as a separate accessory, although no pricing information was offered. The Wii Wheel should hit retailers in early 2008—along with the Mario Kart title, which will feature online play capabilities.

Increasing the Wii’s appeal to non-traditional gamers like young children, seniors, and the sort of folk who thrive on Dance Dance Revolution—Nintendo plans to introduce Wii Fit, a forthcoming fitness title which will feature a Wii Balance Board controller. The wireless controller resembles a low “step-ercise” device, sits on the floor, and is wide enough to accommodate a player’s two feet; it contains sensors which detect both feet and the amount of weight on each, so games can respond as player shift balance, lift feet up, and put them down again. The Wii Balance Board can be used in conjunction with a Wii Remote and Nunchuck, opening the possibility of full-body interactivity and exercises. Nintendo didn’t offer any information on when Wii Fit might ship, how much it might cost, or what the Wii Balance Board’s recommended weight limit might be.

Nintendo emphasizes that none of these names—Zapper, Wii Wheel, Mario Kart, or Balance Board—are final.

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