Bonnie Cha

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Nintendo Pulls Plug on Wii Vitality Sensor

You’d be forgiven if you don’t remember or have never heard of the Wii Vitality Sensor. That’s because the product never actually hit the market — and now it looks like it never will.

First introduced by Nintendo at E3 2009, the Wii Vitality Sensor was an accessory that you placed on your fingertip, so it could measure your pulse and show you how tense or relaxed you were playing a game. Nintendo’s idea was that by giving gamers this information, players could actively try to calm themselves down when things became too stressful.

There’s been little heard or said about the device since then, leading many people to believe it was pretty much dead, and Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed as much last week.

During the Q&A portion of Nintendo’s 73rd annual shareholder meeting, held on June 27 (the official transcript was released today), an attendee asked about the status of the Vitality Sensor, and Iwata said the company wasn’t going to release it because of unreliable results and the lack of consumer applications.

“The Wii Vitality Sensor is an interesting device, and we did various experiments to see what is possible when it was combined with a video game” he said. “But as a result, we have not been able to launch it as a commercial product because we could not get it to work as expected and it was a narrower application than we had originally thought.”

In that same question, the investor expressed concern that this type of thing would happen again. Iwata said that it’s always difficult for the company to decide when to announce a product. Introduce it too early and people will hype it up with all these expectations; announce it too late, and fans will complain that they can’t buy the product because the news came so suddenly.

“I hope you can understand that there is a possibility that we will postpone the launch of a new product or put it in a pending state if we determine that it does not meet the quality standards that we require,” he said.

But it’s not just hardware that’s the problem for Nintendo. The company’s most recent big launch, the Wii U, has struggled to gain traction with consumers because the games simply aren’t there.

“The reason why the Wii U has lost the momentum it had during the launch period has something to do with the fact that Nintendo hasn’t been able to provide a strong software lineup, one game after the other, without too many intervals,” Iwata told AllThingsD’s Lauren Goode in an interview at E3 2013. “Few people are willing to purchase hardware for the sake of purchasing hardware themselves, so we need to constantly provide the market with software.”

The company promoted a few new titles, such as Super Mario, Mario Kart, Smash Bros., Donkey Kong, Pikmin and Legend of Zelda series at E3 this year, but it’s going to face some stiff competition when Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 hit the store shelves later this year.

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