business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Please do me a favor. Should I ever disappear for a length of time, hesitate before putting my face on a milk carton or rounding up the usual suspects. Instead, look in my basement and see if I’m in a trance playing Wii.

I have seen the future and it is amazing.

Those of you who have played Wii probably think me a latecomer. Chances are, though, that many of you probably haven’t played it either. Either way, we need to consider what this incredible device portends for the shopping experience.

Wii is a video game console unlike any before it. Instead of using a controller to move your character around, the player in real life is the player on the screen. You move yourself to create action, using a hand held device to bowl, golf, play tennis…and more.

I got my opportunity to try Wii a week ago while out with my wife, and two other couples. We thought it would be fun to go bowling, even though none of us had done so in years. Entering a nearby bowling alley, we were stunned. Not only was the joint jumping, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Apparently it was “rave bowling” night, which meant almost no lights, loud music and hoards of teen-agers. (By the way, I have to applaud the bowling industry for coming up with a theme like that. Rave bowling is clearly a way to attract young people back into the building, which is pretty creative.)

But my group of fiftysomethings wasn’t impressed. It was loud, dark and the wait was over an hour. So we jumped at the opportunity when one friend invited us to her house to bowl on the Wii.

Instead of sitting in a dark, noisy bowling alley, we sat in her family room bowling. It was social, exciting and fun. (By the way, contorting your body after a shot or kicking you legs doesn’t help the ball at all, but you do it all the same.) After bowling two games, we did a quick tour of the Wii system and the host and I completed the evening by playing nine holes of virtual golf.

It was a blast and I was delighted when our host told me I could come over any time to play against her husband on the Wii. Heck, she even served Girl Scout cookies. As our host explained, the Wii is different from any video game she’s ever allowed in her house. Unlike previous versions, she said, the Wii is social and gets her entire family together for fun time. That’s no tall order, she admitted, for her 18- and 21-year old sons.

It should make us all think too. The golf industry is already voicing concerns about falling levels of play because people can’t spend five hours on the course. The bowling industry, though showing creativity with Rave night, no longer has the connection to the mass population. And the retail industry better look at Wii and realize we aren’t far away from virtual shopping that might completely alter our connection and hold on the shopper.

After all, if Wii can figure out how to make a virtual wind alter a golf shot, I’m pretty sure they can create one compelling shopping trip. A game that lets you line up your feet and angle any way you want in a bowling alley can certainly figure out how to give us the ability to walk a supermarket and select products.

I’d think about it some more, except I’m still contemplating why I can’t quite hit the pocket correctly, which means I keep leaving the 10-pin standing. Clearly, I need time to practice.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at .
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