EA Is Late to the Finish Line

In a long-overdue move, Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) is finally taking its EA Sports franchise off the couch.

EA Sports Active for the Wii will build on the success of Nintendo's (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) proprietary Wii Fit. Sure, the Wii version of EA's Madden football games took advantage of the console's motion-based controller to introduce a little physical skill into the game, but this is EA's first shot at providing a more conventional fitness title.

"Targeted toward women as a low-cost alternative to joining sports club or gym, the game features an interactive computer trainer, and crafts running, boxing and other heart-pumping exercises to the user's desires," explains PC Magazine.

Really, EA? The interactive computer trainer, running simulator, and cardiovascular workouts are already part of Wii Fit. Boxing is part of the Wii Sports game that comes bundled with every Nintendo Wii console.

EA likely won't take the same cartoonish approach as Nintendo has, but the game will certainly have to bring a lot more to the table than what Nintendo is already providing.

This is also a case of miserable timing for the software company. The game isn't coming out this month, in time to rack up huge holiday shopping numbers. It's not even coming out in January, when New Year's resolutions lead to spiking membership rolls at clubs like Life Time Fitness (NYSE: LTM  ) and Town Sports (Nasdaq: CLUB  ) .

How about February, when buyer's remorse kicks in on those who bought gym memberships a month earlier? Nope. EA's game won't hit the market until March.

March? When the weather begins to improve and folks want to explore the great outdoors? That's insane.

Naturally, this will give EA plenty of time to make sure the game is amazing. Maybe it teams up with an active footwear maker like Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) to win the nascent franchise a little street cred. Maybe this will inspire it to renew talks with Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) , and put out a fitness version of Grand Theft Auto where you really have to run around town when you lose your wheels or get into a scuffle. Maybe it will even team up with the very fitness clubs that it is aiming to displace.

Either way, this isn't one of EA Sports' killer franchises, where it knows the crowds will come and blindly snap up the annual installments. It's going to have to work up a sweat to earn the fitness crowd. If it's arriving unfashionably late with a "me too" premise, the only real exercise that EA fans will get is when they plop themselves back down on the couch when the next EA game arrives.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still wonders why he falls for the Madden updates every year. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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