Parts of the games business may be in need of life support, but some genres such as fitness games are powering on despite a swoon in consumer spending.
The latest entrant in this field is Striiv (pronounced "strive"), a gadget the size of a Smalltoids tin that tracks the number of steps or stairs its owner makes.
What separates Striiv from the average pedometer are the applications on the device. One is a village simulation game called MyLand (shown in the image at right) that translates steps into buildings and farms. It's like Sim City meets Wii Fit.
Users can also donate their steps to various causes, via GlobalGiving, an organization that disperses donations to about 1,000 grass-roots projects. Take 18,000 steps, and Striiv will donate enough money to provide a day's worth of clean drinking water for a child in South Africa. Alternatively, users can protect Tanzania's rain forest or fund polio vaccinations.
The beauty of Striiv is that none of the technology involved in the device -- its touch screen, accelerometer and exercise-for-a-cause concept -- is cutting edge, said Wanda Meloni, a game industry analyst with M2 Research. (Gaming geezers will remember Ubisoft Entertainment's My Weight Loss Coach game released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS, which came with a pedometer.)
"Nothing's new about it," Meloni said. "But it's so intuitive and easy that it can be very appealing to the mass market."
Another bonus: You don't need a $200 game console or a $100 hardware attachment to play. The device is $99 flat and includes the key fob attachment, a charger and a USB cable to connect the gizmo to a computer.
Below is a short video of Dave Wang, the chief executive and co-founder of Redwood City, Calif., based, Striiv, demonstrating his device.
-- Alex Pham