The British government has announced plans to provide children and teenagers living in the United Kingdom with a free customised version of the Nintendo Wii together with two games and the Wii Fit accessories.
Speaking to the BBC, James Purnell, the secretary for Pensions said that the move aims to promote exercise while keeping teenagers and children out of trouble.
The plan, which will see more than one million Nintendo Wii consoles distributed by the 1st of April 2010, will target households with more than one child and with one or more parents on benefits.
It will be extended in 2010 to all UK households who apply to the scheme. These Wii consoles have been modified so that they cannot be resold, thereby preventing a burgeoning grey market.
A customised version of the Wii Fit will also be released with a power outlet that can be connected to the National Grid and allow Wii users from earning power credits by "selling" electricity produced through exercise.
An early estimate shows that up to £10 million could be given back to the one million families within the first year of operation.
Obesity amongst British teenagers has reached epidemic proportions with more than one in four children expected to be morbidly obese by 2012. The British Prime minister said that this investment would save the country more than £1 billion per year from 2025 onwards in terms of life expectancy and dealing with obesity related issues.
Below, an artist rendition of the NHS-sponsored Wii Board.
Nintendo Japan has been working closely with the British government to make sure that the gaming console serves not only as a healthy peripheral but also a pedagogical one.
For instance, this version of the Wii will come with one year free broadband connectivity courtesy of Talktalk to allow the young users to interact with their friends and a dedicated school portal.
The move is also expected to have an impact on crime figures as teenagers and young adults or teenagers remain at home instead of roaming on the streets. It could also provide with a much needed boost to the UK gaming industry which has been severely hit by the current recession.
It is understood that the government will use the ongoing apprenticeship scheme to encourage gaming companies to foster a new generation of game developers.
The government's plans have been broadly welcomed by the concerned parties. Nintendo can expect a significant windfall from what amounts to a £150 million direct investment.
Health proponents argue that millions of young people will be able to enjoy gaming in the safe environment of their dwellings while exercising and keeping healthy.
The European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) have welcomed the announcement saying that they will look forward to a much enlarged user base, a welcomed boost during the recession.