How Fitness-Based Video Games Could Go Mainstream

Might as well have fun while you workout

  • Fitness-based video games are nothing new, but have never really taken off into mass popularity.
  • Established fitness companies like Peloton are adding gaming options to their platforms as a different way to work out. 
  • The future of fitness gaming could lie in virtual reality, since it limits the real-world constraints of everyday fitness experiences.
Person using VR to kickbox

Getty Images / Javier Rueda

More and more companies are putting fitness and gaming together, and it might be the next big thing—if it’s done well, experts say. 

Currently, companies like Peloton have added gaming options to their workout lineup, and VR headsets from companies like Oculus offer fitness-based games such as Supernatural and Beat Saber. However, what’s missing from the fitness-based video game landscape is that one hit game that satisfies both gamers and fitness fanatics. 

“When done well, I think fitness video games are fantastic. There needs to be an understanding from both [the fitness and gaming] industries about what makes a good fitness routine and what makes a good game,” Rex Freiberger, the co-CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire in an email. 

Fitness and Gaming 

When you think of video games and fitness, you might conjure up images of Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Sports. While both of these games did well, they also weren’t specifically aimed at the fitness market. Freiberger said it takes more to be successful in gaming and fitness today. 

“The older games we had with limited technology that had the same impact as an aerobics video weren't utilizing the medium well,” he said. “Games like Ring Fit Adventure are a perfect example of what fitness games can and should be.”

Person using Ring Fit peripheral

Nintendo

Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is a fitness game that uses a flexible ring-shaped peripheral to provide various strength and cardio exercises in a fun way. The system successfully combines gaming and fitness by utilizing 20 different worlds and more than 100 gaming/fitness levels with exercises like squats, back presses, and more to defeat your enemies and level up. 

But established fitness companies are eyeing the gaming industry by adding gaming options as a way to work out. Peloton recently announced an upcoming video game option to subscribers called Lanebreak. 

The game lets you earn points by staying in your lane, increasing your energy output, and reaching your goal in time. Riders pedal to an on-screen wheel to reach goals within the game. In addition, you’ll be able to customize the game with your difficulty level, the music, and the duration of the track.

While it might be a good addition to some Peloton subscribers, Freiberger said that fitness companies just aren't as equipped to make games. 

“Just hiring some people to make games is never going to go well. The game will be a secondary consideration, and it will feel like it,” he said. “Fitness companies need to hire good, experienced [game] studios to make these, or no one will buy them.”

Getting Lost In An Experience 

However, gaming could be the next big thing in the fitness industry if done right and thoughtfully. Outside of the gimmicks and just adding a gaming option for the sake of adding it, experts say it's all about "gamifying" your fitness regime by getting lost within an experience and limiting real-world constraints. 

“We're very interested in being able to adapt traditional group fitness experiences and bring them into virtual reality and do so in a way where that translates from real-world fitness into VR,” Sam Cole, the co-founder and CEO of FitXR, told Lifewire over the phone. 

“When it applies to virtual reality, you don't have any constraints that limit or restrict what you can do.”

Screenshot of FitXR

FitXR

FitXR uses the Oculus Quest headset to deliver a unique fitness/gaming experience in boxing, dancing, and high-intensity interval training classes. The system takes you into a virtual dance studio or on a rooftop, and members are immersed into the VR world, including dodging fast-paced cues that you smash as they become illuminated around you. 

Aside from zero limitations, Cole said VR fitness might appeal to those who are intimidated by the gym or by group fitness classes. 

“I would never set foot in a dance class because I'd be so intimidated to do that, but if you have a headset on and do it somewhere at home, it feels fantastic and liberating because I don't have anyone judging me,” Cole said. 

He’s confident that fitness-based gaming can become mainstream, especially in a post-pandemic world where we are used to working out in the comfort of our homes. 

“I absolutely think it's the future, and I think it's the future of more mainstream fitness,” he said.

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