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Digital Fitness Games Have a Financial and Social ROI

CCA LiveE | Friday May 13th, 2011 | 0 Comments

The following post is part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. The rest of the posts are presented here.


By Mimi Danh

The concept of fitness exercise and video gaming is not entirely new. Remember the Nintendo Power Pad, also known as “Family Fun Fitness” (1988) where users were able to control gameplay by stepping on a large pad with buttons. The pad measured user’s timing, coordination, and speed. Top games included Active World and Stadium Events. Not only was it physically interactive – it was fun!

A decade later, Dance Dance Revolution – DDR (1998) introduced the ‘Dance Pad’, taking music and dancing to a whole new level in gaming. The game took off in entertainment value and discovered its own phenomenon – weight loss. Hundreds of users have claimed that the game helped them lose weight through its aerobic movements. Many schools have now adopted the game as a form of physical education – getting kids to move in fun ways.

Now two decades later, we enter a whole new era of fitness gaming, digital fitness. Games like YourselfFitness were first introduced on the Xbox and PlayStation, giving users a digital trainer in their very own living rooms. The Nintendo Wii opened opportunities for a slew of interactive fitness games (ie. Wii Fit, EA Active).

What’s Happening Now

But more recently we see a huge leap in the digital fitness gaming world with the introduction of 3D motion tracking. First launched by Microsoft’s Kinect (November 2010) – 3D motion tracking has leveraged the new era of game experience. Forget the controller (wireless or not) the body is now the controller. With a simple, intuitive interface, users use their hands/body to ‘motion’ their moves captured by a 3D camera. Games like Biggest Loser and EA Active 2 are utilizing this platform to bring users closer to their fitness goals.

As we enter a world of Smart TV’s, fitness gaming will continue to live beyond just the game console. Wherever there is a 3D motion sensor, a user is able to engage in any game and in any space. This multi-platform experience allows the user to set up their ‘home gym’ however they like.

Design innovation is pushing these business models to evolve as quickly as the technology changes. Fitness game companies have to constantly re-create and re-deliver their products in order to capture value for their consumers.

Why it’s Important

The fitness gaming industry isn’t just measured by its lucrative economic ROI, but what we’ve discovered with 3D motion tracking is a social return that has impacted individuals across all ages. Given its simple and extremely intuitive user interface, it appeals to all ages – providing a low barrier to entry for any non-gamer. Grandparents can play along with their 6-year-old grand child. This ‘connectedness’ brings a social value back into the family space, creating an experience for the whole family to enjoy together.

Beyond the entertainment value, fitness games provide a personal fitness solution for wellness seekers. People enjoy working out in the privacy of their homes. The cost is relatively cheaper than owning a gym membership and it eliminates the hassle and effort that it takes to go to the gym.

In the past, video games were typically known as violence contributors. But in this latest era of fitness gaming, we’re starting to see the shift from what was a dominant kid’s focused market to a wider casual gamer audience. Providing a more holistic experience for the entire family and a positive impact on our social culture. Families can have fun together and stay healthy together.

Who ever thought a virtual experience can have long-lasting real world benefits? That is design thinking at its best.


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