Xbox Fitness was a major part of the Xbox One’s launch back in 2013. Its numerous body-tracking features were instrumental in demonstrating the improved Kinect camera which shipped with the console and, for many gamers like myself who have an interest in keeping fit, it was a main motivator in making the initial Xbox One Day One purchase.
Since its launch though, Xbox Fitness was plagued with problems that ranged from a clunky user interface and an always online requirement to video buffering problems that essentially made it unusable even by those with good internet.
Over the following years, the video streaming improved (though was never completely fixed), an option to download some workouts to the Xbox One console was added, and a broader range of workouts were made available. Users continued to drop off though and in mid-2016, Microsoft announced that it would begin restricting access to Xbox Fitness’ features in stages before shutting it down completely in mid-2017.
Despite its loyal following (I personally still use Xbox Fitness daily and spent hundreds of dollars on workout downloadable content), the program was a failure for a multitude of reasons and its cancellation didn’t come as too much of a surprise. The concept was a good one though and the potential for a successful revamp of the Xbox Fitness concept in 2017 or beyond is huge. Here are five ways I think Microsoft could make Xbox Fitness 2 (or whatever it’s called) a success.
No More Streaming
Video buffering when watching a movie is annoying enough but when the buffering happens in the middle of a high-impact workout, it’s dangerous and infuriating. When Xbox Fitness launched, it wasn’t uncommon to experience buffering as often as every five minutes throughout a one hour session. The initial experience was so poor that many Xbox One owners who were interested in Xbox Fitness tried it once and never came back.
The reason for the compulsory streaming was apparently due to the contracts Microsoft signed so that they could use certain third-party workout programs in Xbox Fitness. Towards the end of its lifespan though, Xbox Fitness did introduce video downloads for most of the Xbox-produced workouts, most likely due to a new form of contract being drawn up with customer feedback in mind. While being far too late to save the platform and bring back those who had given up on it, this download option did improve usability greatly for the loyalists and hinted at a new direction for Xbox Fitness had it continued to evolve.
Any new iteration of Xbox Fitness needs to have download options for all workouts.
Bring Xbox Fitness to Windows 10
Very recently after Xbox Fitness launched, there was official word from Microsoft that they were planning to expand the program to other devices such as Windows 10 PCs and tablets. Unfortunately this never happened but the potential here is huge.
With the download option for workouts enabled and also an option to unlock in-game challenges that don’t require the use of the Xbox One’s Kinect, there’s no reason why Xbox Fitness couldn’t work on a Windows 10 device and sync progress and stats through the Xbox Live network. I travel quite a lot and I would love to keep up with my Xbox Fitness workouts while on the road. There are already a variety of competing fitness apps that offer workout videos. This is a rather big market that Microsoft could easily tap into in an easier and much more affordable way than its (seemingly) failed Microsoft Band experiment.
Less Advertising, More Personalization
For all of its stat tracking, Xbox Fitness provided a terrible experience for users trying to navigate its menus. Two thirds of the main menu were dedicated to advertising physical workout merchandise while the remaining third gave a quick play option to redo the most-previously played workout (which was a completely useless feature as most people would play the following workout in a series, not the one they just completed). There weren’t even any leaderboards, something all fitness programs have as a main feature, at launch. They were added years later.
A new Xbox Fitness needs to be all about the user. Kind of like FitBit’s dashboard. Xbox Fitness users would need to see their leaderboards as soon as they open the app (probably just their top five friends), their monthly stats prominently displayed, and their stamp card. More personalization of a user’s profile would also be a good idea. Why not add favorite workout styles (i.e. yoga, weights, etc) to a member’s card along with their rank? There are a lot of possibilities here for an improved design.
Make an Xbox Fitness Running Smartphone App
Most people who are interested in exercise go running and most of them use a smartphone and an app to track their distance and pace and to compete with friends. A running app with the Xbox Fitness brand would be very popular with users and through Xbox Live also has the potential to unlock Xbox Achievements, sync data to the main Xbox Fitness Xbox One/Windows 10 app, and more.
The Xbox One game, Shape Up, developed a similar running app for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android to help promote its release on the console. It’s kind of embarrassing that a casual fitness game such as that beat Microsoft to the punch.
Focus on Xbox Fitness Branded Workouts
After its cancellation announcement, both Xbox and Xbox Fitness support confirmed that the licence fees for streaming the workouts were the main reason for the closure of Xbox Fitness. It was just too expensive to maintain with the shrinking userbase. For any revamp of Xbox Fitness, Microsoft needs to ditch all of those third-party celebrity workouts and focus on producing more Xbox Fitness-branded programs which, if we’re being honest, were often superior than the others anyway.
It’s no secret that the Mossa workouts that were made for Xbox Fitness are extremely popular with users. Microsoft could potentially relaunch the product as a Mossa app or game and it would be a huge success. Most of the Xbox Fitness workouts were very well-made though and, possibly, much cheaper in the long-term too if Microsoft owns the rights to that content.
As it stands right now, there’s enough unique content on Xbox Fitness to stand alone without the need for any additional videos made by other companies. Microsoft should ditch the third-parties completely and focus on their own content.
Are you an Xbox Fitness user and would you like to see a reboot of the concept on Xbox One or Windows 10? Share your ideas for what you would like to see happen in the comments below.