Growing interest in the metaverse and immersive digital experiences prompted group fitness brand, Les Mills, to launch its first virtual workout in the gaming environment.
The brand has partnered with Spain-based virtual reality specialist Odders Labs to turn its iconic Bodycombat workout into a VR gaming app available through the Quest platform. The program’s transformation into the virtual realm has been spearheaded by the group’s fitness style program directors, Rachael Newsham and Dan Cohen, and sees consumers take on martial arts challenges in settings ranging from an intergalactic wasteland on Mars to snowy tundra, ancient Rome and neo-city skylines.
Players accumulate points for their effort and technique as they are coached through practices by Newsham and Cohen and can track their performance as they progress.
This isn’t the first time Les Mills has explored virtual reality — the company delivered “The Trip,” its first immersive workout, a few years ago. But Les Mills CEO Clive Ormerod said CMO the growing interest in the metaverse has made it a good time to innovate and go further.
What Newsham described as the “cultural convergence between fitness and gaming” was also paving the way for exciting collaborations and innovative products, she said. Bodycombat was chosen first given its distinctive brand identity, reach to 10,000 gyms worldwide and millions of participants.
“We’re always looking for ways to evolve our workouts so more people fall in love with fitness, and the Bodycombat VR app seems like a very timely innovation as the metaverse begins to take off,” Ormerod said.
While the latest VR offering is aimed primarily at fitness gamers, Ormerod said the app is being introduced to everyone.
“The beauty of the Bodycombat VR app is that we can tailor workouts to all fitness levels and guide people through workouts in a safe and progressive way,” he continued. “Our mission is to create a fitter planet and we hope the launch of the Bodycombat VR app will allow us to reach new audiences and break down barriers to exercise, helping more people start their fitness journey and reaping the rewards of an active lifestyle.”
One of the main challenges in bringing a VR form of Bodycombat to life as a brand was staying true to the essence of Bodycombat, Ormerod said.
“We also had to make sure that even in virtual reality form, it still packs a punch and delivers a jaw-dropping workout,” he said. “We’re definitely confident we’ve pulled it off – I challenge anyone to give the game a try and not walk away breathless with a big smile on their face.
“From a technical point of view, we were fortunate to be able to rely on the expertise of our formidable partners. It was great to combine our 50+ years of fitness expertise with the groundbreaking VR technology that Odders pioneered, and their connections and knowledge of VR. We think it’s a pretty unique partnership at this point and together with the Meta team, we think it’s the best way to enter such an exciting frontier in fitness.
Ormerod said the team worked closely with Odders on choosing the environments given how important they were to engagement and the level of enjoyment the app offered.
“We have amassed a wealth of experience over the past five years of producing The Trip in developing virtual worlds and narratives that enhance the training experience and take it to a whole new level, so these learnings have certainly been helpful,” he explained.
The launch of the VR gaming application is supported by a public relations campaign in the American and British markets, supported by specialized agencies, but is also rapidly gaining word of mouth. Ormerod said Les Mills has already been approached by a host of influencers eager to get involved.
“What’s been really exciting is the reception to the gaming community – we’ve been inundated with requests from Youtubers and Twitch stars to review the game on their channels and there are already dozens of reviews from live gameplay,” he said. “Reviews currently give us an average of nine out of 10, so we’ll work hard to earn that extra rating to know that we truly bring the best-in-class fitness experience to the world.”
As Les Mills’ first effort, the next step will be testing and learning to make regular updates and additions to the game in the coming months.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response to the game so far, so if that continues, that’s definitely something we’ll take into consideration when planning what comes next,” Ormerod said. “Certainly we have other programs that would make great VR games.”
Ormerod did not detail how Les Mills plans to measure short-term and long-term success, but said the brand is not in virtual reality “for the headlines.”
“Innovation is in our DNA and it’s about delivering a high quality product that inspires more and more different people to join us in creating a healthier planet,” he added.
The Bodycombat app is available now for US$29.99 in the Quest Store and requires a Quest headset to play.
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