Feb 17, 2022 - Technology

Peloton officially releases its Lanebreak gaming mode

A virtual wheel rolls down a virtual track.

Struggling fitness company Peloton is rolling out its new video game-style Lanebreak mode for users of the company’s exercise bikes.

Why it matters: Peloton, which found success during the pandemic and is now trying to retain users, is deploying the popular strategy of adding game-like experiences to its product.

The details: Lanebreak mode offers 10-30 minute workouts that turn biking into a musical fitness game that involves powering a virtual wheel as it rolls down a virtual track.

  • Peleton describes the experience as having three “core” aspects: beats, breakers and streams.
  • As described by Gizmodo’s Caitlin McGarry, who tested it: “I’m pedaling to hit specific beats, fill up breakers by pedaling furiously, or keep up a stream by maintaining a cadence, all the while using the bike’s resistance knob to switch between six lanes. You’re rewarded with points for hitting all of the targets.”
  • Lanebreak was announced last July and offered in beta tests since then, but most users couldn’t access it until this week.

The big picture: Video games and fitness have crossed over for decades, often boosted by big companies trying to expand their image.

  • Early entrepreneurial efforts like 2004’s YourSelf: Fitness on Xbox didn’t make waves.
  • But in 2007, Nintendo launched Wii Fit as part of its effort to reach a mainstream audience that transcended gaming stereotypes. The bundle of fitness challenges was controlled with a pressure sensitive board and sold more than 22 million copies. Scores of exercise games followed on Wii and rival consoles.
  • Microsoft used fitness gaming to promote its 2010 Kinect body sensor, eventually launching an Xbox FItness channel in 2013. But that program faded years ago as the Kinect was discontinued.
  • Exercise and gaming has had a more persistent presence on smartphones and smart watches, where developers can tie an onboard pedometer to a gamified fitness app.

Be smart: For users, exercise playing out as a game can be a powerful motivational tool and might work better for those who need a nudge and don’t want or can’t afford a trainer.

  • One of the more novel experiments came from Nintendo. Its 2019 multi-million-selling hit Ring Fit Adventure, turned fitness gaming into a dramatic narrative adventure in which you defeat monsters and clear obstacle courses with exercises.

What’s next: Peloton says it plans to add “new mechanics and challenges” to Lanebreak in the months ahead and is “actively exploring new platforms and formats.”

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