Jul 18, 2022 - Technology

Behind Peloton’s gaming experiment

Peloton Lanebreak. Screenshot: Axios

It took months of testing and a partnership with an award-winning mobile game developer to release one of the most interesting fitness video games in recent years.

Why it matters: From Nintendo’s Wii Fit to Microsoft’s Kinect Sports, industry leaders have often tried to gamify exercise. Peloton’s Lanebreak is a notable example of an exercise company adding games to its product.

Catch up, quick: Lanebreak is a mode publicly released by Peloton in February that connects the Peloton riding experience with a gamified workout.

  • Users pedal along a moving track that looks something like a mash-up of Guitar Hero and Beat Saber.
  • Regular prompts, synced up to playlists, compel riders to change the bike’s resistance level, maintain a steady pace or launch into a pedaling sprint.

What they’re saying: “When we were developing Peloton Lanebreak, we were particularly interested in creating a gaming-inspired experience that at its core was still grounded in the same exercise principles that guide the cues and movements of our cycling classes,” Jim Green, the senior product manager with Peloton Lanebreak, told Axios.

  • To achieve that goal, the mode had an extensive beta testing program among Peloton’s users that began last July.
  • Peloton Lanebreak launched on the platform after months of design and research, most notably informed by a series of mini-games we playtested directly with members in guided sessions,” Green said. “In these prototypes, we experimented with mechanics and motivators ranging from social components, to competition and to pure play to see what resonated with our members.”

Our thought bubble: As someone who has never really enjoyed a fitness game (with the possible exception of Beat Saber), I’ve been shocked at how much Lanebreak taps into exactly what I’m looking for in a workout.

  • An injury has kept me from my usual running routine, and for the last two months, Lanebreak has given me challenging and engaging workouts.
  • I love the different time lengths, the draw to get the highest score possible and the variable difficulty settings.

Yes, but: I’m not listening to the music at all.

  • My dream exercise is one that allows me to listen to various podcasts or audiobooks, while also keeping me engaged enough in an activity that doesn’t feel monotonous.

And it doesn’t sound like I’m alone.

  • "We’ve seen overwhelmingly positive feedback, and nearly half a million members trying it in its first month of launching,” Green said.

Surprise partnership: Peloton had a helping hand in Lanebreak’s development from developers at ustwo, the studio behind the award-winning Monument Valley mobile games. It told Axios it helped to shape the concept, the prototyping and the art.

  • “Lanebreak is one of the first examples of a stationary bike-as-game-controller,” ustwo told Axios. “As such, we were limited to the inputs of the bike. … Building an engaging experience that leveraged these inputs effectively and didn’t take users out of the experience was an exciting challenge to solve and we’re proud of how we innovated to create a gaming-inspired, rhythm-based workout that motivates Peloton’s members.”

Between the lines: It’s been a challenging time for Peloton recently.

Peloton promised “new mechanics and challenges” when Lanebreak released, the state of the business might slow down new additions for the mode.

  • “Since launch, we’ve continued to release new levels on a weekly basis across a variety of workout types and music genres to ensure Lanebreak is inclusive to all members,” Green said. “While we don’t have anything future to announce at this time, we’re always thinking of how we can make sure the experiences across our product lines stay fresh.”

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