We were paying hundreds of dollars each year for my wife to go to fitness classes at a local gym. Now, we just use a few games.
In recent years, publishers like Nintendo, Majesco, and Microsoft have all released games to capitalize on the multibillion-dollar fitness industry. People love to “gamify” difficult or tedious tasks like physical exertion, and it turns out that traditional developers are good at making products like that. In fact, Nintendo is looking into building a whole new division dedicated to health and well-being to help generate more revenue.
Exercise games don’t just make money for publishers — they can also help people save a few bucks. That’s what my wife and I found when we got a few for Xbox One and the Wii U. Over the last few months, my wife has made a habit of hopping on the TV to keep up with her routine. She has happily let her gym membership lapse because of games like Zumba Fitness: World Party, Xbox Fitness, and Wii Fit U.
Now, she isn’t a fitness nut. She’s just a gamer looking to get some exercise. She wants something that is fun and challenging that will fit her schedule. A lot of people are probably just like her, so I got her thoughts on some of her most-used workout games as an expert exer-gamer.
Zumba Fitness: World Party (Xbox One)
What is it?
Zumba is the stitched-together monster of dance, aerobics, and plyometrics, and publisher Majesco Entertainment’s Zumba Fitness: World Party for Xbox One is the best gamification of that experience. It features 40 song-length Zumba dances all set to popular tunes from artists like Lady Gaga, Pitbull, and Marc Anthony.
As a Zumba product, it is fully fleshed out. It has a number of famous instructors all performing multiple routines in crisp HD. They’re always standing in front of beautiful, real-world locales streaming in the background while fireworks and special effects shoot off all around the dancers. The better the player performs the Zumba moves, the more impressive the visuals become. World Party will start zapping in more dancers until dozens of people are all doing Zumba with you onscreen.
Zumba Fitness: World Party is available now on Xbox One, Wii U for $50 and Xbox 360, and Wii for $40.
The exer-gamer’s thoughts
“It’s fun,” my wife said. “I like the music, and there are a lot of songs. The graphics are amazing, and it’s really easy to see the instructors, which makes it easy to follow. The backgrounds are fun to look at, and I like how more people come in and it gets more exciting as the song goes on.”
She said that she prefers doing the mode that offers a full class because it’s similar to doing an hour-long class in real life. That way she doesn’t have to think about picking a song and get a full hour workout without wasting any extra time.
“It’s nice cause you don’t have to go to a class at the gym,” she said. “It’s especially nice if you don’t want to work out in front of people.”
She also likes the way the hand-gesture controls work for selecting an item. For most menus on Xbox One, you have to hold your hand up and press it forward in midair to simulate pressing a button. That doesn’t always work well. In World Party, you just have to hover your hand over a selection for a small duration of time to pick something.
As for what she doesn’t like, she does miss the gym for some things.
“I do kind of miss the class because when you’re dancing around with a bunch of people it’s a lot of fun,” said my wife.
She also thinks that some people who are new to Zumba will have a hard time with this.
“I don’t think the dances are too hard, but only because I’ve been doing Zumba for a while. But I can’t imagine being new to it and having to learn these moves.”
Finally, she hates the initial load time, which can take a while. She also dislikes how the Kinect interprets her bringing her water bottle up to her face as a gesture command.
“I’m afraid that I could lose my progress some day because the camera thinks I’m selecting something when I’m just taking a break,” she said.
Xbox Fitness (Xbox One)
What is it?
Microsoft released the Xbox One in November. To get customers excited, it launched titles like Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5, but it didn’t stop at zombies and racing. It also included a built-in app called Xbox Fitness, which is Microsoft’s exercise-video platform.
Xbox Fitness combines the biggest names in working out with the Kinect camera. This means you can get Ripped in 30 with Jillian Michaels while the Kinect watches and grades your performance. Now, you don’t just have the trainers verbally coaxing you to do your best, you also have an active feedback loop that shows you how well you’re doing. In the corner, the Kinect’s camera shows you what you look like so you can keep an eye on your form.
If you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, many of the workout programs are free. You can do all of trainer Shaun T’s Rockin’ Body program without having to make any extra purchases, but you can also buy additional videos to get more variety. It’s almost like an app store for workout videos.
It’s available now for free to anyone with an Xbox Live Gold subscription.
The exer-gamer’s thoughts
“I love how Xbox Fitness shows you if you’re doing the moves right,” she said. “It tracks your progress through the whole workout, and it encourages you to do better because you want to top your high score. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment that you don’t get from doing a regular workout video.”
She also likes pausing the workout with her voice.
“I can yell ‘Pause’ to stop the video when I need a drink,” she said. “It also has a good countdown to show you how much longer you need to do a particular exercise.”
While she does like having some free videos, she isn’t a huge fan of the limited selection.
“I wish they had more workout videos that are free because there’s not a ton of variety. I might pay for more if there was one I liked, but it’s hard when I know that will get old eventually too.”
She also has occasional trouble with the Xbox One’s Kinect sensor.
“It isn’t 100 percent accurate. If I get down to do pushups, it loses track of me. And I superhate that you have to be so far back for it to see your whole body,” she said. “Who has a living room that is that big? When it loses track of you, it sucks.”
Wii Fit U (Wii U)
What is it?
Nintendo’s Wii Fit U is the HD sequel to the Wii original. It’s essentially a virtual trainer. Using the Wii Fit Board peripheral, a scale that also tracks balance, the game gets an initial reading on your weight and body-mass index. It then asks you to set a goal and presents you with various exercises and activities you can perform to achieve your ideal weight.
If you want more control over your routines, Wii Fit U then includes the option to let you piece together the different exercises in whatever order you want. It also uses the camera in the Wii U GamePad controller so you can snap a pic of your face to take a look at yourself before and after you reach your goals.
It’s available now for $50 and comes with the Wii Fit Meter pedometer.
The exer-gamer’s thoughts
“I like that it weighs you and gives you your Wii Fit age,” said my wife.
Using the Wii Fit board, she can use Wii Fit U to track her progress. The Wii Fit age combines different metrics (like BMI) with the results of physical tests to give an age score. This is shorthand for how fit you are, and she likes how east that is. It encourages her to keep trying.
“The game even comes with a digital pedometer that tracks your steps when you’re away from home,” she said. “I’m on my feet all day, and this helps me to keep thinking about staying healthy even when I’m away from home.
“But I don’t feel like the game is much of a workout.And I don’t like having to get the board out and using the Wiimote.”
Where Xbox One and PS4 have moved on to high-definition motion-tracking cameras, Wii U still relies on big pieces of plastic that have to sit in the middle of your living room. The Wii Fit board takes up space, it runs on batteries, and it isn’t all that accurate.
Out of the three games, my wife definitely prefers Zumba and Xbox Fitness.
“I like bouncing back and forth between those two,” she said. “Zumba is great, but it’s just one type of workout. Depending on what I do on Xbox Fitness, I can get out the weights or do yoga.”
Now, my wife likes working out when she has the time. She told me that if it were less expensive, she might still consider going to the gym for some things. But, for the first time, the combination of games like Zumba Fitness: World Party, Xbox Fitness, and (sometimes) Wii Fit U make it easier for her to keep to a routine at home in less time and for less money.