At Home Fitness: Was the Xbox Kinect Ahead of its Time?

Even before the current pandemic, home fitness apps and devices were making strides in the market. And after seeing some of the products available today, it makes me wonder if the Xbox Kinect was just ahead of its time.

Given the interest of gamifying home fitness, it’s not really all that far fetched of a question.

Sure, the Xbox Kinect has a few minor glitches and a non-dedicated developer base. But, what would it look like today as a competitor for the many virtual fitness products hitting the market?

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Home Fitness Units in the News

From apps to wearable technology, gamifying home fitness is all the rage. And to be honest, it probably began with the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect.

Playing games while elevating the heart rate is an incredible cardio experience for gamers.

But nowadays, it seems like all kinds of developers are coming out of the woodwork. Here are just a few that have hit the news recently.

Quell and Resistance Training

Quell is a company working on bringing resistance training to the gaming sphere. According to the company, you can burn more calories than circuit training within a half-hour period.

But to be honest, I can burn more by strapping on one-pound weights to each hand and playing Virtual Smash in Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.

What piques my interest is the “fighting” layout of the harness from Quell. Using resistance bands, you punch your way to victory. This, no doubt, can do wonders for muscle definition and development.

Ring Fit Adventure

The Ring Fit device is yet another, controller-based unit to monitor the movement of the user. In fact, it works very similar to the steering wheel used by the Wii.

But, like the Wii, it has one inescapable flaw: you can sit on the couch to play. This is why I had to make the rule that if the Wii is on, you’re on your feet.

In contrast, you can’t necessarily play most games on the Kinect while sitting in the chair. Or at least, not without a high level of difficulty.

Then again, I’ve never been a big fan of anything Nintendo related.

Zwift and Indoor Bicycling

I am very interested when it comes to indoor bicycling. And Zwift found a way to make it into a game. The brand specifically taps my interest by offering a competitive community.

From running to biking, you’ll definitely spend a pretty penny on maintaining this hobby. You can compete in races and events in real-time with other players.

I’m a bit on the fence when it comes to Zwift because of the general price tags. However, it might be something I would consider…when I build up my savings account.

But, alas, they are sold out. Like most other fun-looking home fitness devices and units.

Why the Xbox Kinect Failed Home Fitness

So, why did the Xbox Kinect fail when so many other devices are hitting the market and selling out? Just browse the apps available for Android and Apple and you’ll find a long list of fitness games and functions you can install right now.

And a lot of them have a fairly popular following.

Lack of Supporting Titles?

One thing that definitely hurt the popularity of the Kinect was the lack of supporting games. Yes, I’ve found quite a few that I thoroughly enjoy playing. But, not everyone has the same tastes.

Can you imagine if Mortal Kombat was available for the Kinect, though?

In many ways, it was like developers really didn’t care to promote the Xbox Kinect as a viable home fitness system. Well, not like some companies are doing today.

The effort just wasn’t there, which is a shame. The right title could have brought an entirely new and immensely popular franchise.

Well, outside of Just Dance, anyway.

Lack of Interest?

Perhaps failure was due to a lack of interest at the time the Kinect was making its movements. I know a lot of gamer folk who really weren’t into the idea of playing the available titles.

After all, a lot of them did seem more centric to entertaining the younger audience.

Again…something like Mortal Kombat might have made a HUGE difference.

For me, the idea of being the “controller” itself was amazing. After all, I’ve lost more than 80 pounds thanks to games like Avengers: Battle for Earth.

But if an idea doesn’t bring in money by the truckloads, investors are not interested in it.

Lack of Proper Marketing?

The Xbox Kinect did have a bit of marketing. But probably not nearly enough for what it was. Then again, part of the power behind marketing any game console is the support of available games.

Look no further than the lack of support for Sega’s Dreamcast.

Great marketing can make all the difference for a product. Even craptastic devices can make bank with money going into the right marketing platforms.

And for what the Xbox Kinect offered in terms of home fitness, Microsoft failed miserably.

Yes, I STILL Play the Kinect for Home Fitness

I still play the Xbox Kinect on a near-daily basis. In fact, I’m back into doing personal case studies for various games. And I dread the day my unit finally takes a dump on me.

But overall, it’s what works to keep me engaged in physical fitness. The way I play Kinect games works up one hell of a sweat.

As soon as I get a way to record and stream from the living room, I’ll upload some of those videos. If anything, they might make you chuckle.

At any rate, the Xbox Kinect is still one of my all-time favorite home fitness devices. But, I’m hoping to review a few new ones next year.

That depends on if I can get some money squirreled away.

I can tell you that I burn more calories playing Your Shape: Fitness Evolved in 30 minutes while wearing hand weights than most people will at a gym.

This is based on data from the Fitbit Charge 4 and how much of a sweaty mess I am at the end of a half-hour.

I Doubt the Kinect Will Return

With the interest in gamifying home fitness, it would be nice if Microsoft came out with a direct competitor to these more expensive brands. Even something to compete with VR fitness would be great.

But, I highly doubt Microsoft would put in the time and effort. After all, there are investors to please.

So, I’ll keep working out with my Kinect until it eventually dies on me. Here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

Michael Brockbank
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Michael Brockbank

Michael developed ColoradoPlays to help various charities through his favorite pastime. Since then, the blog and Twitch channels have donated several hundred dollars to Extra Life, Geeks of Grandeur and Operation Supply Drop to name a few.