Les Mills spies metaverse with first VR fitness game app

CEO of group fitness brand details how the brand has translated its iconic program to the virtual realm

Growing interest in the metaverse and immersive digital experiences has prompted group fitness brand, Les Mills, to debut its first virtual workout in the gaming environment.

The brand has teamed up with Spain-based virtual reality specialist, Odders Labs, to turn its iconic Bodycombat workout into a VR gaming app available via the Quest Platform. Transformation of the program into the virtual realm has been led by the group fitness style’s program directors, Rachael Newsham and Dan Cohen, and sees consumers pitted against martial arts challenges in settings from an intergalactic desert on Mars to a snowy tundra, ancient Rome and neo-city skylines.

Players accrue points for effort and techniques as they’re coached through the workouts by Newsham and Cohen and can track their performance as they progress.

It's not the first time Les Mills has explored virtual reality – the business delivered ‘The Trip’, its first immersive workout, a few years ago. But Les Mills CEO, Clive Ormerod, told CMO rising interest in the metaverse 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 to exciting collaborations and innovative products, she said. Bodycombat was chosen first given its distinctive brand identity, reach across 10,000 gyms globally and millions of participants.

“We’re always looking at ways to evolve our workouts to get more people falling in love with fitness, and the Bodycombat VR app feels like a very timely innovation as the metaverse starts to take off,” Ormerod said.

While the latest VR offering talks to fitness gamers first and foremost, Ormerod said the app was being pitched at everyone.

“The beauty of the Bodycombat VR app is we can tailor workouts for all fitness levels and take people through the 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 enables us to reach new audiences and break down barriers to exercise, helping more people to start their fitness journey and reap the rewards of an active lifestyle.”

One of the key challenges to bringing a VR form of Bodycombat to life as a brand was staying true to the essence of Bodycombat, Ormerod said.

“We also needed to make sure that even in VR form it still packs a punch and delivers a kick-ass workout,” he said. “We’re definitely confident that we nailed that – I challenge anyone to try the game and not come away breathless with a big grin on your face.

“From a technical point of view, we were fortunate to be able to fall back on the expertise of our great partners. It’s been awesome to combine our 50+ years of fitness expertise with the groundbreaking VR technology that Odders is pioneering and its relationships and knowledge of VR. We think it’s a pretty unique partnership at this stage and together with the Meta team, we believe it’s the best way to enter such an exciting frontier for fitness.”

Ormerod said the team worked very closely with Odders on choosing the environments given how important a component they were to engagement and the level of fun offered by the app.

“We’ve amassed great experience in the past five years of producing The Trip in developing virtual worlds and narratives that enhance the workout experience and take it to a whole new level, so these learnings were definitely helpful to draw from,” he explained.

The debut of the gaming VR app is being supported by a PR campaign across the US and UK markets, supported by specialist agencies, but is also quickly earning word-of-mouth. Ormerod said Les Mills has been approached already by a raft of influencers keen to get involved.

“What’s been really interesting has been the reception among the gaming community – we’ve been inundated with requests from Youtubers and Twitch stars to review the game on their channels and already there are dozens of live gameplay reviews out there,” he said. “Reviews currently have us averaging nine out of 10, so we will be working hard for that extra mark to know we are truly bringing a 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 coming months.

“We’ve been bowled over by the positive response to the game so far so should that continue then it’s certainly something we’ll take into consideration when planning what comes next,” Ormerod said. “Certainly, we have other programs that would make for awesome VR games.”

Ormerod didn’t detail how Les Mills plans to measure short and long-term success, but said the brand isn’t in VR “for the headlines”.

“Innovation is in our DNA and this is about delivering a high-quality product that makes more and different people want to join us in creating a fitter 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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