An open letter to incoming Peloton CEO Barry McCarthy:
Welcome! Imitation, as they say, is the highest form of flattery, and over at Ergatta HQ we’ve been blushing all week. Jokes aside, I am genuinely happy to have you in the ring. Anyone who helps spread the word about game-based fitness is pushing the industry forward and helping people get and stay fit. That said, your special sauce, I think it’s fair to say, has always been your star instructors. So, if I may be so bold, I’d like to open up the vault and share some learnings about the game-based fitness space we’ve been immersed in for a few years now.
Ergatta (launched 2020) vs. Peloton Lanebreak (launched 2022)
Here are the basics:
- Follow-along fitness isn’t for everyone. Instructor-led fitness classes are popular, but have never been right for everyone (which you may already know, given your push into gaming). Look around in your next SoulCycle, Barry’s, OrangeTheory class–do you see a representative sample of the country? Do you see introverts? Engineers? Former high school football players? Of course each fitness brand or instructor will draw different groups, but that misses the point. Not everyone wants a ra-ra, class-based, instructional experience. Many people just don’t get the motivation they need from an instructor, no matter how charismatic. Those people–the ones that don’t live for fitness classes–are the ones who are left behind by the fitness industry. That’s where the opportunity is.
- Competing in a game feels completely different from taking a class. You’re more in control. The combination of goal-oriented structures and real-time feedback gives you a sense of accountability and achievement that is tough to find in a class. Rather than focusing on a person and what they are saying and doing, you get lost in the mechanics of the game, the thrill of achievement, and the competition—with yourself and others. Think playing Mario Kart vs. watching Netflix. Better yet, think playing pickup basketball vs. attending a coach-led basketball practice.
- True, long-term habit formation comes from a broader sense of progress and achievement, enhanced by friendly competition. Having great games isn’t enough for everyone; games must be woven into a holistic experience that creates compelling reasons to keep showing up. To do this, we take inspiration from sports, gaming, and a bit of behavioral psychology–think training for a half marathon with friends, joining a competitive soccer league with colleagues, or working your way through the levels of a video game. These are the dynamics we study and leverage in our holistic gamified experience.
- Game-based learning can be more effective than the instructional approach. Some people prefer to learn through games, which involve real-time feedback and adjustment, rather than one-way verbal instruction. Doesn’t learning how to adjust your cadence and power via a competitive game sound more fun than following along with an instructional video? Better yet, doesn’t our forthcoming automated rowing form feedback game sound like a better way to learn proper form than being told what to do by a teacher?
- Visual design matters. Elegant and intentional design reduces friction, delights members, and helps workouts fly by. But you already know this–we’re glad you like our designs as much as we do!
Here are a few additional tidbits that live below the surface:
- Variety is key. Let’s face it: One game with 10-20 workouts, no matter how nice the visual design, will get dull. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you spent some time with our suite of single- and multiplayer games, complete with thousands of workout options within each experience. You already know Meteor, Pulse, Races, and Open Row, but watch this space for new game experiences dropping every few months.
- Weave games into a broader gamified ecosystem designed around habit-formation. Standalone games with no broader purpose, progression, or narrative can feel arbitrary and may struggle to drive a real habit. Might I suggest Ergatta’s Push Programs or seasonal challenges for inspiration?
- Community competition brings the experience to life. This could come in the form of multiplayer games, seasonal group challenges and competitions, or other social features. Not that you need the nudge, but try adding me as a rival (UN: @Tomsy) to compete against me in races and track my progress in our community rankings.
- Games do not truly work without proper calibration to the user. Games are more dynamic and personalized than class videos, and selecting from a few options from beginner to expert isn’t going to cut it. Games (and sports for that matter) are only engrossing if they are properly tailored to the player—too easy and they become boring, too hard and they get discouraging. Perhaps give our calibration system, complete with regular auto-recalibration that adapts every workout to the user, a look? Better yet, keep an eye out for personalized Push Programs based on your individual inputs and goals.
- Getting the exact level of responsiveness right is critical. This might sound unnecessary, but I would strongly recommend testing this for months with each new game before locking it, as the gameplay will never feel quite right without it. Based on member comments I’m seeing, it sounds like you may want to have another look at the responsiveness of the resistance knob in Lanebreak. Jokes aside, give Meteor another go, and I think you’ll see what I’m getting at.
- Live competitions give people a reason to show up on, something to train for, and bring the experience to life. You already know this concept from classes of course, but live competitions have a different edge to them. Watch this space for something coming soon… (we’ll be sure to send you an invite)
All this is of course dependent on quality equipment designed for the home. Our preference is for living-room-ready, handcrafted from cherrywood, and American-made rather than black and red metal–but that’s another discussion for another time. Welcome to New York, and welcome to the category.
Co-Founder & CEO