Physical e-sports competitions for fitness junkies and gamers
In April 2020, as in years past, the FIBO INNOVATION & TREND AWARDS were presented. Unfortunately it was not possible for this year’s six winners to collect their cups in person. In this series, we will be introducing you to the stories behind each of the award-winners. The 2020 winner in the Digital Fitness category made a repeat appearance in the winner’s circle at FIBO: Sphery AG from Switzerland, which won with its product ‘The ExerCube League’.
Sphery is a familiar face at the FIBO INNOVATION & TREND AWARDS, as this Swiss company cleaned up here last year in the ‘Start-up’ category. Now the international panel of experts has selected Sphery’s innovative ExerCube League as the 2020 winner in the Digital Fitness category. The awards panel explained their decision as follows: “The winning product opens up new ways of motivating people to train over the long term by combining physical activity, gaming and cognitive learning. This cognitive learning represents a new growth market for the fitness industry.”
The idea: A brand-new form of competition for digital fitness
Anna Martin-Niedecken is the CEO and co-founder of Sphery. She and her team have created the ExerCube, an immersive and functional fitness game that serves the league as a competition and training device. The game challenges the body and mind simultaneously and can be set to suit individual needs and requirements (e.g. fitness level, age, disabilities). Sphery has taken advantage of eSports’ tremendous popularity to offer people an attractive and inclusive entry to the world of fitness. Anna Martin-Niedecken explains: “The ExerCube combines effective body and brain training with attractive game design, a combination that not only enchants athletes, but is also appealing to those who are less athletically inclined. During the development process, we discovered that competition was often the key factor linking these groups. Everyone loves to see how they measure up against others and to compete, either alone or in teams. The tournament mode is both physically and mentally demanding, and it gives players of widely varying abilities and levels the chance to end up as the new ExerCube champion. Thanks to the fusion of analogue and digital sport, our ExerCube League bridges the gap that currently exists between the worlds of traditional sport and eSports.”
Implementation: An iterative design process involving the target group
“We have been witnessing an eSports megatrend for quite some time now and are very enthusiastic about the opportunities offered by this rapidly growing sector,” said Anna Martin-Niedecken. “Due to the fact that the ExerCube concept originated as part of a research project, our first task involved perfecting the product and developing a suitable business case.” According to the co-founder, Sphery has always worked with the respective target groups as part of its iterative design process for developing new training concepts, game scenarios and tournament formats. The company is also working with international research institutes: “This allows us to assess the effectiveness and attractiveness of game-based training in a wide range of applications (fitness, rehabilitation, eSports, school sports, competitive sports etc.). The results are then fed back directly in the product optimisation process,” explained Anna Martin-Niedecken.
The details: The very first physical and inclusive eSports league
The panel of experts gave its award not to the ExerCube itself, but rather ‘The ExerCube League’, the world's first physical and inclusive eSports league. Anna Martin-Niedecken: “In addition to user-centred design and scientific certification – two things that already make the ExerCube exceedingly unique – the new packaging in the form of The ExerCube League is an absolute USP. Thanks to an adaptive algorithm, players of any fitness level, age or gender, with or without disabilities, can experience their own perfect training flow, giving everyone an equal chance of winning in competition mode.” The league presents fitness studios with an appealing training programme that is also highly motivational for its customers. It is a tool that lets studios reach a new target group: active eSports athletes. That's because gamers can use this to combat physical problems related to sedentary gaming or to improve their own eSports performance.
Costs: Wide-ranging areas of application and an ExerCube Tour starting in April 2021
The ExerCube is available for €21,950 in a basic version that includes a game and training licence. Prices and licences vary according to use. According to co-founder Anna Martin-Niedecken, the primary areas of application outside the fitness sector include the rehabilitation market, professional sports clubs and eSports teams. “The product is currently available in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and the USA. Starting in April 2021, mobile ExerCubes will be touring Germany and Switzerland for the ExerCube League to give as many people as possible the opportunity to experience the ExerCube for themselves and offer them a chance to qualify for the annual finals tournament,” explained Anna Martin-Niedecken. Tournaments are broadcast live on streaming platforms so that they can be watched from anywhere in the world.
The future: The Olympic Games of Exergaming
Sphery has ambitious goals for The ExerCube League. As Anna Martin-Niedecken puts it: “We want to establish the world's first physical eSports league on an international basis and playfully motivate people to become more active. It is our goal to gradually establish new exergaming disciplines with the eventual aim of creating an exergaming ‘Olympics’ that take place regularly.”