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Exercise in disguise: Is licensing missing a trick?

Amy Macaulay, creative producer at KI, takes a look at how licensed branded games within the ‘exergame’ space could fill a gap in the market.

I am of an age where a lot of my friends are deep into starting their own families, and I have the utmost respect for them. Raising another human being is incredible and I am in awe of all my parent-friends, seeing them flourish without any formal training in this field. Especially my mum-friends who often feel guilty for taking a moment for themselves.

One thing that is common among them all, is the struggle to find time to do things for themselves, especially exercise. It’s difficult to motivate yourself to do exercise at the best of times, but juggling child care, quality family time, chores, cooking, work, seeing friends – it’s not surprising that exercise is usually one of the first things to drop from a parents busy schedule.

We know that just 10 minutes a day of exercise can improve a person’s overall health, mood and productivity, but how do parents build in these habits with no energy or motivation?

What if exercise wasn’t a daunting solo task that parents felt they had to try to fit into their day, but was instead a fun, bonding moment for the whole family… through gaming? With family co-gaming on the rise, it seems a great opportunity for fitness games to take centre stage.

Fitness games offer a quick, fun way to incorporate exercise into a hectic schedule. Available across platforms like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, and VR, these games provide options for every interest. Family-friendly games like Just Dance, Ring Fit Adventure and Beat Saber need minimal set up – just some space in the living room and your preferred console.

What I am not seeing though are licensed branded games within the ‘exergame’ space. Most fitness games cater mostly to parents focusing on typical exercise. I feel there is a gap in the market for brands to create fitness games that would engage the whole family.

Family friendly brands could be following in the footsteps of games like Pokémon Go. While it’s true this is not an exergame per se, it is a brand that appeals to family members of all ages, gets people outside getting their steps in, with the hope of catching their favourite Pokémon. In the UK, the NHS has partnered with Disney to create physical movement activities that are based on training to be like your favourite character, for example, kids and families are encouraged to do these movements to practise speed and flexibility like Captain America. Building on from this idea for family brands like Disney to enter the exergame space, wouldn’t families be more inclined to exergame together if they were taking on some superhero training with The Avengers, doing a Fifa football training session alongside Ronaldo or Leah Williamson, or running and jumping their way through a Super Mario Bros game? That certainly sounds like a lot of fun to me.

The potential of integrating family brands into fitness games seems like a win-win situation. By merging the captivating worlds of favourite brands with physical activity, games could offer an exciting pull, drawing entire families into healthier lifestyles without the ‘another thing to fit in’ feeling that can often be associated with exercise. I can imagine children and parents to be a lot more excited, venturing into their living rooms (or outdoors playing AR games) to take on thrilling quests or exciting sports challenges, guided by familiar characters and storylines. Becoming immersed in your favourite worlds and training with your favourite characters truly gamifies the fitness experience, as well as deepening family connections through shared adventures and achievements.

For brands, creating exergames offers multiple growth opportunities, such as enhancing brand engagement and loyalty, and expanding their market share by appealing to new demographics like families seeking fitness solutions. This expansion can open new revenue streams through game sales, in-game purchases, and branded merchandise. Additionally, it could pave the way for new partnerships and collaborations across gaming, fitness, and influencer marketing.

Could licensed games be the future of family fitness, where exercise is not just a task but a thrilling family adventure with their favourite brands? It seems to me like a logical next step for the exergame space, helping to get people moving, strengthening family bonds, all whilst bolstering their love for their favourite brands.

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