In a bit of surprising news, Microsoft announced today that their Xbox Fitness product is being discontinued.
Effective immediately, you won’t be able to purchase Xbox Fitness content, although existing users of Xbox Fitness will be able to continue to play the content they’ve purchased for a year, through June 30, 2017. But on July 1, 2017, Xbox Fitness will be removed completely and not available for anyone to download or play.
Those with Xbox Gold will still be able to play the 30+ workouts for free until December 15, 2016.
It’s a bit of shocking news, and if you read the comments on the blog post, you’ll see that a lot of people who purchased Xbox Fitness content (in some cases hundreds of dollars worth) are pretty upset. Usually when a game is no longer supported, those who paid for it would still be able to play it offline. That doesn’t seem to be the case here–it looks like on 7/1/17, they’re pulling the plug on the service–and the rug from under everyone who believed in it.
I would hope that at the very least Microsoft would provide some kind of compensation for the many who poured their hearts and their wallets into this product over the last two and a half years. I know for a fact that many people, including many readers of this blog, purchased their Xbox One primarily because of its potential in workout and fitness.
Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of this announcements was Microsoft’s rationale, that they could not sustain it because “the service relies on providing you with new and exciting content regularly”. To me, this is a complete misunderstanding of their audience. Truth is, the point of an exercise video is to use the same video or set of videos over and over again once you find one that works for you. The appeal to the Xbox Fitness service wasn’t that I’d find a new video every week (although some product manager in Redmond might have had different opinions), it was a way to add a new dimension to ordinary exercise videos.
With this in mind, there’s a growing movement of people that are telling Microsoft on their Feedback Forum to convert Xbox Fitness into a standalone application so that those who purchased content can still use it. If you’re livid about this recent announcement, I’d suggest going to one of these threads, voting, and voicing your opinion.
Honestly, given Microsoft’s past history and the complexities of negotiating with every partner chances are slim they’ll do anything, but if they’re smart they’ll realize that keeping the service up on life support is not only a smart way to keep customers from revolting, it’s also a way for them and their partners to keep earning revenue at very little additional cost to them.
Failure to respond on Microsoft’s part is going to drive a stake in the heart of cloud-based content. Someone in Redmond isn’t seeing the forest through the trees–after this, who in their right mind would pay $50-$100 or more for DRM any more vs. a physical disc when they know that it can be taken away from them any time?
The good news is that there are still excellent options if you want to use your Xbox One for fitness–Kung Fu for Kinect and Shape Up being two of them. Let’s just hope that Microsoft’s throwing in the towel and giving up on their own technology doesn’t dissuade other publishers from continue to push it forward. And rest assured, as long as publishers continue to develop games for the Kinect that get you moving, I’ll still cover them here.