Pulling the Plug on Xbox Fitness

If fitness is a growing industry, why did the software giant back out?

On June 27th2016, Microsoft announced they will discontinue their Xbox Fitness service.

On June 27th2016, Microsoft announced they will discontinue their Xbox Fitness service.

This is not the kind of announcement where they will “no longer support” something — they are completely pulling the plug. Current users will lose all access to the service and content, including past scores, personal statistics, and other stored user information. No one, anywhere, will have access to anything Xbox Fitness currently offers.

Xbox Fitness seems to offer everything you’d want to market a fitness product right now. It is a subscription-based service offered on a ubiquitous gaming platform. Users can purchase workouts and other fitness videos, and they can work out to personalized program recommendations based on past performance and history. Xbox Fitness also allows users to use Kinect to monitor their workouts and compare them with other people using Xbox Live Leaderboards. Some of the top celebrities to have content in the service included Jillian Michaels, Tracey Anderson, and Tony Horton.

But it’s all going away. And that’s really curious.

Streaming content and fitness are already booming bedfellows. From the ocean of content on YouTube, Hulu’s DailyBurn, and CBS Interactive’s new TrainerPass, there’s a mishmashed universe of streaming “fitness” options. With such a boom, it’s more obvious to ask if “streaming,” in its totality, is the next big thing in fitness, or is it possible for a single hero to arise from the vast confusing ocean of offerings in streaming to claim that title?

Microsoft’s decision is curious because fitness is a growing industry. Devices and wearables are booming, and fitness data is becoming a ubiquitous (if generally misunderstood) driver of devices, services, and conversations. And the “gamification” of everything — including fitness — is at hand. So pulling the plug on a streaming service that’s based on a gaming console, and which tracks, manages, and uses user data doesn’t really make sense.

It seems like every new direction in the fitness industry is converging on Microsoft’s wheelhouse. It’s easy to imagine that they would be expanding their involvement fitness, not abandoning it. Microsoft’s announcement seems counter-intuitive. But maybe they know something we don’t. Maybe it’s a necessary part of winding down Kinect. Or maybe it’s another Zune.

One thing is certain. Only time will tell if Microsoft’s crystal ball is clearer than everyone else’s, or just cracked.