NEWS - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Bend! Stretch! Hold it!

Ever greater weight loss - rather than a chance to battle bigger monsters - is one goal for players of Yourself!Fitness, a video game under development for Microsoft’s Xbox. The new title, aimed at women, features a computer-generated personal trainer who guides users through a customized set of exercises and diets. Players must reach certain goals to advance to the next level. The program creates a fitness plan for each person based on height, weight and other characteristics. The game’s virtual coach, Maya, then guides users through a subset of 600 possible exercises, congratulating and encouraging them when they achieve their goals. The creators of Yourself!Fitness at ResponDesign, a game developer based in Portland, Oregon, think that their new title is a natural successor to exercise videos and DVDs, which continue to sell more than 30 million units a year, said the company’s co-founder, Ted Spooner. "This is the next evolution in the fitness video industry," Spooner said. "Women already participate in 60 percent of the sales of game consoles. This is a way to get women to use the console that is already in their home." The $49 title was developed for Xbox because Spooner had a long relationship with Microsoft from his work at Corillion, a company he founded that supplies online banking software to half of the banking Web sites in the United States. ResponDesign is privately financed by Spooner and others. After the game’s release this fall, the company expects to make a Sony Playstation version available at the end of the year, and to sell an Xbox Live version in 2005 that will let participants use a wireless headset to talk to each other during the game. "Users will be able to create an online community to discuss each other’s accomplishments and chat while working out," Spooner said. Company executives expect the game, which cost millions to develop, to sell several hundred thousand units. Assuming that happens, ResponDesign is ready to create spinoff titles focusing on Pilates and Yoga. "We’re creating games that are good for you," Spooner said.


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