by Mike Tinney

Over the past 6 months we’ve been tightening the screws on The Outbreak, ironing out the few remaining rough edges and tweaking user experience. We’ve had great feedback (employees always praise our program). We’ve had great retention (>90% for the past 5 months). We’ve had a couple of learning opportunities along the way as well (we’ve enabled new anti-cheating mechanisms, in particular).

Before any new feature or challenge goes live, we test it ourselves. Our standard challenge ran for 6 weeks, so every time we wanted to test a feature, we had a 6-week program ahead of us in order to fully vet the product and changes. Find a bug? 6 weeks of testing. New feature needs a revision? 6 weeks of testing.

We tried an accelerated program (one hour = a day, and so forth) but the timing was not a great simulation of the actual experience. So in some cases, we missed important player experience changes when we blew through the challenge on the 1-day-is-an-hour pace. And yet, we couldn’t always test quickly and frequently enough with the six week challenge. Something had to be done…

What we came up with was a half-length challenge. Three weeks. Three weeks let us test twice as fast, but still had the same day length; the chapters just changed on Thursday and Sunday, instead of Sundays only. So Chapter 1 was Monday – Wednesday, Chapter 2 was Thursday – Sunday, Chapter 3 Monday – Wednesday, etc… The pace worked. We got a simulation that was pretty close to what the customer was already experiencing, but we could test out new content and settings in less than 1 month – which was important.

It was my idea to truncate like this, so I edited the game down from 6 weeks to 3. But the chapters were still there and intact, meaning, where Chapter 1 is typically set to last for 7 days, here it was set to 3. I decided to surprise my coworkers with a little something “extra.” The system calculates steps based on a daily prescription, but it calculates exercise/power based on a weekly (per chapter) prescription. So while I edited down the steps to a 3 and 4 day chapter, respectively, I kept the exercise requirements to the original 7-day amount… meaning you had to get 100 active minutes into 4 days, not 7.

“The result? A wonderfully difficult challenge. Still achievable, but 3 pretty tough weeks. I lost 4 lbs during our first run through.”

The result? A wonderfully difficult challenge. Still achievable, but 3 pretty tough weeks. I lost 4 lbs during our first run through. We liked it so much, we did it again almost right away. We realized we might be onto something… a shorter, harder challenge. Something that served as a system shock for the users. Something to help a guy or gal “dial it in” for beach season. And so The Blitz was born. We suddenly had a 3-week Outbreak challenge, but we ended up with so much more.

We also ended up with our hardest challenge. We get asked to “bring the pain” from time to time, and The Blitz does just that. It’s probably the closest real simulation to 3 weeks of survival in a zombie apocalypse that we’ve made to date. Not being content with just a harder challenge, we wrote up a storyline (you’re rescuing a trapped family in a nearby town). It also gave us, or, in this case, our customers, an added benefit: a cheaper challenge. We priced The Blitz at ½ of our regular pricing. Groups can take a 3-week challenge for just $9.95 per person. Take that, Planet Fitness!

We unveiled The Blitz very quietly last month. Groups are only now just starting to discover it on our self serve portal (the only place you can buy it). We don’t have enough data yet to be able to tell what the average survival rating is yet for the challenge… but we’ll gather that over time and share it in a future blog when it’s ready.

Until next time,




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