If you’re involved in the Quest community at large, you’ve no doubt heard about Supernatural — self-proclaimed to be “…an immersive, virtual reality fitness experience that combines the best music, coaches, destinations and movements into an incredible home workout.” It’s been pre-condemned as a “Beat Saber Clone” and a “scummy cash grab” based on its $19 per month subscription fee. But what is it … really?
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Let’s get a couple of things out up front. I love musical rhythm games — as is evidenced by my numerous articles, apps and involvement in the Beat Saber community. For me — the MUSIC comes first, the rhythm comes second. If I’m going to move and groove and sweat to music? It better be music I love. If it isn’t? It better be music I know.
I’m no stranger to health and fitness. I am a second-degree black belt that taught martial arts for 15 years. Unfortunately my weight got away from me and a couple of years ago, my doctor fat-shamed me into making a Lifestyle Change; I went from about 300 pounds to a nice lean 205 in about a year. You can read the first part of that journey in my article Losing 70 Pounds in 8 Months and my followup Perfect Labs: Returning My Body To Normal Took One Year, Eight Months. A lot of this was three-times-daily exercise.
What is Supernatural?
I’m going to take off the Mr. Beat Saber hat … in fact, I’m going to take off Mr. Virtual Reality hat. Let’s talk about what Supernatural is without preconceived notions of what it looks like from those perspectives.
Let’s start with their website’s definition:
Supernatural is an immersive, virtual reality fitness experience that combines the best music, coaches, destinations and movements into an incredible home workout. A new workout is released every day.
The word missing from there is “game”. This isn’t a game. It isn’t supposed to be a game. It is designed to be a facilitated workout experience.
What does that mean? You ever been to a “spinning class” at the gym? That is a facilitated workout; you have music, a coach, a predetermined workout for a predetermined amount of time.
Those who exercise regularly understand the challenges of beating the daily humdrum of the workout — which is exactly what Supernatural claims to be the cure for.
Supernatural began in earnest two years ago when we set about pairing our belief in the transformational potential of VR, with the idea of a daily fitness service that could provide the fun and excitement of competitive athletics without the boredom and repetition associated with traditional exercise routines.
If just disparity of workout is what you want, surely you could play “Wheel of YouTube” and get a different video workout every day, right?
How does Supernatural claim to solve these issues?
To do this we gathered a team of the most experienced and passionate choreographers, game developers, trainers and physical fitness experts, to create a dynamic, immersive, experience that is always changing, personalized for you, and available on demand, in your home.
Can this formula — along with virtual reality — actually make a workout you really want to do every day? More importantly; is it worth the staggering $19 a month subscription fee?
Let’s find out together.
The Designer Gym
The first thing that stuck out to me about Supernatural is that it felt ... designer. I believe this is by design.
Expensive to get started (at least $400 for a VR headset plus accessories) and from what I’ve seen you’re going to need a compatible fitness tracker (which means an Apple Watch or select Android compatible watches) if you want to get the most from Supernatural. This leaves me out of luck with my Samsung Active sport watch.
Unless of course you happen to have all these things already? You’re looking at $600–700 investment to get started.
Nothing says “designer” than a large monthly subscription. Bally charges more than the local YMCA — and there is a reason for that.
But, unlike your local meat-market L.A. Fitness, you can actually do this at home without being judged or getting the stink-eye because you’re hogging the best equipment when the Beautiful People(tm) are there. There is some value in that.
It is quite apparent when you look at the official website’s EXTRAS page, they are selling the “upscale” designer experience.
I’m not a “designer dude”. I’m a bit more simple. I go to the YMCA to work out. I don’t have a personal trainer. I don’t take spin classes. I don’t have an Apple Watch or latest gen iPhone. The last thing I care about is what I wear on the elliptical.
This leads me to feel that I am not their intended demographic. But since I don’t have to go to Planet Fitness and have my body evaluated? I’m still in.
This is a high tech solution and you should know that going in.
If you’re new to virtual reality and “digital wellness” like smart watches, companion apps on your phone, et al — this is going to be quite a learning curve and you might not be the target demographic either.
In order to even proceed with this article, I have to assume from a tech perspective, you are the target demo. You have an Oculus Quest or a smart phone at the very least.
Provided you have the equipment, it is a four-part process to get started.
First, you go to the web site and sign up. You get a 30-day trial for free (but you have to provide a credit card so the $19 billing can commence if you forget to cancel).
Like every other transaction you do online, I recommend you use a burner card so you don’t have to remember to cancel. Since my bank does not offer burner card generation (also known as virtual credit cards or single use cards) I use a free service known as Privacy. I never give direct billing information over the internet — and neither should you.
Second, you install the companion app on your phone. Both iOS and Android are supported. I had no issues installing the app on my Samsung Galaxy S10. You will need your login from the website to get the app functional.
Third, you’ll install the free app on your Oculus Quest via the Oculus Quest Store.
Finally, you connect everything. When you run the app on your Quest, you can sign in with your web credentials (ugh) or you can use a code generated on your smart phone app (you’ll need to log into that first). The Quest has a code on the virtual screen you’ll have to type into the phone. Would have probably made more sense for the Quest to seek out the app on the same network and auto-authenticate; since you essentially have to sort of memorize the code and lift the headset off to see your phone. It is a one time deal, but still worth noting.
You’ll also want to sync up your heart rate tracker; since I didn’t have a compatible watch, I cannot comment on that process.
It sounds like a lot, but if you’re at least half technically savvy, this is 10–15 minutes tops.
You’re ready to go through the tutorial.
First Steps: Tutorial
Time to find out what Supernatural is all about.
Before we get into mechanics, I want to compliment the Supernatural team on how polished the interface and overall user experience is. They’ve kept it simple, clean and attractive. This feels like a professional production (which not everything does on the Quest, to be honest).
The tutorial has you standing on a platform in a 360-degree landscape — and it looks really good. There are subtle animations going on; such as a little motion of water but nothing to be distracting. Like most VR experiences, this isn’t something you can appreciate from pictures or videos. You have to see it.
Another pad appears in front of you and one of the coaches will appear; standing on it. This is a real person (not live of course, but not some 3D avatar — its a real person) that helps you “calibrate” the game to you; your height, your lunge-reach from left to right … that sort of thing. This wasn’t unpleasant and you only have to do it once.
Next, the coach will take you through the core game mechanics; that is the hitting of the tear-drop shape objects that fly at you.
Here is where the Beat Saber community starts crying “foul” — and it isn’t without good reason.
There are two colors; black and white. The have tails that help you identify which way to hit them (up, down, left or right — didn’t see any diagonals). There may only be one to hit or both to hit at the same time. Sometimes both the same direction, sometimes opposite directions.
This is all done to music (yeah, like Beat Saber).
To be totally fair to Supernatural, there are some new mechanics introduced — such as trail following and the triangle lunges. It is arguable that these are all lifted and sifted from existing VR games — but gaming design by definition is nearly all derivative work. Still, you can’t get mad at people for some of the accusations floating around.
The coach doesn’t stay on the screen, but she is always in your ear — instructing you, encouraging you and honestly, sometimes annoying you (more on that later). She takes great care to re-emphasize key points of the striking mechanics — hey, not everyone comes from a ravenous Beat Saber background.
Next, she teaches you about lunges — which has you lunging forward, left and right based on the shapes of the triangles. In some cases, you stay down through a series of them.
Once you’re done, you’re taken to the next stage where you’re taught about directional turning (right, right .. like 360 Beat Saber maps; the inspiration is blatantly apparent). I didn’t particularly care for turning; I don’t have the largest play area (which has nothing to do with the size of a yoga mat as they would lead you to believe) and turning puts my television, ceiling fan (lower ceiling) and other room items in danger. When you’re frantically swinging, you’re unlikely to perfectly rotate in place. Sure the guardian can help, but with that speed? You’re likely to put your hand through your TV screen before the guardian stops the app.
Some people report getting dizzy with this mechanic, but I haven’t encountered that yet. I just didn’t like it. For what it is worth? I don’t like 90/360 maps in Beat Saber either.
Finally, you play a full experience, using “what you’ve learned” to make you comfortable with the mechanics as a whole.
You are given scores based on accuracy, power of strikes and an overall derivative score.
You’re now ready to move on to what would be considered “the main game”.
You’re presented with the main menu where you can choose a workout.
As you can see, we have a variety of workouts available (remember, they promise a new workout every day; there it is on the left). These are sometimes obvious (“Beginner’s Only” or “Tough” or “Pros Only”) sometimes a bit more innocuous.
When you select the workout, you’ll see the playlist and runtime on the right.
I’m an older dude, so maybe these songs and artists mean something to someone (maybe under the age of 30)— but I’ve never heard of most of them.
I poked through the other playlists looking for anything I might actually recognize. KC And the Sunshine Band had a song … “Boogie Shoes” (reached #35 on the US charts in 1977) — I know the group, but not the song. I did recognize it when I played it, but it isn’t “That’s the Way (I Like It)” or “Get Down Tonight”.
I guess they didn’t promise most popular SONGS from the world’s most popular artists, right?
Do you know Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa or Saint Motel? I do not.
I was able to find a workout with songs from Ramones and Panic! At The Disco (dammit, I didn’t like them on Beat Saber either — but at least I recognized the name). But it wasn’t songs like “I Want To Be Sedated”.
I knew this would be the hardest part about this experience for me; not knowing the music.
What isn’t apparent until you get in here is that even if you do know these artists and these songs? You never get to choose your music. One can argue that when you go to spin class you don’t get to choose the music either.
This is one of the many reasons I don’t do facilitated workouts.
Even if you liked some of this music, you’re always likely to be forced to workout to something you don’t know and maybe don’t like.
This is supposed to be making my workouts fun and exciting. Having to work out to music that ranges from “unknown” to “annoying” doesn’t provide that experience.
Color-me-spoiled by other rhythm experiences where I always get to engage with music I know and like. I realize this isn’t an issue for many people — God bless you for being flexible.
Those accustomed to facilitated workouts where you have no say in music selection will be right at home here.
Fifteen Minute Workout of the Day
When I started the daily workout, I was immediately notified I don’t have a heart-rate tracker. Something tells me that a lot of the “customized” and “tailored to you” and “individual” features are grossly dependent on having this.
If you don’t have a supported device or aren’t willing to spend $150+ to get one? I’d re-evaluate the product closely.
The workout is introduced by your coach, in this case it was Leanne Pedante. She tells you about the intent of the workout, where you are (New Guinea here) and talks up her song selection for the workout.
You do a little warm up breathing, little shoulder rolling and you do your warm up song.
As the song plays and you’re smacking the targets, the coach is almost constantly talking to you. Sometimes it is about what to do, “Now drop those hips down” or giving you pointers, ‘I really want you to turn into those” — or sometimes to remind you not to hold your breath and generally breathe. Naturally, she will continue to give you words of encouragement.
Along with the track I didn’t really care about (and sometimes found annoying) the constant chattering by the coach sort of took me out of the experience. Now, I don’t know if these words are actually being said in response to my performance, or if she would be telling EVERYONE at that moment in time “beautiful job” but after awhile, I kinda wanted to tell her to shut up and just let me do it; especially when she started telling me what this song was about and it almost approached being a little preachy.
Note: I was informed after writing the body of this article that the coaches are doing the same workout as they are talking to you. So anything that coach is saying is not in response to you or your workout. A bit disappointing, actually.
In the song above, there were a lot of turns — which reminded me how much I disliked them in the tutorial.
Having played hundreds of hours of Beat Saber (and knowing top flight mappers are part of Supernatural’s mapping team) I didn’t find certain parts of the map to be particularly well mapped. Listen, I’m not a mapping genius, but like every good armchair artist, “I know what I like”.
Now you can chalk this up to me not being intimate with the song (and that throws your rhythm off and hence your “game”) but going back and watching the video I recorded sort of verified what I felt while I was playing.
Not understanding what the difficulty level was supposed to be was another issue — but I’ll talk more about that later.
Sometimes there were “cross overs” (that is, blacks on the right side and whites on the left — the opposite hands) that simply didn’t flow; and I realize these are probably designed to reach and change things up, it didn’t feel right to me. Those without a Beat Saber background may not have this pre-conceived sensation.
There was also a distinct lack of … satisfaction … on the strikes. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps there needs to be more vibration in the Touch controllers? Not sure. I didn’t FEEL like I was hitting anything and that took something out of it.
After the song, you get a quick score and some encouragement.
This repeats until you’ve completed the set. Your coach comes back and brings you down with some breathing and some more shoulder rotations.
Finally, you’re issued a final score for the workout. This includes some other stats, including an overall evaluation in each category with details.
Oh, you wanted to know how the workout was — as an actual workout?
The partially annoying music and occasional over-vocal coach aside — the workout was pretty good. I wasn’t dripping sweat or anything, but I felt I got something out of it.
Had I not been fighting the urge not to hit the ceiling fan, strike the TV and I actually KNEW the music so I could groove? It would have been better.
Honestly, I’m not sure the “difficulty” of that workout. There wasn’t a “rating” like “Hard” or “Beginner” or “Pro”. If this was “Pro”? I need a different tool to exercise with. If it was “Beginner”, it wasn’t commensurate with that level either (not with the mapping the way it was).
There are filters at the bottom of the main menu that let you filter by duration, who the coaches are and your favorites … but no difficulty?
Even once I know what “level” of Supernaturalist I am, how do I find the right workouts? Hmmm.
Note: After writing the body of this article, I was informed that the game should be adjusting the in-game challenge based on your skills and performance. Even if the coach isn’t changing what they are saying, the game should be ramping up. This would explain my rather “light” workout and why there are no “difficulty” ratings on a per-workout basis. The developers need to address this visually in a manner that people understand there IS a personalized piece of the equation.
The Smartphone App
Companion apps are all the rage these days. They are designed to keep you in touch with your data, even when you’re away from the source of it.
They are designed to be an add-on to another product to add value.
I used the Android app on my Samsung Galaxy S10. Let’s look at what it can do — or what you COULDN’T DO if you didn’t have it and use it.
The app has a social stream of your completed workouts and those of the people you follow (aka friends). While Facebook is shoved in your face, it is not required to connect with your fellow Supernaturalists (I’m going to copyright that word).
For each workout, you can thumbs up, leave comments and — for your own workouts — leave an excuse, er I mean a description about it.
There is a separate section for heart-rate tracker devices and connectivity (yes, the smartphone does this data collection; not the Quest). Alas, since I have no compatible tracker, I couldn’t evaluate this.
There are leader boards so you can see how badly your friends are kicking your butt.
Finally, there is a “you” tab that shows all about — well, you and lets you change your profile and add your photo.
The companion app will also send you a considerable number of notifications — and you can even set up schedules for it to nag you.
One thing I didn’t notice was an option to groom these notifications at a more granular level. You can always shut them off from the OS level of course (at least on Android; YMMV) but I prefer my apps to offer me lower level access to the notifications I want to receive.
I’d say 95% of the functionality of the companion app is unavailable any other way; that is — you cannot select friends, set profile info/photo, etc. on the website. I don’t know if you can do more if you’re willing to log into Facebook — and since I’m not going to? I’ll never know.
My point is — there isn’t much “companion” about this. You need and must have this to gain the functionality promised by the product. In fact, if you review the required hardware FAQ on the website? The “companion” is required.
$19 A Month?
Easily the most polarizing “feature” of this virtual reality fitness experience is the introduction to the first “subscription-based” software-as-a-service on the Oculus Quest.
Response to this on social media such as the r/OculusQuest sub-Reddit ranges from “tentative” …
… to down right hostile …
I’ll be forthright. Subscription services are getting out of hand. Everyone appears to want to have a hand in your pocket. Not once, not yearly — but monthly. People have given up cable television, only to turn around and end up paying MORE for all these streaming services in order to get what they once had for less money.
Consumers are slowly realizing that they are paying quite a bit every month and are starting to finally push back on needing more of them; most importantly it really has less to do with quality or even perceived quality.
It has to do with the quantity of these subscriptions we’re being increasingly asked to pay.
Before we discuss Supernatural, let’s talk about easily the most popular subscription service out there; Netflix. We’ll oversimplify for the sake of brevity.
For $9 a month (30 days or 720 hours), you can literally watch something new and different for every single one of those hours all month long. Provided you could stay awake that long of course. That is 1.25 cents per hour of entertainment. Seems ludicrous when you discuss it in those terms. How could Netflix not be considered an extraordinary value?
For many people, Netflix is one of the highest value-to-cost subscriptions they have and they are actually fine (dare I say happy) to pay it. They are getting less happy that content owners are pulling stuff off Netflix to host on yet another subscription service, though.
Let’s just apply flat-content provided philosophy to Supernatural. If they provide you with 15 minutes a day of “new” content (i.e. a new workout every day; 15 x 30) that’s 450 minutes (or 7.5 hours) a month. That’s $2.53 per hour.
Compared to the value of Netflix offering content at 1.25 cents per hour — well, you can understand why people have knee jerk reactions when they hear the pricing model.
“I can have tens of thousands of movies, TV and music for $19 a month … or I can have 15 minutes of workout a day.”
You can understand the end users a bit better when you put it in the right perspective.
Defenders of the pricing model talk about how you really need to be considering this to be like a gym membership or say you should compare and contrast it to the high cost of paid facilitated workouts.
The average price of a drop-in spin class is $15-$25. That makes a new workout every day for 30 days for $19 seem like a pretty good deal.
Meanwhile the nay-sayers counter with “this is just a Beat Saber rip off anyway — just buy that for $30 and be done with it”.
What makes this all so difficult is one simple fact:
Almost everyone chiming in about Supernatural? Are right.
The developers are right — the model they are working with requires a subscription at a high price and is fully unsustainable as a “one and done purchase”. Even at the $19 price point, that model may still not be sustainable — we’ll talk about that later.
I have some ideas to offer, though. I’ll give those as bonus reading at the end of the article.
The users are right too — in a subscription-based cost analysis, we’re being asked too much for too little because all of the basis for comparisons we’re being asked to consider really aren’t apples to apples comparisons. A gym membership offers you so much more than what Supernatural is offering you. Licensing music shouldn’t really be a burden the users have to bear — especially since we have no say in the selection; at least with DLC we can pick and choose what we want. The app doesn’t even let us pick from the music we are paying for.
Value perceived is value achieved. Can Supernatural become perceived value? Maybe. Maybe not.
In Support of the Developers
There is no shilling going on here. I have no vested interest in Supernatural or its staff.
But I do have at least a little common sense and can use a calculator.
“New workout everyday” means at least one new “map” per day. In my experience, quality Beat Saber maps take a very skilled mapper a few hours to make. One or two mappers, one to three testers — 3 hours each at even $15 an hour … that’s a decent chunk of change per day for the “workout creation” in overhead. A bit of oversimplification, of course but for the sake of argument; let’s go with that.
Each workout requires a coach each day — and true, once the coach is off the screen it is all voice-over work; but still that’s filming, post processing, actor fees, recording and editing, etc. It will be interesting to see how much “re-use” shows up on workouts — using stock coach footage and audio.
That map needs a song. And if it isn’t $100 Bills and is a Real Song(tm) from some well-known artist (I’ll attribute the fact I didn’t know practically any of them — to my age) there are fees surrounding that.
I have NO idea what music costs to license but add that to the overall daily/monthly cost. This wildcard could be where ALL the subscription fee is going. It wouldn’t shock me if half or more the subscription fee goes to music licensing (shudder).
Monthly infrastructure, bandwidth and storage, delivery, office staff, professional outsourced services … AND they claim the staff is 60 people.
So if those 60 people are working 8 hour days, 5 days a week … which again, may be a bit of oversimplification, but let’s use it.
60 x 8 (hours) * 15/hr * 20 days = $144,000 a month (that’s just payroll out — not including the payroll services fees). So they would need 7579 subscribers just to pay salary every month. Let’s assume licensing and all the other costs of doing business doubles the amount of subscribers needed to make the monthly bills.
So it takes 15,158 monthly subscribers at $19 a month to break even.
I’m sure there are investors here somewhere that want to make some money, too.
That number doesn’t seem all that high when you consider the install base of Oculus Quest (400,000 as of September 2019 which I’d speculate means there are double that out there right now)— but you have to remember we are discussing a subset (premium-conscious participants) of a subset (fitness oriented users). Rough math says you would only need about 2% of that user base to break even. Until they hit that number, they are hemorrhaging cash (and have been for a good two years, according to their website).
Are 2% of the Oculus Quest owners out there fitness-oriented consumers that fall into the “premium-conscious Peloton type” mindset and are willing to add $19 to their monthly accounts payable? Can Supernatural add these 15,158 as new Oculus Quest owners as a “single app platform driver” (sort of like what Wii Sports did for the Nintendo Wii market)?
Only time will tell. I don’t have a crystal ball; hopefully they do.
Bottom line — you’re getting a facilitated workout, once a day, for $0.63 each ($2.53 per hour divided by 4 workouts per hour). Value perceived?
In Support of the Users
As we discussed, $19 a month is a steep number unless you’re able to replace another service/subscription — hopefully one that is more expensive than this one. Even if you’re a “Peloton mom” you’re not abandoning your expensive equipment and $40 a month for this (you have too much invested). Maybe you have The Mirror (more expensive hardware) and you’re locked in for a year there for another $40 a month. Maybe you have a gym membership for the family — and while you can replace your time there with Supernatural, will they? I can tell you right now my wife won’t even put on a VR headset — let alone work out under one. Even if she did, my subscription only appears to cover me.
No, I don’t see this service replacing anything you currently have. It will have to augment — which adds a double sawbuck to your expenditures every month.
That’s a tough ask.
There are plenty of other things about Supernatural that firmly fall under the In Support of Users category.
Supernatural Has Other Considerations
You’re reading this because you’re looking for information about this service; probably either to give you confirmation to try it or to put a nail in the coffin for not trying it.
In the interest of serving both readers, there are a few more things you probably need to consider about Supernatural.
It Isn’t Live
The amount of tailored, interactive attention you’re getting from the virtual coaches is still undetermined at this early stage of testing. I was told how good I was doing when I was CLEARLY missing targets and not lunging correctly. I’ve taught thousands of martial arts classes — so I know how it works; positive re-enforcement, positive-negative-positive sandwich … I know the drill. But it brings into question how “personalized” this really is.
Other services we’re asked to compare to (like Peloton and Mirror) offer live classes. This might actually be important to some people (certainly not to me).
Individual one-on-one instruction is available on those other services (although I’m unclear if that costs extra — I have to assume they do). That would actually be of more interest to me; having a living person in real-time to accurately holler at me for not lunging deep enough.
Certainly if you’re being asked to replace a proper gym membership, Supernatural isn’t commensurate. That much is clear.
My point is — Supernatural is (and feels to me) like a “pre-recorded workout”, much like a Jane Fonda VHS workout tape (now you know why I don’t know any of the music in the workouts — I remember VHS).
There is nothing wrong with that, by the way. Jane sold a lot of tapes and it worked for a lot of people.
To be fair, Supernatural offers scoring, tracking and other (admittedly mostly passive) features to the “VHS tape daily workout” as well as freshness to the daily grind of exercise.
The scenery is neat, the VR is pretty immersive and it feels more participatory than Jane could have ever offered. There is value in that.
Internet Is Required
Supernatural sort of buries the fact that internet with speeds of at least 20Mbps is required (along with that smartphone “companion” app).
The Oculus Quest’s biggest selling point outside of the obvious “virtual reality” is the portable nature of the device; “No wires. No PC. No limits.”
For those looking to use Supernatural as a traveling virtual gym for business trips or holiday — you may have to think again. You cannot bring down workouts for offline play (I bet we get that in the future; but you can’t buy what you can’t see). Wherever you plan to use the Quest and Supernatural will need to meet the internet connection speeds and until I get to use the product under “Motel 6” conditions, I don’t know how the product will respond when the guy in the next hotel room fires up 4k Netflix on the hotel’s wifi.
But, it is responsible to note if the internet goes out in the middle of your sheltered-in-place work day, the option of “squeezing in a workout” isn’t going to be available.
You Need Space
I believe a bit deceptively, Supernatural purports “all you need is a yoga mat space” to use the product.
I have a more than adequate space for most VR gaming and I found several challenges in the space required for Supernatural.
You’ll be turning 360, so you need a full square — not just the rectangle of the yoga mat. You also can’t expect — during the heat of workout — to be able to stay within that tiny square area, especially when you’re new to the product. If you have a lower ceiling like me, you may also have some vertical challenges.
Yes, there is a guardian on the Quest to help — but when the coach is telling you insistently to “reach”, without adequate space you may hit the TV before your guardian stops you.
So Who Is Supernatural Really For?
Let’s get to brass tacks here.
After using the product and spending several hours research and writing this article, I’ve come to the firm conclusion:
There is a market for Supernatural.
The real question is, are you that market and are there enough of “yous” to sustain the product until it reaches an adoption period where it can pay for itself?
The Well-Invested Fitness Gurus Need Not Apply
Look, if you’re spending $80 a month for a gym membership and two spin classes a week? If you’re dropping $40 a month to support a rather expensive piece of hardware you got for Christmas (that was not a hint that your booty better stay tighter than the babysitter’s — you gotta love Saturday Night Live)? If you have a well-funded exercise regiment going on right now?
Supernatural probably isn’t for you.
You already have a well-oiled routine and we all know how hard it is to change. Since Supernatural adds to your costs, not replacing another — you’re really not the demographic here; certainly not at $19 a month.
The Die Hard VR Gamer Need Not Apply
You love BoxVR, Oh Shape … Thrill of the Fight leaves you pouring buckets of sweat on the floor? That’s great! Every bit of cardio and time on your feet counts — and yeah, I do a 30+ minute set of my well-curated, well-loved custom maps on Beat Saber pretty much every day and by God I work up a sweat (no dinosaur arms for me — I work it).
But you’re in VR for the game first; there is nothing wrong with that.
Supernatural probably isn’t going to bring enough to the table for you.
Supernatural isn’t a game. It isn’t for your entertainment as its primary goal. You will know that right away if you play it and you’ll be on Reddit posting about what a terrible Beat Saber rip-off it is. Other reviewers have said that while the music wasn’t their cup of tea, it wasn’t annoying enough to be an issue. But those of us spoiled with curated music may vehemently push back against the product as you have practically no say whatsoever in the music selection.
The New “Designer Gym” Customer
You may have landed here because Supernatural appeared in some article in the same paragraph as Peloton or The Mirror. You’re not a technical person. You don’t have VR gear.
You’re looking for a turnkey solution to a personalized at-home workout that you don’t have to really think about (your friend just LOVES her Peloton — can’t live without).
Just get up, flip something on — work out — then go about your day. Be nice if it wasn’t boring as hell, too.
Supernatural may be for you!
Compared to other, similar products — the total cost of entry and monthly commitment is far less than similar class products. It is high quality in terms of presentation and they have taken great care to make it “feel” like similar product workouts.
If you can get past the slight technical humps you may encounter, you could probably benefit from this and if it doesn’t work out for you? You can always re-gift that Oculus Quest to someone else who would love it (please clean thoroughly).
The VR Owning Fitness Curious
There are people out there that own Oculus Quest but do not have a substantial (let’s be honest; in some cases — ANY) commitment to an existing exercise regiment. No gym membership. Not taking karate classes at the YMCA. Maybe take one walk a day for a mile to walk the dog — but know they are looking for more.
Maybe you’re 300 pounds and the doctor just read you the Riot Act — been there, done that. You’re embarrassed to go to the gym (been there, too). You don’t like leaving the house (or, at the time of writing — you CAN’T leave the house).
You’ve tried these VR exercise games, but you lack the discipline to make your own structure around it (been there, done that — got the t-shirt).
You’re probably the audience that would most likely benefit from Supernatural.
In November of 2017, I started changing my life. I changed my diet and I changed from a garden slug to a “twice a day on the elliptical” gym rat.
Supernatural would have been a friggin’ gift from the Gods during that time period.
Sure, now I’m paying $70 a month for a family gym membership — but back then? $19 a month would have been a pretty good deal for me and would have been an ideal stepping stone to get me where I am now.
Perhaps there are 2% of Quest owners that fall into this category.
This isn’t a game. It is an exercise regiment that uses VR game mechanics, surrounded by traditional activity facilitation structures to give you the “class at home” experience.
If music is as important to the workout as the exercise itself (of which I’m one and I am willing to admit I am not the norm), you’re going to struggle here — especially when there are so many alternatives in the VR space that may better accommodate you despite the fact that they don’t offer the “class” experience.
Supernatural fills a very niche market. New Designer Gym inductees and the “VR fitness-first” disciples have a new and exciting option to consider with a price tag that underpins comparable product and options.
It should go without saying … If you aren’t the demographic intended? It isn’t worth $19 a month and the developers are wise to not court you as a customer.
Even if you are more “VR fitness” savvy, you will have to decide for yourself if the value is commensurate with your needs. The 30-day trial will more than help you make that determination. Just use a burner card or set a calendar reminder to cancel before you’re billed.
For those concerned about Supernatural encroaching on the pay-once model (I know — I was there before writing this article) — I think we can relax a little. This isn’t going to set any precedence as I firmly believe the market for this product is small and targeted. Games and fitness are really two different models — and I feel Supernatural plays in the latter; not endangering the former.
Plus, the backlash made public regarding Supernatural is surely sending your message loud and clear to other developers.
My recommendation is to try the product — if you fall into one of the “maybe” groups outlined above. You really have nothing to lose for 30 days. Otherwise? There are 60 new custom songs available for Beat Saber right now.
So, am I going to keep my subscription to Supernatural?
I’m in lock down like everyone else right now and I can’t get to the gym to do my daily rat activities. I’m running, power walking and doing Beat Saber along with the Seven Minute Workout which are all things I can do at or around my home. With summer coming to Phoenix? Working out OUTSIDE is pretty much null and void. Supernatural may be able to fill that void.
If I can learn to deal with the music — the other lynch pin of my adoption of this product will be in the individual ramping of the workouts (which I’m told does exist and I need to play more for the game to adapt). This alone puts it in another playing field than other rhythm titles out there. I will have to use my 30-day trial to discover this for myself.
This isn’t a product for everyone — but it is for some. Can the developers properly engage that market? Only time will tell.
Now that the body of the article is done, I said I had some ideas for the developers. Normally I would just send them straight away to the team, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss them here.
My son is all into VR and he needs the workout. Right now, the tool leans heavy on a single player model. Let me have five people on my account, with their own logins and tracking; $19 for five people suddenly becomes easier to swallow that $19 for one person.
Drop The Licensed Music
I won’t belabor the point. Licensed music makes a lot less sense here than with the gaming market. We can’t choose it. I personally don’t care for a lot of it (others have mentioned it doesn’t really work for them either). For ME personally, it doesn’t add value. Perhaps your market study says it does.
Get a couple people in house to crank out “compatible” workout music. Cross some genres. I really REALLY don’t think the product would suffer because you lose Arizona or Pigeon John. Introduce the house stuff slowly and phase out the licensed stuff. Be curious if anyone notices.
If you’re paying as much as I think you are for licensed music? And you could half the subscription cost by ditching the licensed stuff? I’d say you could increase the base subscribers by a healthy amount. I’ve heard people say they would sub for $5, $10.
After all at the end of the day .. this is about fitness, not music or gaming.
Levels of “Coaching”
We need to be able to squelch the coach commentary. Multiple settings would be great. Again, I taught martial arts; I know what the intent is. But some of us just want to get lost in the workout sometimes.
Maybe even something I could control mid-workout with my voice so if I’m feeling overwhelmed by commentary. I could just say “Hey coach, be quiet”. I actually said that few times while playing. She wasn’t listening.
I don’t need song history or personal commentary. Let me turn that off.
Yes, if I’m doing something wrong (and the app can tell) — tell me how to fix it. Make me work for it a little. But if it isn’t tailored directly to me? Let me turn it off.
Note: Based on information I obtained after this article was completed, the coach is not responding to my performance but the song difficulty is supposed to ramp up on its own.
I’d love encouragement — but I don’t need a constant stream of it. Maybe a setting?
Support Samsung Watches
Yes I know. They are proprietary. It isn’t WearOS, it isn’t iOS … it is Tizen. But Samsung has almost metonymy with Android and people who buy Samsung phones often buy Samsung peripherals (you know, like Apple people do). They are brand loyal.
Based on what I’m seeing, I’m not getting my $19 worth without having a heart-rate tracker and I’m not buying more equipment when I have leading industry stuff here.
Note: While writing this article, one of the staff emailed me in response to a comment I sent yesterday — saying they understand the desire for Samsung support and they are working on it.
Just what it says. I need to be able to cache a workout (better allow several) on the Quest device so I do NOT require internet to workout on the road or where internet is sketchy.
This is industry standard now — again, probably on the road map, but I feel it is important.
Along with myself, I’ve heard others complain about the turning during the workouts.
I would suggest you offer a category of workouts that do not require more than say a 25 degree turn to either side. This is for space considerations and for comfort consideration.