When I was asked to review Supernatural, my editor informed me that the developer, Within, wanted reviewers to try the app for 30 days before making a final determination. To me, this made perfect sense. Supernatural is a virtual fitness application that promises a new workout every day, and to fully experience the benefits, a few days would be an insufficient amount of time to see any tangible results.
I received a 60-day free trial to evaluate Supernatural, after which Within would charge my credit card $19.00 per month or I could buy an annual subscription for $179.00. Considering that the most expensive purchase price for a fitness game available on the oculus quest up to this point was $29.99, I had pretty high expectations.
When I embarked on my evaluation, to gauge the value of Supernatural, I decided to use a two-pronged approach: for the first 30 days, Supernatural would be the only app I would use for my fitness in VR. I would have to try at least 30 unique workouts. Exclusively using Supernatural as my workout for a month would allow me to judge its effectiveness, apart from the other apps in the VR space.
After the first 30 days, I allowed myself to choose the other fitness games on the Oculus Quest and would turn to or incorporate Supernatural into my workouts as much or as little as I wanted, but no less than once per week. I was hoping to evaluate Supernatural’s value for an average user. How would I feel about Supernatural when it wasn’t my only option, but just one of the many VR fitness options available? Because Supernatural‘s asking price is so much higher than its competitors, it is fair to assess Supernatural‘s value relative to other, less expensive fitness applications already available without a subscription. After all, a higher price suggests higher quality.
Every day, a new workout waits for you in your lobby. You can either choose the new playlist or repeat a workout from the past. At the moment, you can filter the workouts by the trainer, by length, or intensity, but not by the genre (though this functionality will be in future releases).
Before you begin each workout, you are greeted by the trainer who will demonstrate a very quick set of “warm-up” exercises (two or three squats or arm movements), and then the workout playlist will begin. Each workout is associated with only one trainer. The first song will always be a low-intensity warm-up song.
I covered the basics in my earlier first impressions review, but the basic routine goes like this: In each hand, you have a bat: one black and one white. As each song plays, black and white balloons come towards you from “portals” which change positions every so often, so that you’ll rotate in a circle to hit them. Each balloon has a little transparent cone attached, which indicates the direction you’re supposed to hit the balloon. If you hit the balloon at the right angle, the balloon explodes, and you hear a little swish. Your controller will vibrate.
If you hit the balloon at the wrong angle, you will hear a bouncing rubber ball sound (like a kickball), and the balloon will go flying off in some direction. Some balloons have arrow trails pointing to the right or left. If you see those, you’re supposed to swing with a full followthrough and turn in the direction of the arrows. If the balloons have comet tails, you’re supposed to exaggerate your swing and follow the tails with your bat.
Frequently, golden triangles will also shoot out of the portals. If the triangles lean in one direction, you’re supposed to lunge within the triangle. If the triangle is equilateral(?), you’re just supposed to squat. You cannot disable the squats or lunges.
A workout may have a High, Medium, or Low-Intensity indicator on its tile in the main menu, but you cannot choose the difficulty or intensity of a workout beyond that. The amount and speed of the balloons are supposed to scale down or up to your skill level. While you can skip the warm-up and cool down, you cannot skip around/re-order the songs within the playlist itself.
As you play through each song in the workout, you continuously hear a canned recording of the trainer talking over the music in a normal speaking voice. Some of the phrases may directly relate to the song or workout playlist, but most of the dialog is generic. If you play several workouts by the same trainer, you will often hear repeated phrases. Whether you miss all your targets or hit every single one, the voice over is precisely the same. You can lower the trainer’s voiceover volume by half, but you cannot mute the trainer or entirely or turn it off.
At the end of each song, you will see your score. Supernatural calculates your score by combining your accuracy and “power” of your follow-through. After the final song, a video of the trainer re-appears for a “cool-down”: a minute to about a minute-and-a-half, where he or she will demonstrate one or two basic stretches. One lazy design choice: During the warm-up and cool-down videos with the trainers, your controllers still look like bats, even though you’re not supposed to hit anything. Why? For what purpose?
After your “cool-down” is complete, you receive your workout’s score and return to Supernatural’s main menu. Supernatural’s companion app will display any workout you perform along with your score. Still, you won’t be able to compare your current score in any given workout to a previous score within the application.
In the main menu, you will see a running total of your workout score for the week, along with the scores of any other users you follow on Supernatural’s companion app.
The Lack of Basics
Aside from the backdrops, which remind me of the aesthetic in Guided Tai Chi, and the 1-minute warm-up/cool-down videos, the actual workout experience is nearly identical to Beat Saber, with a few variations, which was kind of disappointing to begin with, but Supernatural is so locked down, with virtually no ability to customize your experience, that justifying a subscription price became very difficult.
After a month of exclusively and earnestly playing Supernatural, did I lose any weight? Did I gain any muscle? Did I lose any inches? Nope. According to my little measuring tape and my fancy-schmancy smart scale, I stayed exactly the same in pretty much every metric.
I’ll admit, I honestly thought that I would burn more calories in Supernatural than I did in Beat Saber or Box VR. But the truth was in the numbers: the calorie burn rate was, on average, equal with both apps.
Here are some workout results from various other apps, with the final two being from Supernatural, so you can compare.
The reason I probably felt like I was working harder was probably that I didn’t get a break between each song. According to my fitness tracker, Supernatural’s calorie burn rate falls squarely in the center of other available fitness applications on the Oculus Quest. It beats out Guided Tai Chi(duh), burns the same amount of calories as with Beat Saber, Box VR, Synth Riders, or Dance Central, but comes nowhere close the number of calories I burn when I play Pistol Whip, Thrill of the Fight, or Ohshape.
“But, they’re giving you new music every day!” This just wasn’t the case. When the Supernatural App turns one year old, they will have 365 recorded playlists: one “new” playlist per day. So far, each song has been repeated at least once and usually more than once. In just the first month alone, where all of the content should have been new, there were at least 90 repeated songs, where the choreography was identical.
I will say this upfront: I don’t mind paying a subscription fee for access to unlimited music…or games. I can imagine a world where I would happily pay $20.00 for access to all the games on the Oculus Quest (OculusPrime???): as far as I’m concerned, as long as I’m downloading more than one game or one album’s worth of new content per month, the subscription has paid for itself, since it would cost me the same to buy the same amount of content. But I already have one music subscription, and that’s not what you’re getting when you subscribe to Supernatural.
Even though you’re paying almost double the price of a digital unlimited music subscription, you can’t even choose to play just one song by itself in Supernatural. You also can’t create your playlists with the songs that have already been choreographed.
When I first opened the Supernatural platform, I wanted to choose one song I liked and play through it (there weren’t too many). I would have preferred to pick through a list of songs and create my playlists and workouts around music that suited my tastes. Of the 60 workout playlists I had access to, there were only five playlists where I enjoyed each song.
I wanted the ability to not listen to music I didn’t like. Even the free version of Pandora allows you to skip five songs per hour. While playing Supernatural, if I chose to roll the dice with the daily workout, which I had to do if I didn’t want to repeat a workout, I had to listen to a lot of music I didn’t enjoy, which just made me hate my workout that day and turned me off from the entire platform.
Developer Within’s key justification for the subscription pricing model is its extensive (and very complicated) music licensing agreement. Without having seen their contract, I can’t comment on how good/ bad/restrictive or permissive this agreement is. Supernatural’s creators have made it clear that the ability to play a song individually is not going to be a feature of this particular application. As someone sensitive to the complicated world of entertainment law and digital music licensing, I’m sympathetic. But as a consumer, frankly, I don’t care.
Supernatural has been placing a lot of emphasis on the fact that Beat Saber and BoxVR do not have popular music, where Supernatural does. But, if you’re looking for fully licensed pop-music, you don’t have to look further than Dance Central, which provides a full-body workout. Dance Central may not feel as intense but moves your entire body and offers an equivalent total body workout andcalorie burn.
Out of the box, Dance Central comes with 30 popular songs (many of which were also in Supernatural workouts – like Kendrick Lamar’s Humble, Bad Romance By Lady Gaga, Attention by Charlie Puth and New Rules by Dua Lipa). Additional tracks, fully choreographed, are available in Dance Central for $1.99 each.
Ohshape!, Synth Riders, Audio Trip, Audio Shield, and Racket: NX all OFFICIALLY allow users to import custom songs and maps, giving each of those games an almost infinite selection of possibilities. It’s also not exactly a secret that you can import custom songs and maps into Beat Saber using BMBF. You can even use an AI program available for free at beatsage.com to create Beat Saber levels with your own music.
No Save. No Restart.
Restarting a single song seems like such a simple feature that you don’t fully appreciate until you don’t have it. However, if you want to want to restart a song, regardless of whether you’re in the first song or the last song of your workout, you can’t. You can only exit and restart the entire workout from the top. Being able to hit “Restart Song” in literally every other music and rhythm game available on the Oculus Quest is a feature I will now forever look upon with new appreciation. In Supernatural, the absence of such an essential element was glaring.
You also can’t save your progress mid-workout and come back to it later. I would have appreciated the ability to exit out of Supernatural and go back to a workout after I dealt with some real-world interruptions, but that option isn’t available.
While I was reviewing Supernatural, I was observing the shelter-in-place-order in my state. I didn’t always have my workout spaces to myself, and occasionally I had to take off my headset to do some reasonably standard adulting.
Sometimes, the app would take FOREVER to load the next song, and I would be stuck staring at a black screen with what I’ve affectionately nicknamed the “yellow bar of death.” I wanted just to exit Supernatural and come back later. But I couldn’t do that. If I left the workout, I’d have to start it all over again.
I’m going to tell you a secret about exercise: the benefits of daily workouts are cumulative. If you do 10 minutes of working out in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes at night, you’ll get the same benefits as you would have working out for 30 minutes straight. My point? If I made it three songs into a workout, I didn’t need to start the workout from the top.
Saving in the middle of a playlist isn’t available in other music and rhythm games, but those games don’t need it because I can play individual songs. I’m also not expected to pay hundreds of dollars per year for access to those games.
Squats and Lunges… Whether You Can Do Them or Not.
When I first purchased the Oculus Quest, in addition to seeing its potential for the fitness industry, I also saw VR as a great alternative for people with limited mobility to get some cardio exercise. If you’re disabled or injured at all, there is just no way to play Supernatural safely. For me, there were other reasons why I wanted to disable the squat and lunge triangles: I hated the way they were incorporated.
If executed properly, squats and lunges can be a great lower body workout. You do not need to perform these at high speed, and are far more effective as a muscle-building exercise when you take your time. If done incorrectly, you are more likely to injure your back or knees.
Even though I know better, though I know the proper form, I caught myself bending my spine to get within the perimeter of the triangles, rather than using my hips and thighs to do a proper lunge or squat. I found the way the choreography often directed me to change directions or reach right before performing multiple rapid sets of squats or lunges made it difficult to place my feet at the proper width and position within the time provided. I imagine that a fitness novice would probably have a tough time keeping up.
Another factor I don’t think the choreographer considered was the sheer weight of the headset. When you have an Oculus Quest headset on, the weight causes your head to lean slightly forward. Now, I have a battery pack tied to the back of my headset to counterbalance the weight, but even so, my head always tilts forward slightly. Proper form for squats and lunges requires you to keep your head level and your chest up, which is already difficult when your arms are flailing in every direction, trying to hit virtual balloons. If you don’t have proper upper body form when you squat, the result is usually lower back pain. If your knees go out past your toes when you bend, you will lose your balance and risk putting too much pressure on your knees. Unsurprisingly, I had both lower back pain and knee pain for several days during my trial of the Supernatural app.
To be fair: During the videos at the beginning of several workouts and in the canned voice-overs, the trainers are constantly reminding you to use proper form, but the speed of the game makes this hard to implement consciously.
Every other fitness app that has obstacles for you to dodge also allows you to disable those obstacles from the settings or options menu.
360 Arena… Whether You Want it or Not
I don’t have a ton of space in my apartment and there were a few days when I had to work out in an area that was about 8’x5’. For every other fitness game on the Oculus Quest, except for Thrill of the Fight, I’ve never had a problem working out in that space. But while using Supernatural, I ended up traveling a lot because of the constant “Turn-lunge, Turn-Lunge.” I hit the walls with my controller/knuckles or came up against my guardian more than any other app on the entire platform. Once, I slammed my hand on the corner of a chest of drawers and screamed like someone was trying to murder me.
Regardless of whatever difficulties creating a reduced rotation mode would create for the developers, as a consumer, this felt like a huge miss. I can see the benefit of turning to your right or left, and I know that there are people who want to utilize the full capability of untethered VR. Giving me the option of changing the rotation to 180 or 90 probably would open Supernatural to tethered VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or PSVR and would broaden Supernatural’s appeal. There is no physical advantage 360 motion offers that 180 motion doesn’t.
Opposite of Personalized
I’ve talked about how you can’t disable or enable features and how you can’t make custom playlists. I think the reason this bothered me is that I immediately wanted to do all those things.
I wanted to design my workouts with songs I liked, pick my backdrops for each song, change the colors of the bats and the targets, and turn the trainer’s voiceovers off completely. I wanted to choose a warm-up and cool-down videos with the trainer I liked the best, regardless of which workout I decided to play. I also wanted to make the directional cones more opaque so that I could see them better.
I wanted a list of songs AND a list of premade workouts, if that’s how I wanted to go that day. Supernatural recently implemented a change that would allow you to see an indicator of how many songs remain in your workout. Still, you don’t have the option of a countdown timer, which is one feature that I find insanely useful when I am on a time crunch and is a feature I appreciate in BoxVR and Guided Tai Chi.
You can’t customize any of those things in Supernatural.
The only personalization available is on the main menu page. You can bookmark any workout as a favorite so you can jump right to it. Since they’re planning to have 365 workouts by next April, I imagine the “Favorites” feature is going to come in handy for subscribers.
Supernatural‘s creators appear to want it both ways: they want to make an app with broad appeal, but they’re actively preventing users from adjusting the application to suit their individual personalities and limitations. With no options to make Supernatural feel like my own, it just feels generic.
Where’s The Party?
I talked about the lack of any sort of multiplayer mode when I did the first look at Supernatural back in late April. At the time, I complained that Supernatural would require additional household users to each pay for their own individual accounts, even when sharing the same headset. The creators of Supernatural have since stated that they are working on supporting multiple user accounts for one headset without having to buy additional subscriptions. After experiencing Supernatural for a full two months, I think some kind of online multiplayer or interactive party mode would have gone a long way towards adding in some of the competitive elements I felt were missing.
There is a weekly leaderboard on the main screen, where you can see the compiled scores of other users you follow in the companion app, but that’s as social as the VR aspect of Supernatural gets. There don’t appear to be any plans to add a multiplayer mode to the Supernatural platform.
I Still Don’t get the Companion App
After my first impression review, I felt that maybe I hadn’t given Supernatural’s companion app a fair shake. I didn’t see much point to it after I synced my phone to my headset, which I think also served as a way to sync my fitness tracker’s data with the headset, though Supernatural doesn’t support my Fitbit and I had to track my workout using Fitbit’s platform.
So, I redoubled my efforts to “get it”.
I followed as many users as I could within Supernatural‘s companion app. I checked in on the companion app as often as I remembered, occasionally giving a thumbs-up to stranger’s workouts. Since I didn’t actually know any of the people I followed, the social aspect of Supernatural’s companion app fell a bit flat.
The only function Supernatural‘s companion app served was to remind me which workouts I performed and what my score was. If I performed the same workout multiple times, the app did not track my progress or compare my new score for that workout to previous times I tried that workout.
Since I was trying to avoid repetition during my evaluation, Supernatural‘s companion app helped me keep track of which workouts I performed. If I hadn’t been reviewing the game, once I synced my headset, I probably would have forgotten about the companion app entirely, since it’s not otherwise even mentioned and all of my fitness data is available on my Fitbit’s app.
Removed Gamification. Removed the Fun.
Only a week into my 60-day trial, I internally started to make excuses for why I didn’t need to work out that day in Supernatural. I found myself getting bored during my workouts and wondering how many songs were left before I could stop and get out of this damn headset. As soon as I hit the 30-day mark and was “allowed” to play other games, I almost always chose another game over Supernatural every morning, going back to Supernatural only a few times per week.
Why wasn’t I having fun? Why was I subconsciously trying to make excuses to myself to get out of playing every day…even though working out with Supernatural was ACTUALLY MY JOB? Why was I getting bored in the middle of workouts?
As a reviewer, my job isn’t just to look at a game and say “hey, this is fun,” or “hey, this is not fun,” but to give you a solid justification for my perspective. I agonized about understanding whySupernatural wasn’t fun. What made me look forward to playing Beat Saber, Ohshape!, Dance Central, Pistol Whip, and even BoxVR, where I had to essentially guilt/force myself to play Supernatural after the first few days?
When I used other fitness games to workout, I usually had to force myself to stop playing so I wouldn’t be late to class/work. Why was this different? It just didn’t make sense …but I knew it was true.
Ultimately, I figured it out.
To market themselves as a fitness application, the creators of Supernatural deliberately excluded gamification elements. Where ordinary games have levels/campaigns you play through to gradually build yourself through practice, Supernatural has one intelligent response system called “dynamic difficulty,” where the balloons appear less frequently as you start to miss. You can’t “die”, but you also can’t practice just one song to improve. You can’t play just one song at all. And you’re not supposed to want to.
The feedback you receive from a traditional game is instant so you can immediately gauge how your actions impact your results. If your behavior wasn’t successful, you die or earn fewer points. You immediately learned how your behavior impacted your performance and you can adjust the next time you play.
Game developers are geniuses when it comes to tweaking what’s referred to as a “feedback loop.” If a game is too simple, you’ll eventually lose interest because there is nothing to learn and your improvement is capped at perfection. If a game is too difficult, you’ll eventually lose interest because constantly losing is just depressing.
In Supernatural, the motivation to play is supposed to be intrinsic to you. You are “playing” because you want to get fit, or because not playing would mean wasting 20 bucks per month, which is enough motivation for some people but isn’t enough for me, at least not when I could get a nearly identical workout elsewhere for a MUCH lower price and the physical results are identical to those achieved using those other, much less expensive applications.
There is nothing in Supernatural for me to defeat, nothing to build towards, no achievements, and no real challenge. Frankly, Supernatural feels more like a participation trophy. The app is simply not built to challenge you.
“But you have the trainers to give you advice and feedback!” Do you? The trainer’s voice-overs are static recordings and do not change. There is no branching logic to control what you hear from the trainers, so they’re just talking at you.
If you’re not following through in the proper form, you’re not getting advice personalized to your experience designed to help you improve. If you’re a fitness novice, the only way you’d know you’d done something wrong, is if you felt that bad kind of pain.
If I went to a personal trainer, with the sole purpose of getting fit, and he gave me one game to play with a limited set of rules over, and over, and over again, set to different music, played a tape of his voice over the music, and didn’t correct my form, I’d probably ask for my money back… even if it was a decent workout.
The only element of Supernatural that gives you any kind of feedback is the score display you see at the end. You get a score based on your accuracy and your “power,” but that score isn’t really helpful as a metric.
The score tells you how you did overall, but that doesn’t help you improve the next time you play, since you are unlikely to repeat that workout again. You don’t really know how your individual movements affected your score. You only know your final result. You’re unlikely to want to “practice” any one particular workout; after all, there is a new workout every day.
With any other app on the Oculus Quest, the fact that I wouldn’t want to play every day is not a reason to forgo buying an app or game completely. After all, who wants to play the same game every day? You buy a game and play it every once and awhile. I don’t pay a substantial monthly fee for any other game though, so not playing every day doesn’t feel like lighting a twenty-dollar bill on fire.
The Underutilized Coaches
Like many, when I first entered into Supernatural, the gorgeous backdrops filled me with joy. When Leanne Pendante appeared to walk me through calibration and the proper form for a squat and lunge, I immediately saw the potential for what Supernatural had conceptualized: an app that offered personalized trainer feedback could be a runaway hit and offer something no other platform did. Once I saw what the trainers’ involvement was on a daily basis, I was really disappointed.
My biggest issue with the trainers here is where they could have been useful. The warm-up and cool-down videos were far too short to be effective and added no real value. To me, it felt like the trainer videos were there just so Supernatural could point to them and say, “We have trainers! We are just like Peloton!”
Those interludes before and after Supernatural’s music workouts could have been utilized so much better. The trainers could have provided a meaningful bodyweight strength workout to supplement the cardio.
The trainers could have provided meaningful sets of stretches targeting each muscle group, with a duration sufficient to help you maintain and increase flexibility for your entire body, during the cool down instead of a meaningless 30-second demonstration, which is incapable of preventing injury or soreness. Before and after you work out, you need to give each part of your body a full stretch. This can take 5 or even up to 10 minutes, but it’s worth it, especially when you’re doing strenuous exercise.
There were some cool-downs that were completely tone-deaf to how the Oculus Quest is actually built and used. A few different trainers told me to bend at the waist and hang my head down. They would demonstrate this. Were they serious? Hang my head down? With a top-heavy $500 piece of equipment attached to my head by a flimsy strap? If I obeyed, the headset would slip off and break. If I just stood there, I was wasting my time. If I half-listened and bent at the waist, but angled my head so I could still see the trainer and keep my headset from slipping off, I’d be risking a neck injury.
During the actual playlists, I can see what Supernatural was trying to do with those voiceovers: motivate you like a spin class instructor shouting over the music as they pedal alongside you, screaming at you to “GET UP THAT HILL!” This is not what Supernatural’s trainer voice-overs feel like. The voiceovers just feel like a recording of someone talking over the music, constantly breaking your concentration, and mostly just served to undercut the advantage of Supernatural‘s music license.
The trainers could have been visually present, in front of you or next to you with you during the workout, showing you the proper form, and helping you get the most out of your cardio workout – in a manner similar to Audio Trip’s Dancer, the characters in Dance Central or Guided Tai Chi’s transparent masters. At least then they would be doing something other than ruining your concentration.
A Subscription Model Which Alienates Casual Users
My overall impression of the Supernatural app as a workout application or as a game is that the platform was simply mediocre: not great, but not terrible either.
I’ll be honest: if Supernatural was a standalone app that came with 30 songs and a few playlists, and cost somewhere around the $30.00 range (or maybe a little more for the music licensing), would I buy it? Yes. I would. I’d buy it because it would add a little variety to my workout. I might not use it all that often in its current state, because I really didn’t like the lack of personalization or that I had to commit to an entire playlist when I didn’t care for so many of the songs.
For me, Supernatural would be an alternative to BoxVR: a game I turn to when I really don’t want to think or need to enjoy my workout and just wanted to go on autopilot. I would be a casual user. If I was allowed to create my own playlists, I’d probably have a mishmash of genres and intensities thrown together and have a bunch of 10-minute playlists I’d just incorporate into a larger workout regime composed of several games I already play which keeps me from getting bored. I probably wouldn’t use the warm-ups and cool-downs at all, since they were so ineffective. The limitations of Supernatural would bother me, a little, but I doubt I would have found them nearly as offensive if Supernatural were just a one time purchase.
There just isn’t any room in Supernatural’s current pricing model for someone like me: someone who thought the app was okay, but didn’t intend to use it all that often.
I suspect that the $19.00 monthly subscription fee was introduced with the premiere of Supernatural specifically to invite the idea that Supernatural was a premium application, deliberately induce a sticker shock, and make $179.00 for the year seem like a bargain by comparison.
The problem with a yearly subscription is that you pay upfront. You could decide to cancel your monthly subscription after 6 months (only paying $105 to own no content). You don’t get a refund if you choose to cancel your yearly plan.
There is no world where I would consider such a high monthly or yearly fee for an application I intended to use for, at most, two or three days out of the week for about 10 minutes at a time. That would be an obscene waste of money. For the price Within is asking, I’d have to be pretty damn certain I would use Supernatural every day, which I wouldn’t, because ultimately, it doesn’t give me what I need from a workout. There is just no room for a casual user in the current pricing model.
Currently, Supernatural is 7x as expensive as its closest competitor per year. If you subscribe for 2 years is actually 14x as expensive. After paying more for Supernatural than any other non-enterprise application on the quest, you don’t actually own any part of the platform. If you stop paying at any point for Supernatural, you will be locked out of recorded, static content you should have the option to buy. You could put $200, $400, or $600 into Within’s pockets, and in the end, you own nothing. You walk away with nothing but results you could have achieved with other apps on the Oculus Quest, for a lot less money.
I have a couple of solutions to Within’s pricing model issue that would be practical, profitable, and satisfy a larger user base: Within could create a downloadable base version of Supernatural for casual users who previously chose not to subscribe. This downloadable version could contain a limited number of their already existing pre-recorded playlists and this version of Supernatural would exist outside of their subscription application. Each month, additional DLC packs of previously choreographed music would be available for $30 per month, or users could purchase the individual playlists.
For current subscribers who feel new daily content adds sufficient value, the subscription model would still be available.
Would Supernatural lose subscribers? Maybe. But that is my point: if more users would jump ship because they can now purchase what you’re forcing them to rent, your model is probably the wrong one to start with.
How to Make Supernatural Worth the Asking Price
I gave Supernatural’s workouts as much effort as I could since I believe they deserved a chance to win me over as a customer (almost always scoring from platinum to triple platinum). I can tell you that I found their workouts to be far too easy and nowhere near physically challenging enough for me.
To be worth a subscription fee like the one they are charging, Supernatural needs to stop relying on their music license as a justification. Music is not the real draw of their application. After the first 100 workouts, honestly, how much more variety do you think you’re going to need? The pretty backdrops will not be the draw of their fitness application, even if they are stunning (they are). A Beat Saber clone workout alienates more potential customers than it entices.
For me to want to fork over a $19.00 per month subscription fee or a $179.00 annual fee, I would need so much more out of Supernatural than they’re offering. Instead of relying on music, Supernatural should embrace different forms of gameplay and embrace their coaches.
Recently, Supernatural uploaded one meditation session. This was after my 60-day evaluation completed, but I think that was a step in the right direction.
Supernatural should offer a full fitness experience that doesn’t just calibrate to your body but also continuously assesses your fitness level, flexibility, and capabilities and then build an entire program around your goals. As you become accustomed to the program, the workouts need to become more challenging and the workout itself needs to change, because, in real life, that’s how you get where you need to go when it comes to fitness. Also, doing the same style workout every day is just…boring. Supernatural should also offer fitness advice beyond cardio and the slight muscular workout currently on offer. After all, cardio is only one element of fitness.
Of course, first, Supernatural needs to add in the very basic functionality to their existing workouts which is currently absent:
Ability to choose to play an individual song.
Ability to create custom playlists.
Ability to customize the lobby background, possibly from a gallery
Ability to choose workout and song backgrounds, possibly from a gallery.
Ability to choose a background other than outdoors, if you find the backgrounds distracting.
Ability to choose any trainer for any workout or individual song.
Ability to customize the targets, in particular, make the directional indicators more opaque.
Ability to choose the color of bats and targets.
Ability to mute trainer voice-overs
Branching logic to trainer voice-overs based on performance, so that the trainers’ comments give meaningful feedback to the user to help them improve.
Ability to rearrange songs within any given playlist.
Ability to skip or repeat songs within a workout.
Ability to restart a song without having to restart a whole workout.
Ability to save a workout currently in progress.
Ability to see past scores for a workout or song with the VR app, so the user has a way to assess their improvement.
Ability to enable real-time scoring, so users can adjust their performance based on feedback
Ability to manually change the intensity of any workout or song.
Ability to adjust the difficulty of any given workout or song
Ability to download songs and workouts local headset to reduce latency
An offline mode if users are unable to connect to the internet, or if the user’s connection is slow.
Ability to disable the squats and lunges.
Ability to change the arena from 360-degree mode to 180 or 90-degree mode if you’re working out in a small space.
Online multiplayer capabilities.
Local multiplayer mode for multiple users to switch off during personal challenges.
Additional support for popular fitness trackers.
Additional fitness capability and support outside of VR.
Now, I understand that I basically just called for a total re-development of their platform if Supernatural wants to be worth their asking price. But, if Supernatural wants people to buy in, they should do more than provide one gameplay type workout that is nearly identical to a game available elsewhere for much less. Frankly, for Supernatural to be worth what they’re asking, the gameplay would need to be more entertaining and unique, and the results from using it would have to be better than the ones I can get for a one-time purchase $30 from several other available games.
However, I think that the current design model and a guarantee of new daily content makes actually improving this platform incredibly difficult since the developers and choreographer would have to develop new content while also making these necessary updates to all of the currently available workouts, which will become more difficult as time goes on and their library expands.
Supernatural is a fitness app with an identity crisis. The stunning natural backdrops, which is an aesthetic almost identical to Guided Tai Chi, imply relaxation but the intense, club-style music attempts to fuel your adrenaline which seems out of place with the soothing surroundings. The trainers attempt to motivate you, but non-intelligent feedback and lack of progression are dishearteningly unmotivating. Supernatural’s daily updated content implies that you will never be bored with their platform, but with the static gameplay, I struggled to see how I would progress as an athlete over time using this platform and quickly got bored with it. Because the developers are putting out new content daily, it’s also almost impossible to make improvements to past workouts.
Supernatural wants to be a fitness platform and not a game but made a game its primary workout. Supernatural wanted a game to be its primary workout but removed the elements that make a game fun enough to return to day after day.
Supernatural’s current model also presents a unique problem: As their push for new content grows, any improvements to the Supernatural platform will be harder to implement. An example: one feature I would like to see is the ability to choose the level of difficulty or intensity in any workout playlist. If I’m a beginner, I wouldn’t want to be locked out of workouts that were too difficult. I would want the difficulty level static so I could practice and improve. With a limited set of songs, making a change like that would take time, but wouldn’t be insurmountable. As Supernatural’s library grows, the ability to roll out such adjustments to their platform becomes more difficult.
So, is Supernatural worth the subscription fee? Rather than equivocate, remain neutral, and encourage you to try it for yourself, I’m just going to flat out say “no.”
When evaluating Supernatural based on entertainment value and tangible benefits vs. the cost of a subscription, at the end of my trial period, I was left disappointed and unconvinced that Supernatural had anything more than minimal added value, especially when stacked up against other fitness applications available on the Oculus Quest.
As a virtual reality workout, Supernatural does not provide any activity that you cannot get from other applications (or games) available for purchase on the Oculus Quest.
If you really need to pay money every month just have the motivation to workout, I suggest investing in one game for $19.99 per month as a reward or as an incentive. At least then, you’ll also own something.
TLDR : Summary
With its relaxing scenes and intense music, Supernatural is a fitness app with an identity crisis. The warm-up/cool-downs are too short to be effective, and there is no individual feedback during workouts to help you improve. While the cardio workout Supernatural provides is adequate, it is a nearly identical experience to Beat saber, without the ability to personalize your experience.