STEPN brings Web3 revolution to fitness
As blockchain tech enters the mainstream, the web3 movement is already starting to revolutionize the internet, rewriting the rules in industries from gaming to finance to art. Now, STEPN is on a mission to disrupt the fitness industry.
The rise of play-to-earn
2021 was a massive year for play-to-earn NFT games.
Projects like Axie Infinity and Thetan Arena gained millions of players, disrupting the gaming world and pioneering the play-to-earn category, driving a powerful $2.3 billion NFT gaming market.
The reason for this explosive growth was simple. In the past, you may have played Fortnite for hours and hours with no bridge to translate your in-game achievements into the real world. But with the interoperability of the blockchain, play-to-earn NFT games are allowing users to translate in-game utility into real-world value.
In Southeast Asia, this is already changing lives. Countless people are making a full-time living by playing games like Axie Infinity in the metaverse, even buying new houses with the rewards from their gameplay.
Fitness, a billion-dollar opportunity for web3
What’s the next big industry to be disrupted? web3 has only scratched the surface of fitness, which is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, valued at over $4.7 trillion and expanding at a double-digit pace every year.
The COVID-19 pandemic only catalyzed the growth of this industry, bringing health and wellness to the forefront of our collective consciousness.
The current state: Walking, jogging, or running regularly is a huge boost to your health. Those who run enjoy boosted serotonin levels, improved cognitive function, reduced stress, and improved heart health. Researchers at Harvard have found that 21 minutes of walking a day can cut your risk of heart disease by a whopping 30%.
Why isn’t everyone running, jogging, or at least walking? Despite the many benefits of regular exercise, many people find it difficult to overcome the mental barrier of getting outdoors or holding themselves to a healthy habit that, at times, can feel boring. In the age of instant gratification, it’s much easier to sit indoors and scroll on our phones.
This is causing serious health problems across the world. Physical activity across the globe was already trending downward before COVID hit, and reports suggest that the pandemic has exacerbated these issues. Both childhood and adult obesity are at all-time highs, and our mental health is taking a hit too. Levels of anxiety and depression have skyrocketed to unprecedented levels.
Building on the proven success of play-to-earn games, move-and-earn apps like STEPN are gamifying fitness to motivate millions to get moving and improve their health.
With the tailwinds of two massive industries, fitness and crypto, the potential impact of the move-and-earn industry is tremendous — the power behind these trends can best be understood through four types of positive feedback loops.
A] Incentivizing users
By promising crypto rewards, STEPN adds stronger incentives for users to make healthy choices. While you might know that going outside to walk or jog is good for you, that might not be enough motivation to overcome your inertia. With the added promise of earning tokens, STEPN gives an extra nudge that can tip the scales, the final push that people need to get out the door.
B] Gamifying fitness
Through its in-game rewards, level-ups, customized sneakers, daily energy allowances, and more, STEPN is essentially gamifying movement. Gamified fitness is a powerful and proven way to make fitness addicting and “trick” people into developing healthy habits that stick.
In fact, many experts argue that gamified fitness, when engineered well, is actually the future of fitness. Connected fitness is already trending in this direction, with startups like Ergatta, Aviron, Zwift, and Playpulse raising millions. Further, researchers have proven that gamifying physical activity results in positive changes that can improve patients’ health long-term.
C] Signaling-as-a-service meets Proof-of-workout
A term coined by Julian Lehr, signaling-as-a-service is a phenomenon that has manifested itself powerfully in the recent NFT craze.
Companies in the signaling-as-a-service space offer social capital and “clout” to consumers. Users who buy a hyped NFT, for example, often buy it in order to signal to others that they can afford the NFT, or that they’re well-connected enough to have been in-the-know about the project.
This phenomenon has also made its way to the fitness landscape in the form of proof-of-workout. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is Strava, whose content allows runners and cyclists to post a visual snapshot of their workout, encouraging even more interaction and engagement beyond simple performance analytics.
Notably, move-and-earn games built on the blockchain combine the power of both of these budding trends. By offering NFTs — and making sure to design tokenomics in a way that bolsters their long-term value — STEPN sneakers are becoming status signals in and of themselves. Already, sneakers on the in-app marketplace are selling for thousands of dollars.
D] Storing financial achievements
There’s also an emotional element behind the sneakers. While it’s relatively straightforward to repair and level up STEPN sneakers, it’s certainly not an easy or fast process. It can take users weeks to months to get to certain levels.
Thus, not only are high-level sneakers a financial status signal, they’re also a powerful proof-of-workout signal, an asset that holds weeks to months of data. A single snapshot speaks volumes about the dedication and sweat that the owner has had to put in to get his sneakers to that level. This means that fitness enthusiasts can now store their achievements on the blockchain forever.
This is where STEPN really shines in the web3 space — using web3 to get people out of web3 and into the real world.
A common critique of web3 projects is that many don’t deliver real-world utility. Think, for example, about PFP NFT projects that are nothing more than a status signal.
But what’s setting STEPN apart is that its value proposition isn’t constrained to the web3 world. On top of earning tokens and learning about web3, users are saying that they feel better and look better, all while developing healthy long-term habits of moving outside. Already, the STEPN Discord is seeing hundreds of success stories and fitness transformations. Some users are saying that they haven’t worked out in over a decade, and are now moving outside 7 days a week.
With powerful network effects — and notably, zero marketing spend — STEPN’s circle of influence is going parabolic. The app has been on the market for less than half a year, launching in public beta in December 2021. Since then, the app has been growing exponentially.
What’s coming for STEPN in the road ahead? The sky’s the limit. Some speculate that the app, growing at its current pace, could become the next Axie Infinity — or even bigger. Its product appeals to an audience that goes beyond just web3 and combines the power of both fitness and crypto.
The team is ready to scale and quick to innovate, thinking five steps ahead across game design and community management, building a strong foundation to support long-term and sustainable growth.
Watch the space!