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How ZRX helped users embrace running by integrating a heroic narrative


  • How enhancing your app experience with gamification can significantly increase your user base

  • Why interactive features are necessary to build a vibrant app community

  • Why implementing gamification elements effectively is crucial for leveraging their benefits in your app



The ZRX app, initially called Zombie Run, is a fitness app where users can choose their running adventures. It has a novel approach, which elevates the experience beyond mere exercise.

The in-app running quests aren’t just about simple progress tracking- but interactive narratives that unfold as users run. By integrating storytelling seamlessly into the running experience, the ZRX app attracts not only fitness enthusiasts but also individuals who have just started their fitness journey.

Today, ZRX is an app known worldwide. However, at first, it struggled to find its way to the top. The ZRX concept emerged from the desire to merge fitness with entertainment, but it failed to do it right. Early versions of Zombie Run struggled to balance storytelling with fitness tracking, failing to fully engage users.

The running app incorporated gamification elements from the start, aiming to enhance user engagement and motivation. However, people seemed to have mixed feelings about how well they were functioning. They spotted problems, such as the gamification elements lagging or lacking purpose. In addition, the app struggled with consistent userbase growth, as it fluctuated considerably.


The creators noticed that a lot of users were asking themselves “if the price is accurate for the given content”. The app severely lacked customization, shareability features, and tracking capabilities. In addition, the items players picked up along their run had an unclear purpose – these collectives were obscure and illogical. Considering its $8 price tag at the time, the app fell short in multiple aspects.


Since the launch of the app in 2012, the ZRX company has adjusted many things to get to where they are today. There are now way more stories to choose from, including ones with players running with their favorite heroes from Marvel side-by-side.

Additionally, the app incorporated many features that have revolutionized the user experience. Elements such as achievements, statistics tracking, and customizable workout plans empower users to set and achieve their fitness goals while immersing themselves in captivating narratives. These additions not only make workouts more engaging but also foster a sense of progression and achievement.

To truly grasp the reasons for the success of ZRX, these are the features that captivated users on the app:

1. Mission customization and achievements motivate users to reach their own goals

Each mission can be the player’s own curated adventure. The runners can customize the duration, distance, and music of their mission, and before starting – decide if they want GPS tracking of their run.

When users complete their run, they see detailed outcomes, including average speed, distance covered, and items collected, offering a clear overview of their progress. This enables users to track their improvement over time.

Additionally, runners often gain various achievements. These add an extra layer of reward and increase user motivation, reinforcing positive behaviors. After all, users like to celebrate their success and savor the satisfying feeling of accomplishment.

2. Supply collection nudges players to advance

Initially, these in-game items had unclear purposes and their impact on user progress was uncertain. Now, however, the collection of supplies and emails during runs is crucial for the user to dive deeper into the story.

Today, the collection of supplies and emails during runs is integral to the user experience. Through updates and user feedback, the purpose of collectives became more clear. They became more relevant to progress in the narrative. They are now essential components for delving deeper into the immersive storylines.

At times, the safety of the user’s population depends on having sufficient supplies – if they haven’t grown their base or citizenry enough, they won’t survive! Nevertheless, acquiring supplies not only secures the community’s well-being but also elevates the user’s heroic status. Within the Marvel realm, the superhero trophies, symbolize the user’s contributions in their heroic journey.

Regardless of the context, both ZRX and Marvel Move offer users immersive narrative elements intertwined with fitness activities. Without a doubt, their engagement and immersion are reinforced by rewards, making each run an exciting adventure worth experiencing.

3. App community encourages user engagement

The app lacked shareability features in the 2012 version. Thus, fostering a sense of community and belonging was difficult. However, significant improvements have since been made to the community aspects.

Users now have a space to connect with fellow runners and feel like valued members of the community. Players can share their run statistics with or without the map, as well as join the exclusive player club Rofflenet if they pay for a more upgraded version of the ZRX app. This not only gives them a reason to pay more for the app but also makes them feel like the VIPs of the user community!

Community-building is significant for attracting new users and maintaining their long-term engagement with the app. By fostering a sense of connection and belonging among users, community features create a supportive environment where individuals feel motivated to stay active and involved. Evidently, this contributes to the overall growth and success and enhances user loyalty over time.


ZRX now boasts more than 10 million players! In addition, the company became so successful that Marvel, a $54 billion company, reached out for a collaboration, creating Marvel Move. As quoted by Android Central, “A decade later, Zombies, Run! and its new Marvel Move expansion are as great as ever.’’