eSports are one of the most exciting and growing sport-categories in the world. Great gamers have become “athletes” and show off their skills at huge, professionally organized events. Some of these events, especially in Asia, take place in huge venues. Football stadiums, concert- and eventhalls are packed with fans who cheer on their e-sports idols.
Today, it is possible to not only compete with your mates on your favorite game, but measure up to some of the worlds best digital gamers. The only things you need: a game console, or pc with a solid internet connection, a lot of red bull/coke, plenty of food for replenishment and you are basically good to go.
What they didn’t tell you, is that you will need to practice, a. lot. to measure up to the best of the game, though.
The world of virtual gaming
The world of virtual games is exciting; it can be both a way of self expression and the perfect playground to show off your skills to your friends. In the early to mid-2000s, online gaming started to pick up pace. Yet, the internet connections posed a big challenge.
The only games that really took off, were turn-based. When one of the players had taken its turn, the information on what it had done were sent to the opposing party. This way of gaming was mostly tactical in nature and it took hours or even days to finish a single battle.
Hence, LAN-parties became a trend. At these events, players (from all over the world) brought along their hardware to compete at a central venue. Of course, this was not the most scalable way to compete. However, the infrastructure has significantly improved in the last decade and new innovative eSports are emerging, quickly.
Zwift, ride on!
One of the most remarkable companies that bridge the gap between eSports and physical sports, is Zwift. Zwift is essentially a community of professional athletes and amateurs, who train and compete in a virtual arena. Each athlete uses their own personal home trainer (such as the Tacx Neo Smart or the Wahoo Kicker), to ride at home.
Trainings and competitions take place in virtual worlds, to which the “eSporters” can log on to using their smartphones, tablets or pc/laptops. All of the interactions happen in real time, the athletes can see how fast they are going, feel the gradient and drive around in an imaginary world.
There is something magical about Zwift. Most prominently, regardless of the type of rider you are, there is a game mode that will fit your profile. You can either, go on a ride all by yourself, join others in a group ride, or compete in one of the many events.
Regardless of your fitness level, you can get your ride on, on Zwift. Or use your treadmill to go on a virtual marathon of your own in Wattopia.
Challenges and games get us hooked. Challenges help us set goals and keep up interested in whatever it is we do.
Communities and essentially games like Zwift, are an entirely new way that entices us to get the best out of our sporty selves; without needing to make an absolute fool of ourselves in the gym or get out into those tight biking pants in public.
Games keep us motivated, as they provide us with short term incentives
Gamification is a strong tool that more and more companies are learning to understand. When it comes to sports, the game is a “natural” process. We all want to be the best at something, right? Or at least, have a short term goal. eSports with real 💦
Here is a post by one of my friends Michael Knudsen, a true „e-“Sport inspiration, professional athlete and top class Zwiftrider.
I personally love the ride jerseys in Zwift. My biggest challenge is to “race” (I am not that fast, so yeah that is a challenge indeed) to the top of a hill or mountain and grab the polka dot jersey. Claim the title of King of the Mountain (KOM challenge).
Unfortunately, you can only hold on to the jersey as long as you are in the game and the fastest to reach the top. As soon as you leave the game, you lose the jersey. But that doesn’t matter; the goal is not to get as many jerseys as possible, but a short term goal to focus on for my ride.
Create a community
The longevity and strength of the program depends heavily on the involvement of the community. Zwift has quickly become the go-to place for cycling enthusiasts, all over the world.
At times, there are over 6.000-8.000 riders from all over the world who ride around in these virtual worlds. Whereas this might not sound like a lot, most riders are highly communicative and approachable. Riders cheer each other on, give “Ride Ons” and use the live chat to communicate with each other.
Friendships and training groups are starting to emerge
The community is becoming ever-stronger and I have made some real riding-buddies on Zwift already. In addition to that, it has made cycling a lot more accessible to me and made it possible to go for a ride when the weather simply does not play along.
In 2019, it was announced that there will be a pro competition on Zwift. Four professional teams have said to join the virtual cycling madness and ride against each other on Zwift. I believe that this is a great move and will only strengthen the community.
Make Pro Sports Accessibility
It is fantastic to see that a tool such as Zwift can both make it more accessible for new riders to get on board. Zwift can even be used to scout for new riding talent, worldwide. There have been stories of pro tour riders, who were “discovered” on Zwift.
Being able to compete directly with my cycling heroes is great, right? It would be fantastic to race against the likes of Peter Sagan and Tom Dumoulin; even-though I know I do not stand a chance.
Home sports could be the type of eSports that will gain recognition, globally
The boundaries between the world of eSports and physical sports are fading a little. As eSports is working on setting its mark as an acknowledged sports, home sports might be on the verge of going a similar path. Solid communities are starting to emerge and I thoroughly believe that this is a great addition to our traditional way of sports.
At the end of the day, we want to find out how good someone’s physique measures up to that of someone else. Essentially, home sports can level the playing field for everyone and create a fair, comparable way of doing sports. One that is accessible to the masses.
With the addition of professional sports teams to Zwift, we are in for the next level of eSports as we know it; and I am really looking forward to it.
December 19th 2018 Breaking News Update
Zwift has raised another equity round at a “near” unicorn valuation, of more than 120 Million USD. So far, the company around Mr. Min, had raised approximately 166 Mio. USD.
“Our goal is to bring Zwift to the Olympics,”Mr. Min, CEO and Founder of Zwift (told Techcrunch)
He siad: “Zwift is a fantastically innovative company and they are certainly leading the way in the indoor training space,” says Tony Zappala, Partner of Highland Europe in a statement. “It’s a highly scalable business and we’ve been impressed with how they have already managed to expand globally – already 70 percent of current subscribers are from outside the USA.
Research points to an audience of 40 million competitive and enthusiast cyclists, and many of those lie in the traditional cycling nations of Central Europe, so in this market alone there is huge growth potential.”
Looking forward to seeing how Zwift will continue to invest in their technical architecture and grow the community in the future.