It’s a very fine line between using gamification to enhance engagement with FitTech and essentially creating a sports themed game; which is about winning the game not winning at health and fitness. So I read the latest announcement from Zwift with interest. What have they said?
For a while, my view is that Zwift have been teetering on the edge for too long. Certainly born from a brilliant proposition; make the turbo less dull. They did well at that. And to be fair they did a fairly good job of translating this to running (but not quite). The pandemic was a God send for them!
But increasingly cracks showed up with the platform being less about athletes using it to enhance training (where what matters is getting the training done) to more for the sofa surfers that showed up to “win the game” and were probably not even peddling half the time. After all cheating is easy, unless you understand you are only cheating yourself. That’s the fine line right? FitTech or Game…
So now Zwift has launched the first game controllers designed specifically for its virtual cycling platform, I think I am pretty clear they have lost their original audience of athletes.
Called Zwift Play, the controllers allow riders to take full control of their experience and remove the need for using touch-screen or external keyboards. Zwift Play controllers can be attached to a bike’s handlebars using silicone straps, making them quick to fit or remove. I know, I had to check the date too, but it would seem that this is for real.
You have to ask yourself; were the Zwift product team asleep the day Apple announced Apple Vision?
From a commercial stance you can understand this act of disloyalty to athletes. The Games industry is significantly larger than FitTech. But so is the competition, the scale and drive for bleeding edge innovation.
As a software business I don’t see Zwift as being that great. The roadmap is not exciting, product expansion poor, and their ability to iterate ideas? Well maybe a C for effort, but definitely an E for attainment. To be fair the platform experience is OK, after all it comes from a place where the user is on the verge of passing out from oxygen depletion. How picky are they going to be. But change the audience to a gaming community, who have a very different expectation of in game experience, and suddenly I think it looks rough as…
A quote from their press release I think removes any doubt that they now see themselves, for better or worse, as a Games Platform:
“The first of these new experiences is the renewed Repack Rush, which showcases some of the new functionality of the new game controllers, testing Zwifters on a twisting course where they need to dodge braking pads, snag boost pads and collect time bonuses to set a time.
“Repack Rush is a great personal challenge when you want to simply escape and have a little extra fun on the bike.”
Time will tell, but for now I can’t see anyone that is part of the Gaming industry being remotely interested let alone concerned about this. Probably good news for the many weaker players in the FitTech industry… As Zwift set themselves up for failure (and possible extinction?) this must be a golden opportunity for Rouvey and the like to try and grow their share of the pie?