Zwift is a California-based start-up company that builds virtual worlds for runners, rowers, and cyclists. The app allows you to do any of this at home, travel the world, and exercise there. The company’s platform connects to physical indoor trainers so that cyclists can pedal inside while immersed in any number of virtual landscapes on a screen in front of them. The app also allows friends to join in rides together. The E. Min in that above video is actually the co-creator, Eric Min, and I had a chance to chat with him at the Zwift KISS Super League (Round 7). Zwift is getting into the esports world by making an actual electronic sport. Yes, the Kiss Super League featured live, professional, cycling teams that competed exclusively on Zwift. Min said, they “have the potential to bring gamers into more of a fitness mindset.” To give you more of an idea of what Mr. Min is so proud of, I need to tell you about all of their impressive tech! Pretty Snazzy Technology The first thing you notice when you walk into a competition is all the nifty gadgets. There is a lot of tech that goes into Zwift, which for people that love state-of-the-art machines or cycling – this could be heaven. Here is just some of the stuff you need to get started to Zwift cycle. Obviously, number one, a bike. Then you would need a super-sturdy direct-drive trainer and a 10- or 11-speed gear ratio called a MicroShift Trainer Cassette. All of this makes your training bike into a stationary trainer. This can cost new ‘Zwifters’ up to a grand. Don’t forget you’ll need to connect to this virtual world via Bluetooth or ANT+. If you go to a gym to workout, you ride outside, or you’re a runner, then you don’t need any of this by the way. Just download the app and go. However, the program itself is a subscription that costs $14.99 a month but you can cancel any time. Zwift can be run on Windows, iOS, iPhone, iPad or AppleTV. It also runs on Google Play. The AppleTV option is the most cost-effective way of using Zwift in full HD on a big screen right in your own living room (or wherever your TV happens to be). If you want to run the program off your PC, the current minimum requirements in order to run Zwift are: OS: Windows 7 x64 bit, OSX 10.8Processor: Intel Core 2 DuoMemory: 4GBGraphics: 1GB dedicated GPU, or embedded Intel HD 4000/AMD R5Hard Drive: 4GB of free space All of this works seamlessly together and you can race or train with other people from all across the globe. It is actually pretty amazing when I was able to see it all in action. The app and technologies themselves are wonderfully simple and really do help you train. However, depending on your situation it can be rather expensive. A Zwift Engagement Let me start this off by saying that I am not a sports person. I never have been. However, esports definitely made me see the passion that sports fans have. The Zwift competition made me release the potential for something new in esports. I’m just not entirely sure who the audience is. A room full of people stood and watched 8 athletes ride a stationary bike while they heavily sweated on themselves staring at a screen. That action was presented on bigger screens so that we could watch what the riders saw. It seemed like we were watching people work out, while we were eating and drinking. It was like going to the zoo but with no zebras. It seemed that only about 30 people in that room knew what was happening. That is because they follow the world of cycling. I felt excited for/by them. I realized that this is not a traditional esport but rather an extension of what esports can be outside of the video game world. “THROW A TURTLE SHELL FOR GOD’S SAKE!” Now we come to our major issue. To what audience can you sell Zwift esports to? Perhaps to the Olympics? Maybe to the world of cyclists? Here’s the thing – Zwift has no hazards, there is no leaning into the bike as the road moves to the right or left, and, most importantly, there is no smashing into other players. The reason that cycling as a real sport is engaging in real-life, is that there are real-life consequences to their actions. No way this could happen in real life. So, watching something like Zwift Kiss Super League can be kind of humdrum to follow. The reason games become popular in esports is because many of them are easy to understand and there is a ton of action. If you never played something like CS:GO, you could watch and immediately figure out what is going on. I found myself craving action. This competition experience needs those ‘incredible moments’ otherwise, watching a Zwift race is just observing a bunch of people at the gym. This is what God must feel like! Gamers need excitement. Every great esport game has those moments of hanging at the edge of your seat. The popular esport games tend to capture the audience’s attention from beginning to end. The first time I felt the excitement and knew what was going on was at the very end. Two racers were neck and neck for the finish. Most of the room was yelling in excitement. The tingling in the back of your neck starts to rise. It’s exciting! I later found out that one of those people (THE WINNER, btw) wasn’t even in the room. He was playing from somewhere else in the world, which was both disappointing and fascinating at the same time. Who Is The Audience? Last year alone, 35,000 people signed up for the talent ID program on Zwift; that is, all over the globe. For comparison, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn seats 19,000 and houses a few different esports events now and they continually sellout. That’s more than half of Zwift’s yearly subscriptions. Traditional esports may run the gambit on a lot of this market right now but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for something new. Zwift is still very much a cyclist’s game. Which makes this – sports with electronic things. Seeing different races from different places is kind of neat. Knowing that some of these competitors aren’t even in the same room is pretty cool. However, there needs to be more to it than that. Labeling this as an esport is a hard sell to many fans and may miss the mark intended. IRL athletes, trainers, cyclists, runners, and fitness people would be a better target audience because they know what is happening on screen. Like people who watch Golf or NASCAR have games that are made and branded to them. Zwift needs to know their audience. If they want to mix fitness, gaming, and competition then they need to do it so that the parties involved, participating and watching, are excited to play it and/or watch it. There definitely is something different in Zwift that traditional esports doesn’t have. It might be a niche market but it’s there. For the record, we here at Gaming Access Weekly believe all esports players are athletes! Overall Maybe Zwift will make it as an esport. I’m not a fortune teller. It already has captured many exercise enthusiasts into a game-type world. Maybe it will start to bridge the major gap between sports fans and video games. I had a good time at the Zwift KISS Super League. I may have been confused but there was some energy to latch onto. However, the point that really made it for me was when I looked over at the co-creator, Eric Min, and he was watching intently and smiling at the big screen. That is kind of what it’s all about. The man was so happy with seeing something that he helped bring to life, at an event that people were enjoying themselves. He didn’t care who was or wasn’t watching. He was a proud developer in a blissful mood watching his creation. This moment alone brought everything into perspective. It made me cheer for him, his partner, his goal, the players, and the spirit of competition.