Is Zwift a Metaverse?

Is Zwift a Metaverse?

For the uninitiated “Zwift is an online cycling game and training platform that enables users to ride, train and compete in a virtual world.” (Courtesy of Bike Radar) 
And although the debate rages about what a Metaverse is let’s use Wikipedia’s definition “The metaverse is a loosely defined term referring to three-dimensional virtual worlds in which users represented by avatars interact.” And a checklist shared by Microsoft: 1. Persistent - does it exist for other users when you're offline. 2. Collaborative - you can directly interact with others. 3. Immersive - It's a virtual space. 
What is very clever is that Zwift have bought together several different experiences to build a platform that delivers for different users on different levels. They’ve borrowed a lot of concepts and experiences from gaming such as worlds, customisation, commerce, and gamification. 
Some of the user experience is a bit clunky. Most of the graphics are quite basic, some of the interfaces aren’t that user friendly and the user journey can be hard to navigate. However, despite these issues the overall platform experience is amazing. 
The company is now valued at $1 billion having taken on $620 million in investment (Front Office Sports Feb 2023) and states that it has clocked roughly 4 million Zwift accounts in total (MIT Technology Review Jan 2022).

Here’s a run-down of some of the key features: 

You can create your own avatar. 

It’s relatively simple functionality however you can style your avatar and dress them up in your preferred kit. Due to the limited options, you’ll likely see your virtual doppelgänger riding alongside you at some point. Just like on the road you can choose to express your individuality however you like with some interesting kit combinations. Avatar ✅


You can collect virtual bikes and wheels and fill your own garage. 

You can fill your own private bike garage with your dream collection of bikes (once you’ve earned them of course). Most of the big bike brands are there with virtual versions of their actual real-life bikes. The bikes and wheels also have performance stars providing an added depth of engagement. Needless to say, your virtual collection is highly likely to be better than your actual bike collection before long. Virtual ✅



When you ride you earn a virtual currency called ‘Drip Points’. 

‘Drip Points’ are used to buy your bikes and wheels for your private virtual garage. You earn these the farther you go, the higher you climb, and the more calories you burn. Additionally, these points can also be gifted by other riders through a thumbs up (‘Ride On’) when riding replicating the sense of community you often feel when riding in real life, usually a subtle wave of the hand or nod of the head). Currency ✅



The more you ride the more you ‘level up’ 
Levelling up unlocks different kit for your avatar and makes new models of bikes and wheels available to purchase with your ‘drip points’. The level up provides a big motivation and can create a sense of friendly rivalry between riders. Put it this way if you’re riding a Pinarello Dogma F then you’ve certainly earned it and some kudos. Gamification ✅


You can ride 100’s of routes in a number of Virtual worlds.  
Watopia is a virtual cycling world consisting of two main islands, loosely based on the islands of Te Anu and Naunonga in the Solomon Islands. It contains numerous routes with differing distances and elevations. There are also other virtual worlds based on famous real life cycling locations and routes. You can ride the Champs-Elysees in Paris, take a spin around Central Park New York or ride the London Classique. This keeps interest high and provides an added motivation to ride and complete all the different routes. Virtual worlds ✅


The platform has numerous training programmes to choose from. 
Their are literally hundreds of programmes to choose from. Do a 6 week ‘Beginner FTP Builder’ or a one off 30 minute hit such as ‘Emily’s Short Mix’ that focuses on getting maximum results from minimal time. You can even take on a programme from the pro’s such as Wout van Aert and Annemiek Van Vleuten. Genuinely an endless supply of pain that you can put yourself through. Immersion ✅


You can participate in live ride events 

From the Tour de Zwift series to one-off rides with current and x-pros. Live rides provide a sense of exclusivity, keep motivation high and create a deep sense of community. Participation often unlocks exclusive kit that can be added to your collection and enables you to show off a bit. Collaborative ✅



It’s a huge cycling community. 
You can lean is as much or as little as you like. Some of the examples I’ve used previously illustrate this however you can also follow other riders, join people on their rides and even chat whilst riding, as well as participate in group and club rides. Community ✅


On top of all these features the actual hardware and software performance is excellent if you set it up correctly and accurately. You can measure Watts, Speed and Heart Rate as well see elevation, calories burned (in pizza slices) and monitor your progress. 

So, Zwift is an excellent example of a closed niche metaverse and despite some of the user experience draw backs has created an overall experience that keeps users engaged and committed to the platform. 
It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves over the coming months and years. Building on existing functionality with new worlds, routes and programmes is a no brainer. However how they might look to better replicate a more realistic riding experience through graphics, hardware and spatial technology will be interesting to observe. 

Share this article

Stephen Firth

Growth Director

Stephen, has spent over 25 years at group and indie agencies, including founding and leading his own agency, Gravity Thinking, for over a decade. After its acquisition in 2019, Stephen integrated the agency into the leading global brand consulting firm Vivaldi Group based in NYC. Now at 7DOTS, Stephen helps brands drive greater value from their marketing and communications, from awareness through to loyalty.