Zwift’s a massive multiplayer online cycling game where riders from around the world translate their real-time exertion data on their bikes into a 3D social gaming environment. It’s been out in beta for about the last year and they’re finally launching a new paid subscription service now that they’ve got a year of testing and a strong community to support the service.
The game is primarily controlled via smart trainers like Wahoo’s KICKR or KICKR SNAP, although traditional trainers with speed sensors will work as well, albeit less immersively. Data is transmitted from the trainer or speed sensor to the game via ANT+ technology. Once the game is downloaded and the ANT+ dongle is inserted into your console, you’re pretty much off to the races.
Zwift users can ride around a fictional island named Watopia, designed by Zwift and complete with every element you’d expect in the real world, including the rumble of wood planks as you cross fully rendered bridges. The other option is a complete model of the 2015 UCI World Championship course in Richmond, Virginia. This course is precisely the same as the one the pros raced earlier this year, right down to the cobbles on Libby Hill. You’ll ride in either course depending on the day you log in.
On the course, there’s a climbing segment and sprint segment as well as an overall leaderboard. You can watch yourself rise through the ranks, resting between these efforts, or go all out and try to snag a great overall time. Along the way, you can acquire aerodynamic advantages by drafting other riders or unlocking time trial bikes and other achievements as you accrue mileage in the game.
The latest, however, is that they’ve released a new workout mode and are getting a ton of pickup on it from users. This basically takes the game from a global social race and adds a highly effective training tool on top of it. Other users will be able to see when you are doing a workout by color coded hologram screen out front, so they’ll know when you’re giving it a hard effort. These workouts are stocked inside the game itself and adapt to a whole host of fitness goals, relying primarily on Functional Threshold Power improvements as the main metric of success as you continue to use the game and amp up your wattage output on the bike. Look for user-generated/created workouts in the future, but a specific release date hasn’t been pinpointed for that yet.
On top of all that, hosted events on Zwift are on the rise, with users scheduling massive online group rides via social media and Zwift themselves holding regular group events. Thousands of people are signing up and, at any given moment, hundreds of people from all over the world are riding in the game environment.
All new accounts get a free 50 kilometer trial and, if you’re a Strava Premium member, there’s a two-month free subscription on top of that. After that however, it’ll cost users worldwide $10/month or, in the UK, £8/month.”