The Coronavirus crisis has certainly refocused minds at Zwift HQ. The sudden surge in users came at a time when the platform typically becomes a little quieter, which also tends to be the point in the year that Zwift release their larger updates. They had to focus not just on ensuring the platform was robust enough to cope with 40,000 concurrent users, but the typical use case was also shifting, with more users using Meetups as club riders moved their usual IRL sessions to Zwift.
We assume that with the Olympics postponement, the rumored Tokyo course release was put on hold. The UI update was also delayed as it was considered too big a change to introduce with so many new riders on board. Instead, Zwift has put all of their efforts into getting the Tour De France worlds created – a huge marketing opportunity with pro riders racing through July.
The result of this marketing drive on long-term Zwift subscriber numbers will not be known for some time, but it feels like once the TdF races are done, there is a big opportunity to focus on elevating the core platform to a higher standard. Undeniably, there are a number of feature requests that have been in the ether for some time, so in my opinion, this is the opportunity to tick these off and lay the foundations for the longer-term Zwift future.
Here’s my list of what I’d like to see Zwift work on next. This is basically a list of refinements rather than revolution. Most of this is not blue sky stuff – it’s getting the basics right.
Worlds / Roads
No new worlds needed for a while (with Tokyo also ready). Instead focus on:
- Expanding existing worlds – Watopia and France are especially open to development, but New York also has half-created roads. Put meat on the bones of these worlds to add density. This should be less developer-resource intensive than creating new worlds.
- Add in mountain bike and gravel tracks that interweave with existing tracks – for multiple additional route options that give reason to use the mountain and gravel bikes.
- Improve assets and fix graphical errors throughout existing worlds – continuous improvement. For example, there is currently a tree growing through part of the New York Highline track, and a boulder in the middle of the jungle. Sometimes riders sink 6 inches into the road. The worlds can become more immersive slowly over time.
- *A Velodrome would still be an awesome addition but is reliant on significant other changes listed below.
The new UI is incoming so there are a number of things that we can assume will be fixed – like not having to restart the game to switch routes. Ideally the UI should also include:
- A clearer gradient profile and position on route
- Distance left on route
- Route builder – design your own route. For example, could design a 90km time trial route through Watopia. These could even be shared in the community and the best ones incorporated into the core game.
- Customisable HUD – let us choose the elements that matter. For example, power or speed may not be necessary if using the Companion App.
Additional race formats could be enabled which are supported by the UI and require no 3rd party service. Examples include:
- Elimination races – cull the lowest X% each lap – show you if you are at risk coming up to the lap banner
- Points races – show points totals and highlight where the Primes are
- Chase races
- Team time trials managed in-game (on TT bikes, able to draft your teammates)
Other racing improvements:
- Category structure (auto-assigned) – work up through categories. Use the big data of power profiles to make races as fair as possible. Results at the end of a race should be valid without relying on 3rd party services
- Allow event organisers finer control – e.g. no zPower riders
- Post-event, all riders should enter a ‘clubhouse’ or coffee shop, where you can analyse the results and chat with the people you rode with, give Ride Ons, etc
- Accuracy – server winner should correlate with visual winner. This looks terrible in pro races when the winner is not the one that everybody saw cross the line first.
- Increase the draft to allow for realistic recovery
- Remove sticky draft
- Cornering – slow down through corners. This works well in RGT Cycling, which is currently some way ahead of Zwift for physics accuracy.
- Downhill – pack speeds are unrealistic and stop attacks over the top being effective. Limit pack speed downhill, and slow through corners. The bigger the pack the slower it should move through tight corners. 80km/h through a hairpin is a long way from realistic. A lone rider on a technical course typically descends faster than a pack
- Clubs – arrange meetups (which can include race formats). Use a generator for a club kit (clubs above 30 members?). Enter races as a team.
- Proximity audio – ability to talk to riders nearby to plan an attack, or limit audio to team members.
- Wider range of avatars and kit (bikes, helmets) – make it simple for brands to get their kit in game.
- Levels above 50
- More challenges and badges – it is clear that Zwifters love achievements, such as gathering all the route badges.
- Companion app – access to everything other than riding. Badges, Garage, Drop Shop, etc. Ability to configure the display like a bike computer, so you can remove metrics from the main screen.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and there is always value in adding features that people were not aware that they wanted (like Boost Mode or new powerups). However, if the majority of this list was achieved in the coming months I think Zwifters would be a lot more comfortable seeing some of the wilder and broader stuff being added!
What key features do you think are missing from this list? Is Zwift focusing on the right things? What are the top priority changes? Let me know in the comments below!