Study Dives into Motivations of People Using Mixed-Reality Sports

New technologies allow users to do things like racing their real bikes against other real people in a virtual world, and a new study outlines what motivates people to use these mix-reality sports platforms. The findings offer insights for future iterations of these technologies – and how to market them.

At issue are “mixed-reality sports”: augmented reality platforms that incorporate virtual, online elements and real-world athletic endeavors. For example, Zwift is a platform that allows users to ride their real bicycles but transfers their efforts to a virtual space depicting real-world courses – allowing them to race against other cyclists who are not physically present.

mixed-reality sportsFor this study, the researchers conducted a survey of 284 Zwift users in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The survey collected data on each study participant’s background, their motivations for using Zwift, any concerns they had about the platform, and the extent to which they felt they would continue using Zwift in the future.

“We know that mixed-reality sports are attracting a lot of users. We want to know what benefits people see in these technologies. What about risks? And how do those risks and benefits affect their actual use? This matters because once we understand why people are using, or not using, these technologies, we can figure out how to make the technologies appealing for users – and also how to market them more effectively,” Bill Rand, co-author and associate professor of marketing at NC State, said.

The researchers were then able to review each study participant’s use of Zwift for 30 days after taking the survey. The study design allowed the researchers to identify any relationships between a study participant’s motivations, perceived risks, their expectations for using Zwift, and their actual use of Zwift.

One of the things researchers found surprising was that users were simply not motivated by competing against other users within the game environment itself.

“The Zwift platform is designed specifically to enable competition, either informally amongst friends, or formal races involving many competitors,” Rand says. “However, we found that even the people who take part in the formal races are not strongly motivated by these in-game contests.”

Instead, researchers found that four other drivers were associated with Zwift use: health consciousness; using Zwift to train for real-world competitions; socializing with others; and the ability to customize and upgrade their gaming experience by modifying their jerseys, “earning” access to new bike styles, and so on.

To read the full breakdown of the study, click here