E-Sports have become a major force in the gaming world, with many people gathering together to watch people play games such as Overwatch, League of Legends, or even Super Smash Bros! With the highly competitive nature of Sim Racing, it seems like our hobby is perfect for entering the E-Sports World! Well… that hasn’t exactly been the case from what we’ve seen so far. With more racing titles vying for a bite of that “E-Sports” Pie, the question is, why isn’t the Sim Racing E-Sport established yet?
Lack of Polish Hurt Early Attempts at E-Sports
The most notable attempts in Racing E-Sports didn’t exactly go as planned. While iRacing does tend to have a solid system going with multiple series, even ones outsourced to third party “Broadcasting Teams”, there are still notable issues, such as this year’s race at Daytona which went south, turning the Premier virtual oval racing championship’s opening round into a non-points-paying event.
In January this year, the Formula E Visa Vegas E-Race was slated to be the most prestigious virtual race ever, with the winner of the event winning $200,000, which is 20 times the amount that the winner of the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series Championship would win, after a whole year of racing. However, the race turned into chaos, with poorly made third party content making rFactor 2 look like “the worst title they could have picked for the event”. In addition, a glitch with the “Fanboost” system led to Olli Pahkala dominating the race, although in a class act he did inform the officials about the error, and was demoted to third place. This is the kind of scandal that hurts Sim Racing.
Assetto Corsa also had its own recent scandal as well, in terms of E-Sports. Eurogamer.it had advertised a championship using Assetto Corsa, featuring the Lotus 98T Formula One car. However, looking at the Eurogamer.it Youtube channel, you can only find the trailer for the series, as well as the final two rounds of the championship; Round 6 and Round 7. Not a great representation of a multi-race championship, especially considering they were planning highlight reels, and being able to watch the race after it aired. I watched the first race in the championship and, to be blunt, it was a mess. After that race, I felt no incentive to tune into future races in the championship, and I’m a guy that’s passionate about Sim Racing. How would the average racing fan feel about a championship where this was our first exposure to the series?
Lack of Promotion Doesn’t Help Either
One of the things that different E-Sports series does well is the promotional side. If you google “E-Sports” you’ll see all sorts of different sites showcasing a variety of E-Sports. Did you know that ESPN has a written articles about SUPER SMASH BROS?!
However, if you look up “Sim Racing E-Sports”, you’ll find iRacing’s homepage, a couple niche articles, and not much beyond that. The coverage for Sim Racing as an E-Sport isn’t there.
Let’s take the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series as an example again. iRacing and NASCAR have promoted the NPAS as an officially sanctioned NASCAR series, with the champion going up to the stage at Homestead Miami, to accept a $10,000 check, and a championship ring. However, if you go to the NASCAR.com website, you’re likely going to search around for any mention whatsoever of the online racing championship, save for a link on the bottom of the page. You’ll also not really find anything to do with it on the NASCAR Facebook page. You’ll be able to find out Ty Dillon’s future baby’s name though!
In an example of how to do it RIGHT, let’s take a look at the FIA WTCC championship. On the header of the official WTCC website, you see a tab for E-Sports, which showcases the RaceRoom Racing Experience championship, and tells you how to join in as well. In addition, the races are officially streamed on the FIA WTCC Facebook page as well!
Is There Hope for the Future?
I know that I’ve been coming off with a negative tone in the article, but to avoid “Going Full Pretend Race Cars”, I want to address the question, “Is there hope for E-Sports in Sim Racing?” And the simple answer I’d say is yes!
We are seeing these titles getting more and more polished, and being tailor-made into titles that can specialize for E-Sports. Forza Motorsport 7, Gran Turismo Sport, and Project CARS 2 will be newcomers into the E-Sports world, showcasing online competition in a professional environment.
rFactor 2 is looking to incorporate a more professional online racing service, including driver rankings. Assetto Corsa doesn’t have a first party professional racing system, but Sim Racing System has picked up the slack to provide an online racing environment for Kunos Simulazioni’s sim.
What will ultimately make or break Sim Racing as an E-Sport comes down to two things, Polish and Promotion. Are the titles polished enough to showcase a professional racing solution, and are they being promoted to a growing audience of race fans? Hopefully this next generation of racing titles will boost Sim Racing as an E-Sport, but time will tell..