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Sim racing is experiencing a boom like no other. But how do we keep it alive once real racing has started again? In our column we have a look at the current developments of the scene.
Esports racing is currently experiencing a boom unlike anything in esports before. Within a few weeks it has suddenly made the leap from obscure and niche streams to prime time TV broadcasts, from the hidden little corners that we built our rigs in straight onto center stage in the living room.
The list of big names that have recently entered the scene and its races has become way too long to recount. It features everything from F1 drivers and retired racing legends, to cricketers, popstars and soccer players.
The big stage and all the notable personalities that are currently performing on it brings a lot of attention — and a lot of attention brings an influx of money from sponsors into the scene.
Finally, esports racing can catch up to the big players in esports. Finally, it gets the shine it deserves and the prize pools go up. Finally, it becomes more professional and accepted everywhere. The question is for how long.
As good as the real thing
The current sim racing boom is mainly enabled by one thing: virtual racing is the only esport that comes incredibly close to its real world counterpart. It’s unique in that way and it’s the reason that no other esports have experienced a boom that comes even close to what’s happening in sim racing.
Frankly, most of the other esports don’t have a real world counterpart that they could be replacing in the first place. Although I’d sure love to see a group of people with magical items and abilities hack away at little minions, towers and a giant dragon in a stadium.
But even the other esports that call themselves “simulations” have very little in common with what happens in reality. If they did, all the hours I spent playing FIFA would still provide me with hope that my childhood dream of becoming the next Maradona were still alive.
In short: Neither the traditional esports giants like League of Legends, nor more established mainstream sports simulations like FIFA can fill the hole that is left by the absence of the real thing. But esports racing can — and it’s doing a fantastic job!
This is why events like eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series and the Virtual Grands Prix in F1 get so much attention from mainstream audiences.
Not just a replacement
But therein also lies a bit of a pitfall, namely the danger of becoming nothing but a temporary replacement. If the scene wants to keep some of the positive developments, it must now desperately fight to maintain its own identity. That is staying true to its roots and be proud of what it is. It has to stay its own thing and stick to its own rules instead of becoming just the mere substitute.
Because if it doesn’t, all of the big names, the attention and the money will disappear the very second real racing returns. Some of it will disappear anyway — that’s inevitable. But if the scene plays it right, if it manages to enchant all the newcomers with the magic that has been captivating the hardcore fans for years, then some of the newcomers will stay. And they will stay for the sake of esports racing. They will stay because sim racing is and will always be right here — and not just because something else isn’t.
Photo credit: iRacing