An image of a car racing in Rennsport alongside an image of an esports driver in a sim rig participating in the ESL R1 competition.

How Sim Racing can Boost Esports Viewership

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of sim racers aren’t following high level esports competitions. So how can they be tempted to watch the streams?


Motorsport started out as a rich playboy hobby, but has evolved into a commercially motivated profession. Sponsors on cars, manufacturers advertising their products, and the age old philosophy of win on Sunday, sell on Monday.

Millions of people would watch motor racing and be in awe of the cars, wishing they could drive them. So, when sim racing came along, it became the closest any average motorsport fan would get to driving those cars for real.

Fans of motorsport would watch real racing and participate in sim racing. But what would make them want to watch sim racing esports? The average iRacing driver most likely won’t watch the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup, and the casual F1 23 and Gran Turismo 7 player probably won’t tune in to F1 Esports and the GT World Series.

Like real life motorsport, esports is a marketing tool. But, whilst most other esports don’t have a real life equivalent, sim racing is a direct by-product of the real life racing and subsequently struggles to attract that same level of viewership.

Why would a sim racer watch people racing on a video game when they could be watching the real thing and doing the sim racing themselves? So with that in mind, what can the developers and organisers do to get the players to tune in to sim racing esports?

What has been Done?

In the lead up to the Gran Turismo World Finals last November, a time-limited event opened up on GT7 tying in to the World Finals. When a player logged in, there were two new tabs open in the top right of the world map. They were called ‘Predict The Winners’ and ‘Viewers Campaign’.

In Predict The Winners, players could make predictions as to who would win the Toyota Gazoo Racing GT Cup, the Manufacturers Cup and Nations Cup competitions. For every correct prediction they made, they received 1,000,000 credits in-game. Viewers Campaign was different and required the players to know what happened on the broadcast.

Four tabs on Gran Turismo with prizes that can be earned by answering a question.
These were the prizes any GT7 player could have won by following the World Finals. Image credit: Polyphony Digital

For each of all four days, a question opened up and there would be a multi-choice answer. If the answer was correct, there were a range of different in-game prizes, including the last one being the new Ferrari VGT car.

Whilst many players never bothered to tune in to the broadcast, there was most certainly increased coverage of the event. Plenty of sources that only ever covered the in-game content were suddenly referencing the esports competition, making more people aware of its existence.

Polyphony are obviously pouring a lot of their resources into the GT World Series and have sponsors who pay money to get airtime. So they do their utmost to get people to tune in. In the past, they have revealed a lot of upcoming cars and even had tracks feature before being released publicly.

So maybe all the other platforms can learn a thing or two from that.

Providing Incentive

Of course, Rennsport is already taking this approach to the extreme. Having a full year of competition before the sim is even released to the public, that’s one way to get people hyped. But when it does finally become accessible, what could be done to ensure people keep tuning in to ESL R1?

Currently, it isn’t 100% known what Rennsport‘s monetisation model will be. Will it will be like iRacing where you have to buy a subscription as well as individually the majority of cars and tracks? ACC with a healthy amount of base game content immediately after purchase with car and track packs? Maybe even RaceRoom which is free, but for which each bit of content has to be bought.

In any case, maybe Competition Company and ESL could take a leaf out of Polyphony’s book.

With a new car being teased and set for reveal at the Rennsport Summit, could that be the start? They also intend to reveal the release date of the Closed Beta. That has already got many people interested in tuning in for the Major, so maybe they can do something with the new car.

There are plans for onsite community tournaments at the Summit, and we can only assume they’ll be using this mystery new car. But perhaps after the reveal, to incentivise more people to download the Rennsport app and follow the R1 Major, a question could open up on the app pertaining to R1.

It could be something along the lines of, “Who was the first driver to enter into Finalist Mode on Day 2?”. By answering it correctly, the players are able to access the car when the game releases. Whether that’s free of charge, or for a limited time before every other player.

Showing Off Content

We mentioned how Gran Turismo showcased a few tracks in their live broadcasts before they were added to the game. For example, Spa-Francorchamps was added to Gran Turismo Sport on 31 October 2019, but was seen for the first time in the game for that year’s New York World Tour event on 25 August.

Want to guarantee people talking about esports competitions? Tie in an upcoming content reveal, or players can receive an item in-game for tuning in.

On the F1 games, many people want to see the return of past tracks like Hockenheim and Sepang, as well as the four additional circuits used in 2020 that never made it onto the games. What better way to generate hype by having an F1 Esports race on the track the week before it gets added into the game publicly?

The same can be said for cars. With the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup, the All-Stars races run beforehand are the perfect place to show an upcoming release. If iRacing wanted to advertise a new Porsche car coming to the sim like for example; the 992 GT3 R or the 963 LMDh, what better place than with a bunch of sim racing content creators that have large audiences?

Then perhaps to keep them there, maybe copy the tactics of Rocket League.

Viewer Rewards

If players link up their Twitch account to their Epic Games account, they are able to earn items just from watching the Rocket League Championship Series. Admittedly, the Twitch Drops in Rocket League typically take between two and four hours, and there’s no guarantee that the item will be the one you want.

On sim racing titles, players could receive something trivial like a new lamp in the F1 Life hub, or something useful like iRacing credits. Whilst most people may have the stream on in the background and not be paying it any attention, some may be tempted to watch. Especially with the promise of a special in-game item by answering a question pertaining to the racing.

Another element in Rocket League is item trading, something not currently in any major racing title. But with Rennsport intending to push through with the idea of ‘Digital ownership’, surely trading will be part of that game. So, by having Fan Rewards for watching the R1 stream, they could have liveries both from R1 and also in real-life racing be added into player’s inventories and be able to trade them.

With elite sim racing esports competitions happening all the time, the developers and organisers must recognise this one inescapable fact. For all the people playing these games, only a tiny minority are going to stop racing to watch others instead.

But with enough incentive, showing off new content and providing players with the chance to earn in-game rewards, many will tune in. Even if it’s just to get their rewards and go. But, perhaps a few will be tempted to stick around and watch the racing.

What would be enough of an incentive to watch elite sim racing esports? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

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