The rise of electronic racing
Over the past 20 or so years, we’ve seen video gaming evolve from a weekend pastime surrounded by pop cans and pizza boxes to a professional pursuit where millions and millions of dollars change hands. hands through prize pools, sponsorship deals, and player salaries. This rise has been one over time, with games falling out of favor and out of favor year on year, with few sticking around for long. Today we find the world of competitive sim racing holding that seat of popularity in the zeitgeist.
In fact, there is probably no genre of video game or competitive video game that has seen such a rapid and prolific increase in popularity in recent times as that of competitive video game racing (also known as e-racing or iRacing). ). There are a few reasons and things that contributed to this almost instant rise in popularity, both in and out of video games themselves. Several land-based channels are even getting in on the action, and bookmakers and betting sites are following closely behind, allowing punters to bet as they would on real races (and what you always can – more info here).
but how did it happen?
There was a new interest in Formula 1
A few years ago, Netflix teamed up with the biggest and most popular racing league in the world – Formula 1 – to produce a documentary about a season of the sport. The show is called Drive to Survive, and in 2022 Netflix produced and aired the fourth season of this hugely popular show. It loosely follows Formula 1 teams and drivers around the world and documents their season for the world to see. While it takes some slapping for not being completely truthful about the rivalries and story arcs it comes perilously close to making, it has become a smash hit, especially in the United States, where the Formula 1 has traditionally not achieved the same level of popularity as NASCAR and Indy Car. Drive to Survive changed that and gave Formula 1 a renewed and much bigger focus on America.
Filming and releasing the show was something of a marketing masterclass from Formula 1, which is unsurprising given that the league is owned by huge Liberty Media Group, which bought a stake majority in the Formula One group at the start of 2017.
This seemingly unrelated story is a crucial milestone in our story of the rise in popularity of e-racing.
Along came the lockdown
The timing of Drive to Survive and the renewed popularity of Formula 1 in the US and beyond couldn’t have been better for e-racing when the world went into lockdown at the start of 2020. Just hours before until the lights of the Melbourne Grand Prix were intended to mark the start of the race, Formula 1 canceled it and some of the following races due to difficulties in international travel, leaving a hole in the racing calendar and in the hearts of Formula 1 fans around the world.
However, all hope was not lost, as this lost entertainment could be replaced for some. The existence of the official F1 video game was there to offer broadcasters an alternative to reality. Real Formula 1 drivers started playing and competing in virtual competitions and viewers eagerly watched this unique spectacle.
Young racing fans watched with anticipation, the seed now firmly planted – they could race and compete on these simulators just like real Formula 1 drivers. For some very lucky fans, they could even race against these racing drivers.
The development of racing simulators
While everything in our history so far has played a monumental role in the popularity of e-racing, truth be told, the e-racing landscape was already on an upward trajectory thanks to the release of several ultra-realistic and incredibly popular racing simulators like Assetto Corsa. Competition (ACC). Augmented with more arcade-like games like GRID and Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport that were accessible to those who didn’t want to learn the intricacies of corner apexes and braking zones, these games and their realism made gamers yearn for a more realistic. controller setup.
Soon, coupled with the popularity of real racing, the low bar for e-racing entry, and the incredibly realistic games and racing rig setups available to anyone who wanted them and could afford them, the electronic racing has exploded in popularity. So, we find ourselves in 2021 and early 2022 with a genre of competitive gaming that still hasn’t reached the pinnacle of popularity it’s likely to eventually reach.
Next time you see the stream or online video showcasing the best of e-racing, spend a moment appreciating how perfectly the pieces of a puzzle can fall into place to make something happen and catapult the popularity in the mainstream – with a little help from some deep-pocketed backers and huge brands, of course.