Blurring the Viral Marketing Line

Have you ever gone sleepless wondering how someone could possibly like Coke more than Pepsi?

Yeah, neither have I.

However, if you play video games, there’s a pretty good chance that you have ran across someone who has their favorite game embossed into their thought process to the point where the mere mention of a competitor will push them over the edge.

Call of Duty vs. Battlefield debates reign supreme among pre-pubescent Mountain Dew chuggers on YouTube and Facebook. Flaws are brushed aside, and the one or two specific things that make your favorite game better than the other are repeated over and over again in as many places you can. This makes sense when the only things in life of any importance to you are wondering if Stacy thinks your kill-streak montage you posted on Facebook is cool (she doesn’t, and she’s sleeping with your friend), or if your parents can hear you calling everyone you kill online a different racial slur.

Sim Racing, like many other genres, is no stranger to fanboys. Since the Grand Prix Legends days, people have been preaching their religious beliefs about how the more difficult a car is to drive in a video game, the more realistic it is. The general consensus is that concrete tires sliding across a road made of ice is a valid representation of how a race car handles.

When Project CARS opened their door for investors, we were led to believe that we would be directly influencing game design – primarily the physics aspect. We could create a sim based off of the way we know race cars work, not just being difficult for the sake of being difficult. I bought in and tried out several builds – it became more and more obvious to me that this game had a long way to go and that maybe one day it would be worth coming back to.

At a certain point, as James points out – 80,000 voices all pulling the game in a different direction, would eventually lead to chaos. Listening to the community provide input was no longer a viable option. This is where the change from assisting to marketing occurred. The most popular threads inside the WMD forums are centered around tracking down articles and comments posted on other websites, as well as a thread dedicated to heavily edited screenshots. These threads have counts far surpassing anything else in the WMD forums, and no threads exist like that for the physics aspect of the game, save for the detailed driver feedback where Ben Collins admits driving in the wet in pCars is completely wrong. Those comments were quickly swept under the rug.

Soon, forum talking points became focused on how to properly display screenshots and YouTube videos rather than how the tire model behaves in certain situations. A buddy of mine posted a YouTube video showing how the game looked and behaved giving bit of an opinion in the description. He was quickly bombarded by comments asking him to please remove the video or edit it becuase “it was not showing the game in a positive light.”

I guess screenshot threads are more important than proper bug testing?

A sim website I used to frequent for reputable information about every sim became the hub for Project Cars news. Major announcements from iRacing, Assetto Corsa and others would take a back seat to a heavily edited “reality check” video. News of delays and other major sim racing articles were followed by another screenshot or build update jumping to the top of the website.Even further, we’ve seen at least three independent driving game sites work hand in hand with the WMD community to display Project CARS in a positive light. Instead of objectively reviewing the game as your average person would play it, like we’ve managed to do for DiRT Rally, R3E, Project CARS, Game Stock Car Extreme, these formerly reputable sites suddenly became interested in what’s basically advertising the game.

I am sure this had nothing to do with them being big money backers of Project CARS, right?

What we have experienced from SMS and the WMD crowdfunding model is something that should be included in a collegiate marketing textbook. They have managed to not only harness the power of rabid fanboys, but added on the promise of return on investment (it’s still up in the air considering pre-order or sales numbers have not even been released to the backers) to create a viral marketing campaign the likes of which people have not seen, especially in a sub-genre like sim racing. You were given the privilege of paying to market for SMS.


There is an army the likes of which we have never seen waiting to pounce on anybody who dares question the game, or point out a flaw. iRacing and their user base has never even come close to this, and they for the most part have always adhered to letting the haters be haters however they please on Facebook and other forums.

Devs like iRacing, Kunos and Sector3 which actually put out exceptional products- where would they be if they some how harnessed this power?

What worries me is this; the bad precedent this is setting. I admire the passion and commitment to a developer that the SMS community has, and the togetherness they share. However,  I am worried that this blind and money-driven passion is allowing a hardcore genre to be weakened. We are accepting half finished features and arguably the most arcade physics in the genre to dominate the news on major gaming websites.

I  could go on and on about paid for reviews. We know enough about it, but Project CARS is an example of the benefits a big name distributor will get you when you send out review copies. PC Gamer’s review claims Project CARS is the “most polished racer I have ever played”, while in the same article the review points out that Project Cars is almost unplayable with a controller.

We cannot have a discussion about the game without hundreds of people piling on and trying to silence you. Opinions that don’t toe the line are dangerous.