Forgive me if this post is all over the place, but there’s a few topics I want to address here and I’ll try to cover everything I can under one roof.
To kick things off, Darin Gangi of InsideSimRacing uploaded what’s basically a review of the SimXperience Accuforce Pro Direct Drive Wheel. We have openly voiced our dislike for InsideSimRacing on numerous occasions, but we have to give credit where credit is due – this review kicks all sorts of ass from a viewer standpoint. It was just the right length, covered every single detail about the wheel, and answered every single question that could have possibly popped up when it comes to a relatively new and expensive technology in consumer Sim Racing wheels.
Watch it first if you haven’t already:
I don’t like Darin’s choice of games he used to test the wheel, but I think it’s obvious from reading other entries in this blog that we don’t particularly care for iRacing or Project CARS. What did catch my eye though, was the wheel’s insane price:
Sim Racers are no strangers to spending money; iRacing’s content and subscription packages can see users shell out upwards of $800 to own all tracks and cars within the popular online racing sim, on top of a yearly $99 subscription fee (but we do have to mention it goes on sale regularly). rFactor 2 has a $40 online subscription, R3E’s content is separated into different packs and “Experiences”, and on the console side we see games like Forza Motorsport 5 allowing you to spend real-world money to cheat a bit and buy cars for your virtual garage if you can’t afford to unlock them the honest way.
So a nearly $2000 toy steering wheel is seen as a bargain by the people who can afford it – they are already used to spending money on everything else and are either too old or out of the loop to realize that’s fucking insane and video games normally don’t cost that much. Nobody seems to acknowledge that at the end of the day, it’s still a toy steering wheel, and you’re still playing pretend race cars. In fact, you’ll even start to see some guys, and Chris has been telling me about this in the Hardware section of iRacing’s forums, that early adopters of these wheels are claiming they’re receiving a performance advantage and “you aren’t a true simmer if you haven’t seen the light of this technology.”
Yet, no cars on iRacing aside from the IndyCar – which lacks power steering, and Dario Franchitti wrote a nice piece breaking down the whole thing here – even warrant a steering wheel with that much torque. In fact, there’s a very real chance people might hurt themselves on these things if they’re not careful.
And you’ll also see in several different forums – the main argument I’m going to make with this post – is that Sim Racers justify these strange pricing models for both hardware and software as cheaper than real racing.
For $650, or a third of the price of an Accuforce Direct Drive wheel, you can put your ass in a Stock Car and get a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition license. Not one of those Richard Petty Driving Experience deals, not one of those SuperCar Ride-A-Long’s you’ll see at your local road course the handful of rich dudes put on with their Ferrari 360 Modena’s – the real deal.
And this gets better.
We don’t have a big auto racing scene in Western Canada, as most people would rather obsess over our perennially shitty hockey team and we lost our IndyCar event because nobody went to the races and people got mad when they found out we used our taxpayer dollars to fund it. Regardless, our lone NASCAR sanctioned track in Alberta has a date on the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series schedule and there indeed are a group of dedicated drivers who race under the lights every Saturday night once the snow melts.
For $750, you can join them in a car appropriate for a rookie driver, and that’s if you don’t have a couple buddies willing to split the cost of the car and take turns driving so you have a crew, basically bringing your grand total of the whole venture to $1400, $50 cheaper than the Do-It-Yourself Accuforce kit – you know, the “cheap” option:
I ain’t here to tell y’all how to spend your money, but you gotta understand, the more hype I see generated for these expensive Direct Drive wheels, the more I shake my head. If you’ve got the $1700 for a top of the line sim wheel, be sure to explore every other option first. It may be fun to rip around the Nurburgring in a Lotus 49 with the pinnacle of force feedback technology firmly attached to your desk, but for a couple hundred dollars less, you’ll have an infinitely cooler story to tell and an excuse to leave the house on Saturdays.