Where is Everybody?

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It feels like every other week I’m publishing an article on this topic, but for whatever reason, the situation just keeps going downhill, leaving me to keep reporting on it.

We’ve only got a few days left in November. It’s cold. The roads suck. If you’re in Canada, a certain portion of the United States, or pretty much anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet, this is the time of year people tend to stay the fuck inside and bask in the glow of their computer monitors. With the spring, summer, and fall seasons firmly behind us, we’re now at the point in our calendar year where it’s almost socially acceptable to spend the night playing video games because, well, there isn’t much else to do.

Coupled with Black Friday, this weekend should have seen a huge increase in activity among sim racing forums. Basically, the deals this year were so good across the sim racing landscape, if there was a game somebody was interested in, they went ahead and bought it yesterday.

So where the hell is everybody?

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Previously when I’ve covered the lackluster online numbers for Sim Racing, many sim racers have pointed out that I’m looking for activity in all the wrong places. I’m the kind of guy who likes to just pop onto the server browser and jump in a room. There isn’t a car I’m not at least somewhat familiar with, so there isn’t much of a need to take the time out of my day and practice for a scheduled event. To me, jumping into an online lobby in a game like R3E or Stock Car Extreme feels no different than lobby hopping in a console game like DiRT 3.

According to our readers, this isn’t how most people play racing sims. The big grids and noteworthy activity instead take place on a set schedule. Sites like RaceDepartment and Race2Play offer themed events on a set start time, allowing people to practice up for a lengthy session with a group of like-minded folks.

Today on RaceDepartment, I signed up for an hour-long VLN event in Assetto Corsa, mixing the game’s default GT3 entries with the BMW 235i found in the first Dream Pack premium DLC package on the Endurance layout of the Nurburgring Nordschleife. The whole process in regards to joining and participating in the event was painless. Nobody even cared that I as a Canadian signed up for a European time slot race, because in some instances the differing pings don’t get along all that well.

You simply can’t make the argument that it’s too difficult to sign up for an event via these types of websites.

RD Race.jpg

But despite how amazing the battle for the lead was, with myself and eventual GT3 class winner Stephen Sekhon separated by just over a second after eight laps at the the Nurburgring, the field size left a lot to be desired. By the end of the race, each participant was running in their own zip code, and there were only a total of fifteen entries taking the green flag among two classes. This is absolutely shocking to me, as the laser-scanned Nurburgring is the centerpiece of Assetto Corsa’s rather unexciting track roster, and the popularity of the Blancpain Endurance Series should have in theory flooded this event with entrants. Instead, we struggled to fill a single 24 car grid with Assetto Corsa’s most popular combination on a cold, dark Saturday in November.

And this was the most popular event on RaceDepartment this weekend – the same event in the North American time slot saw a pathetic four cars on the sign-up sheet. A Friday night V8 Supercars event at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park failed to attract a single entry, even though people willingly gave Reiza $100,000 to bring the Holden (and other cars) into Stock Car Extreme, and another $2,000 for a full V8 Supercars mod. Yet someone actually puts an event together with this car on a cold winter night where there isn’t anything else to do, and it’s like the entire community disappeared.

RD

But that’s just one website, so let’s head to Race2Play, which is essentially RaceDepartment with stat tracking. Upon signing my ass up, just to have the option to write my Team Name as PretendRaceCars.net, the site wanted to charge me something like $170 a year for “Premium Access,” because features such as basic profile editing were restricted to PRO and PRO PLUS members. I ain’t been on the site more than five minutes, and already it wants my credit card number. If this isn’t a sign that more developers should begin implementing iRacing-like organization & stat tracking features inside the base game itself, I don’t know what is.

R2P2I stick with the free membership because I’m a smart consumer and head to the event list, as I did a bit of research and realized that even with a basic membership I wasn’t restricted from entering events I was interested in. Now, were there an abundance of events to enter? Of course. The problem is that the field sizes were so small, there was no guarantee you’d actually find yourself in a worthwhile race. As you can see in the RaceDepartment VLN results above, basically everybody ran in their own zip code aside from the two GT3 leaders. The same situation threatened to play out on R2P.

Race2Play

In the Circuit of the America’s multi-class race at the top of the screenshot, the 18 entrants are spread among four classes: P2, GT1, GT2, and GTC. What sounds like a somewhat big grid on the outset turns into a mighty pointless race if you sign up as a GTC or P2 driver, as you’ll have less than five people to compete against for position. Not much of a race.

classes.jpgObviously, the other pictured events don’t fare well either. The Mount Panorama event is actually part of a league, meaning access is restricted to the general public for the trademark event on the real life V8 Supercars schedule. On the other side of the globe, the trademark touring car event – hatchbacks at Brands Hatch, has a lowly 13 entries. rFactor 2’s brand new 2015 Sprint Cup Stock Cars, an addition some had waited over a year for, will most likely roll off pit lane Tuesday night with less than ten entrants at Joesville – not even half the size of a real life Saturday Night Late Model grid.

I actually signed up for the Slovakia Ring event in R3E, as 16 like-minded GT3 drivers in a 40 minute race isn’t too terrible given the 24 car server limit.

rF2

We then move from the disappointing competitive online numbers on RaceDepartment and Race2Play to check out rFactor 2’s Steam data to see if ISI’s attempt at reaching a larger customer base has paid off. Several PC racing sims have moved to Valve’s popular distribution platform in an effort to boost both sales and overall activity, and rFactor 2 is the third title this year to do so after both iRacing as well as Stock Car Extreme made the jump.

What you see above isn’t good. rFactor 2 is dead on arrival; the activity this week approximately half of what was seen on launch day.

So if nobody is racing in public servers, very few drivers are using the two tools available to them to sign up for organized races, and the newest racing sim addition to Steam is well, dead, where the hell is everybody? There are 11,178 people subscribed to the Sim Racing subreddit, and God knows how many people signed up on RaceDepartment, Race2Play, and the Assetto Corsa forums… But trying to play these games with other people or monitor the hard data of people with the executable running on their PC’s… There’s like… Nothing…

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41 thoughts on “Where is Everybody?

      1. How will posting on the iRacing forums (assume that’s what you meant) with a PRC link increase participation in “anything but the most baby shit in the game or NASCAR”?

        Or am I missing something?

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    1. iRacing is only reasonably populated for a handful of cars. If you want to race anything but the most baby shit in the game or NASCAR you’re fucked.

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  1. Man, when I started back in 2009 at RD club races where extra full with 10 reserves too, same for race2play.Also RD had a stat system then…… Really don’t know where people went and it’s sad :(. I know some of my friends took the plunge into iracing still… Remember race07 day’s with full public server’s…

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  2. I put some of this down to simply the fact that there is so much more choice now in how people sim race that it’s effectively divided up the sim racing community even more. Think back 10 years, how many sim racing titles were there on the market? I recall rFactor, GTL, GTR and GTR2. Now we still have those titles, plus; Assetto Corsa, R3E, iRacing, Stock Car Extreme, rFactor 2, Project CARS, RACE07. So we have gone from 4 serious sim titles, to around 11. The sim racing community is only small and those numbers have been increasingly divided up by the increasing number of titles.

    Whilst I am grateful for more racing sim choice, the downside is that you are having to be pigeon holed into an ever decreasing pool of drivers.

    I dare say there are other reasons for the degradation in player numbers, other big games released, hasn’t Fallout 4 just come out etc?

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    1. Yes, there are many more games from other genres which take big portions of online activity. And racing is on the low end. At least for PC gaming, I don’t know any data from consoles.

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    1. Recently I’ve been seeing much less deliberate crashers and just a whole lot of people that are lacking talent. Rooms are still packed with 24 each, and once you get past the inevitable Lap 1 madness some good racing is to be had.

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  3. Damn, I’d loved to race in that mixed class event at the ring but I can’t keep track of all the different sites.

    I site which would list the most interesting upcoming events for every week would be pure gold.

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  4. Now maybe you are starting to truly understand what being a niche genre actually means. And I’m just gonna leave this here:
    [IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/1zmefd4.jpg[/IMG]

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  5. RD used to have full grids in the Assetto Corsa club races when I joined in Sep 2014. Then around mid 2015, they decided to go premium only for the club races and the numbers participating fell a lot.

    A couple of months ago they had an AC race open to non-premium members and they had to run two servers because so many people wanted to enter.

    I think they should go back to the old system of races open to all members but priority given to premiums if the race is over subscribed. I would still pay premium as would many other people.

    As it is now, it’s disappointing to see the low numbers and puts me off on renewing my premium membership.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, going premium only was a bad idea.
      They still get nice grids from time to time like a recent Opala race (the number of drivers was surprising to me).

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    2. The uppity attitude of their mods doesn’t help much either. Look through the AI threads for Assetto Corsa and see how many mods pipe in with the whole “I don’t race against AI, I only pay my money per month to run premium races at RD” or “I wish they’d do away with Single player racing completely and work on MP and make everyone sign up for RD Premium” comments.

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  6. As knowledge of rF2 multiplayer now becoming “””free””” spreads, I suspect that we’ll see a fair few more people online in it. Won’t be counted in the steam data though.

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      1. They are trying to increase sim racing popularity by telling us to stop playing these games. No wonder people stop playing or racing online, after PRC dubbed mostly every sim as unplayable, broken, or shady business.

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  7. I’ve been out of the loop myself for a few weeks with uni starting back up again and other busy shit. I’ve run a 7 entrants GSC race on Racedepartment this Wednesday and completed an RD Dirt Rally event just now (13 entrants as of now). They should really let non-premium people race since the premium guys like myself will also profit. Maybe restrict it to once a week or whatever. Pretty pls. If grids stay that low, I will have no reason to renew my subscription next year.

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  8. James, you quote Race Department organized races, but you should also say that those are reserved to club members!

    I’ve just discovered it the hard way yesterday, you NEED to be a premium member and pay an annual/monthly fee to enter those races.

    Fortunately the same doesn’t apply to race2play. Know any other sites for “sim-matchmaking”?

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  9. I played awhile on Race2play… it’s was the less bad option I could find…
    I don’t think the problem was so much the lack of traffic, at least back then… I’ll say around 1 or 2 years ago…

    The real problem was certainly the fact that on so many occasion you could have 38 entries…on a limited 24 slot race… ONLY to end up with around 15 players races at best… sometimes as low as 7…

    The system implemented is not good, considering the simracing field… I get that you give privilege to premium membership… but when the privileges end up hurting the races themselves. That ridiculous… Especially when there are easy fix to that… (a confirm button 10 minutes or so before races…)

    I would be pretty piss off If i’ll pay 150 a year and couldn’t even have full race grid, not because of lack of traffic, but because people on the waiting list can’t enter the race in the end…

    Obvious problem, obvivous fix… I’ll let you guess what the response was from the owner of Race2play (can’t seem to see the bigger pictures…that’s a shame)… I ended up quiting… obviously…

    Liked by 1 person

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