For thousands of hardcore iRacing members, sim racers who schedule their free time around participating in specific online racing series, days like today have unfortunately become routine. Another massive iRacing update has once again crippled the servers in Massachusetts, temporarily preventing every single member from hitting the virtual race track. As some have spent upwards of $1000 to experience the full list of content available in iRacing, outages lasting several days irritate the userbase on a significantly more profound scale.
Premium subscription fees and absurdly high content costs lead dedicated members to become much more attached to iRacing than your standard $60 game, and many rightfully believe that with such an expensive pricing model, outages like this shouldn’t be a recurring scenario. The lack of any offline functionality for private testing sessions can also effectively render the entire game useless on certain days of the year; a tough pill to swallow for those with limited free time. For a “premium service” that charges $99 for a yearly subscription and $12 for each individual car and track, this really shouldn’t be happening after nearly eight years in the hands of the public.
Yet, this is precisely the case unfolding in front of us. Despite the iRacing servers routinely failing during large online events and software updates since the service went public in 2008, not once have iRacing actually rectified this massive issue. Over five years in a row, numerous prestigious full-length races have been hampered by server issues, and updates consistently brick the website upon their release.
While these kinds of technical hiccups are understandable in an online game’s infancy, iRacing are now over twenty five competitive seasons (four per year) into troubleshooting their own software’s recurring problems. Server woes in 2010 or 2011 were hard to get upset over, as the ambitions of the entire project were obviously causing difficulties, but the same exact stability issues persisting in 2015 raise many valid questions. A niche title for the sim racing elite in 2010 has now grown into the exact monolithic entity initially envisioned, but the official partnerships with NASCAR and the Blancpain Endurance Series have done little to push iRacing into rectifying the well-documented technical gremlins of their service. No longer an ambitious project by the company formerly known as Papyrus, they are now seen as seasoned veterans of the sim racing world; iRacing outlasting many other sim racing franchises who have come and gone. Unfortunately, like Danica Patrick’s real world NASCAR career, the raw experience of running and maintaining the service over a solid number of years has failed to nail the fundamentals.
Everyone knew the site would see a tremendous increase in traffic upon the release of the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Planet Earth has precisely ONE of these tracks, and rumors of the tracks’ inclusion in iRacing date back to the beginnings of the sim itself. You knew it was always a personal goal form them to revisit the roots of their company in Grand Prix Legends, it was just a matter of time before that goal became reality. Now that the fabled day is finally here, iRacing fanboys are instead cautiously monitoring twitter updates and awkwardly forcing memes on a variety of Facebook pages as they are unable to play what they’ve purchased.
While some will claim it’s not right for me to play armchair game developer and act like I know everything, those who can’t see the obvious string of bad decisions leading to events of today are simply iRacing fanboys who refuse to agree with PRC, even when we’re merely telling it like it is. Historically, iRacing’s servers have struggled with high volumes of users, and this is something that’s never been solved for good. The Nordschleife is the most prestigious race track in the world, and a whole shitload of current and inactive members are going to show up for the release and run a few laps. On top of that, you’re also releasing a modern Formula One car to replace the aging 2009 Williams F1 entry, and oh, what’s this? You’re re-doing the entire back-end of the website?
Guys, y’all have been at this for eight years. After a two-month long marketing campaign to promote the Nordschleife and McLaren’s pitiful 2015 F1 car, you can’t honestly tell me that it would be just another day at the office and everything wouldn’t spiral out of control over the course of a few hours.
The lone question I have over this server outage is not directed at iRacing themselves, but the community: How are you guys okay with this?
As a customer, you have every right to feel entitled to a premium end user experience when paying several times the cost of your average video game for one racing sim, plus another $12 for every car and track you wish to drive on. If they’re gonna have the balls to market it as the greatest racing sim ever made, it’s your right to hold them to their words. Kissing their asses in various forum posts crosses the line from sympathetic to Stockholm Syndrome fairly quickly. I respect how hard the team are currently working to get the game back up and running, but I don’t feel the need to feel sorry for them.
Especially when the precedent has already been set.
Some folks only paid around $45 for the 2013 iteration of Sim City, but were absolutely furious when the game required an online connection at all times, and the servers were basically non-existent for the first few weeks of the game. The backlash from the Sim City disaster was so strong, Electronic Arts eventually killed off Maxxis Games, a fairly respected developer, and shit-canned the franchise as a whole. Keep in mind, this was a city-building game intended for an audience that needed something to relax for an hour or two, not the world’s leading hardcore racing sim some have shelled out more than a reasonable amount to participate in.
Imagine if, like iRacing, there were some days where Halo 5 just didn’t work. Prime time on a Saturday night? Oops, servers went down, “we never expected this many people!” Sunday morning before the Super Bowl and you can’t sign in to the EA servers to finish a few games in your online Madden franchise mode? Nope, we’re out for a few days, come back on Tuesday! This shit wouldn’t fly, and heads would be rolling in a hurry.
But here we are, another update, another massive outage that cripples the service. Acceptable in 2009 or 2011, but iRacers are at the point where this is something that happens several times each year and the situation has never improved.
Start asking yourselves why.