I’ve written a few pieces on Sim Racing System in the past, but unfortunately my initial predictions regarding the long-term popularity of the third party application intended to save Assetto Corsa’s online scene have proven to be quite accurate. After the initial excitement, which lasted only around a week or so, grid sizes have more or less dwindled to that of irrelevancy. Once again, sim racers are perfectly happy with praising a game, modification, application, or miscellaneous third party contraption across the various sim racing message boards, but when it comes time to actually play the damn thing, it’s suddenly a ghost town.
Designed by Sim Racing Portugal as a way to give a sense of purpose to online racing across a wide variety of racing simulators – but specifically capitalizing on Assetto Corsa fans eager to race in a competitive environment – the built-in compatibility with the popular title by Kunos Simulazioni was a simple but extremely well executed knock-off of the iRacing online service, one which has dominated the sim racing community and completely changed how people play racing simulators. When I gave the software a proper shakedown this spring, I was happy to report that everything worked as intended, and my only grievances with the overall experience boiled down to issues with Assetto Corsa itself – not the Sim Racing System software. Very rarely do I give two thumbs up to anything in the world of sim racing, yet the team at SRS managed to impress me with what they had created, and I truly enjoyed the “shakedown” races I participated in – even running across notable YouTube personalities in my travels such as GamerMuscleVideos. Everything worked, as advertised, right out of the box. This is a rarity within this genre.
But going back to my initial piece on Sim Racing System, I noted that there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish the software from something like Race2Play, another online racing service intended to do exactly the same thing – create structured, organized online events within simulators which do not currently feature an iRacing-like ranking system. My biggest worry was that two near-identical services offering the exact same experience for the exact same simulators would unintentionally saturate an already small online racing community. Race2Play was struggling to see more than ten individuals sign up for most events, so why would this suddenly change overnight with the release of what’s essentially the same kind of software – albeit with a much more streamlined interface physically built into the game of choice itself?
Well, that ended up being the exact problem Sim Racing System is currently facing. Our boy Maple was actually asking about this software a few days ago because of his newfound love for Assetto Corsa’s Japanese Pack, and while discussing Sim Racing System, I would periodically check the website near the top of every hour to see the size of each field he could look forward to compete against.
Now as you can see in the picture at the top of the page, obviously this software has simply not retained its popularity past the initial two-week grace period. While one Mazda MX-5 Cup session in the European evening slot managed to reel in 18 individuals, those living in the Western Hemisphere got to race with only two drivers. Jumping into much faster cars, sixteen individuals signed up for an European slot GT3 event, yet only three turned up for an evening race. The reality is that Sim Racing System indeed works as it should and offers scheduled events at numerous periods throughout the day, but the size of the user base is too small for the software to really take off. It’s basically like, there’s one race each day that people show up to, and, well… that’s it. Add in a couple external factors, such as the fact that Western Hemisphere residents obviously can’t skip work just to play in pickup Assetto Corsa races, or not every driver possessing acceptable levels of talent to turn these races into intense battles, and you’re looking at an impressive piece of technology that is already on its last legs. That’s not good.
The solution to this problem isn’t exactly a simple one. There is no possible way to spam every last sim racing forum, begging people to sign up for Sim Racing System and get in on the action, because sim racers just won’t do it. We have guys in our own comments section outright admitting they purchase racing simulators just to drive laps by themselves in practice mode, so getting guys who are on the fence about all of this to register on a random website and download a piece of software they’re not completely sure about isn’t going to happen.
What needs to be done, is Kunos Simulazioni themselves need to take a chance on these guys – as they’ve done when outsourcing DLC cars to talented community modders – and implement the Sim Racing System software into the default game so everybody has it, and everybody can try it. Get rid of the admittedly shitty third party applet name, call the tab Assetto World instead so you can make this huge PR announcement and compare it to Forza Leagues, stick with four main series to start things off – MX-5 Cup, M235i Cup, Formula Abarth, and GT3 – and away you go. Because as it stands, the guys at Sim Racing System have built something that is objectively quite good, and can really breathe new life into Assetto Corsa as the title matures, but none of this will matter if the average sim racer goes through the process of installing SRS, only to jump into a session after work and discover there’s three other cars on the grid.