American sim racers have had it pretty rough over the past few days. As the 2016 Presidential race heats up in the land of the free and home of the brave, both the Democratic and Republican parties are pulling out every last trick in the book to earn as much guaranteed support as possible before the real deal in November – and it’s gotten pretty out of hand to say the least. Mainstream news outlets have exploded with coverage of almost 20,000 leaked Emails indicating Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee worked together to ensure she would be their primary candidate regardless of Bernie Sanders’ rising popularity, essentially proving the system was a democracy in name only. For those that couldn’t care less about politics and are well aware that neither presidential candidate is all that equipped to run the country from an objective standpoint, the endless stream of news articles on the scandal are nothing short of nauseating. I mean, if you live in America and check Facebook on an hourly basis, this is all people have been talking about.
However, for those that enjoy the chaos WikiLeaks has unleashed upon the American people, you can’t help but revel in the spontaneous festivities of hilarious insider information being thrown at the public, so we’re going to do a bit of that today here at PRC.net. It’s not big news, nor will it be any sort of shocking revalation, but it’s something a lot of people have wanted: proof.
If you’ve been around the sim racing community for any length of time, you’ve most likely stumbled across Inside Sim Racing at one point or another. The popular sim racing news entity first burst onto the scene in the mid-2000’s fronted by the knowledgeable duo of Darin Gangi and Shaun Cole, and achieved well-deserved respect within the sim racing scene when production values saw a tangible increase, and the lovely Jessica Lopez was introduced as the show’s host. For a few short years, Inside Sim Racing was the absolute best place to go for news on the world of virtual auto racing thanks to how much passion Shaun and Darin had put into each and every video, though the outlet’s reputation began to diminish when sponsored iRacing content slowly ate into each upload via hard-coded commercials, and a rotating cast of co-hosts indicated many sim racing personalities struggled to get along with Darin.
Throughout the history of PRC.net, and even before I started this shitty little website, I’ve always been very outspoken on the fact that Inside Sim Racing had been operating as a third party marketing outlet for quite some time. While their reviews of odd-ball titles such as Forza Horizon and Ferrari Challenge were always informative and well-constructed, the ominous presence of tidy iRacing polo shirts and commercials inserted directly into the video led me to believe that there were a few ulterior motives behind the scenes. As a sim racer, this frustrated me. Two years ago, there wasn’t a PRC-like entity that I could visit for unbiased news; I had to rely on outlets like Inside Sim Racing, and rather than explore the world of sim racing, they were wasting time advertising promotional codes for iRacing. It was a bit too intrusive, and I started asking questions.
So we’ve reached a point today where someone was willing to help out PRC.net, and back us up on what were once “outlandish stories” that very few people even bothered to listen to in the first place. The sim racing community as a whole are quite unwilling to believe some guy showing up on any somewhat active message board who loudly proclaims that the staff of X or Y website a bunch of viral marketers in disguise, so it helps to have a bit of proof. The backstory for the following screenshot from Skype’s messenger application relates to Darin Gangi’s plans for Inside Sim Racing during the fall of 2014 – which from what I believe, eventually fell through. At the time, Gangi was attempting to partner and/or sell Inside Sim Racing to Playseat, a hardware company specializing in custom-built gaming chairs used primarily for virtual auto racing or aviation applications. The portion of the conversation we’ve chosen to publish outlines Darin’s plans for the company, including a mention of how Playseat almost bought Inside Sim Racing outright, before continuing to negotiate further. There are a few interesting tidbits that come out from this change, so I’ll do my best to analyze them.
The first thing I take away from this conversation, was Playseat’s dedication to purchasing Inside Sim Racing. They did not want to throw a few free products at the show here and there to get their name out to the general public, they wanted in on Inside Sim Racing. And this is a company that produces a completely optional line of gaming products – you do not need any sort of sim chair just for Assetto Corsa or Project CARS to launch, these fancy chairs are aimed at a fraction of a fraction of the overall sim racing community, because most average sim racers are perfectly content with their office chair for many years before embarking on building a proper cockpit. So for a niche company to be this serious about outright purchasing or partnering with a sim racing news website, it makes you wonder who else in the world of sim racing takes these endeavors seriously. What’s Slightly Mad Studios doing? What’s Kunos doing? If Playseat are willing to go this far – and they aren’t exactly a big deal to most sim racers – what other potential partnerships are being made behind the scenes?
The second thing I take away from this conversation, was how Darin says the potential partnership/purchase will highly benefit Inside Sim Racing on a personal level, as they will no longer have to “worry about where the next advertiser is coming from”, and only have to “focus on creating sim racing news.” Hold up, what the fuck is this shit? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I run a sim racing news website myself. I don’t need to worry about where the next advertiser is coming from, and if you’re sick of those stupid fucking Baby Motrin ads Google AdSense plasters on each page, asking me to take them down is one button, and doing so will not be detrimental to my bank account in the slightest. As long as I pay my $120 to WordPress every March, the site is mine to keep for the next 365 days and I’m free to post whatever I want on it. And this goes for other entities in the world of sim racing as well; EmptyBox doesn’t need any money from Reiza Studios to make videos of him playing around with the CART mod in Automobilista, and OnWheelsTV basically just opens up FRAPS and talks about some track he just downloaded for ten minutes. The fact that getting concerned about advertisement money is even being discussed in the first place indicates this supposedly objective sim racing review show is being run for all the wrong reasons. You simply don’t need a stream of advertisement money to write articles or make YouTube videos about hardcore driving games.
And the final thing I’ve observed from this capture, is Gangi’s mention of needing to drop “all rig reviews and sponsorship” if the deal with Playseat goes through – in particular, the mention of “sponsorship.” This indicates sponsorship is a pretty normal thing for Inside Sim Racing, thus calling the integrity of the website into question. Look, as a sim racer needing some information on a new title or piece of content – because God knows the mainstream sites like Kotaku can’t even complete a lap of the game without smashing into the wall – the last thing I want to see from guys dedicated to reviewing these hardcore simulators, is for them to be wearing the polo shirt of a competitor’s product. What do you honestly want me to think when I see two guys wearing iRacing shirts while talking about a Gran Turismo 6 patch? Do you genuinely believe I will be convinced that they’re giving this other title a fair and unbiased shakedown? You shouldn’t, because everyone knows damn well what’s going on here. Prominent companies in the sim racing scene are making behind-the-scenes deals to use these supposedly unbiased news outlets as extensions of their online marketing campaign.
Exactly how much capital is involved in these alleged secret deals, you ask?
Around $3,000 according to our anonymous informant.
This is what the world of sim racing has descended to. We already struggle with car counts on a near-universal level, because these games are extremely difficult for all but the most dedicated of auto racing fans. Many titles with large marketing campaigns and a rabid group of core users are left in varying states of disarray by developers who would rather insult their own fans than fix their game. And when loyal sim racers venture onto the various websites dedicated to the hoppy in the hopes that a knowledgeable group of writers and content creators can keep them properly informed on this ever-evolving scene, they are instead force-fed marketing babble by companies manipulating the news outlets, who throw copious amounts of money at YouTube personalities to say nice things about their products.
I have often said on PRC.net that some sim racers within the sim racing community simply aren’t here to race, and as you can see from the screenshots above, now it appears the reviewers aren’t even here to review.