Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past eight years, or are just getting into sim racing beyond the mass-market titles such as Gran Turismo or Forza, you’ve probably had a nagging question on your mind that your fellow sim racers have all failed to answer: why is iRacing the only option on the market for structured online events? Sure, isiMotor titles may feature an objectively superior set of physics, and in terms of popularity there certainly seems to be a large group of dedicated users indulging in what Assetto Corsa has to offer, yet after eight years of monopolizing the online racing landscape, nobody else has has even bothered to try the iRacing approach of throwing out all single player elements, and focusing solely on building a highly competitive online career.
From an uninformed perspective, you’d have every right to believe that the rest of the developers in the genre were all genuine retards for not embarking upon this path. Here you have a single company exploding in popularity and reeling in enormous sales for capitalizing on something that’s become much more than a passing trend despite their underlying physics engine not being very good, and somehow everybody else in the genre is still stuck in 2007, continuing to re-release their own renditions of rFactor and Race 07 with slightly different variations of content included within the base package.
It’s a real head-scratcher of a situation. Rival developers are able to acquire licenses for Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini, and even Porsche based on sheer sales figures alone, yet the giant corporate entity dominating sim racing by focusing on nothing but competitive online events has not appeared to even be a blip on the radar for other teams in the genre, with nobody stopping to say “maybe this is something we should look into.” Truth be told, unless you have invested in iRacing, you have been purchasing the exact same racing simulators for an entire decade. In 2008, you most likely picked up GTR Evolution alongside Race 07 for a jack-of-all-trades simulator featuring many GT-spec cars, and a plethora of random tracks from across the globe. And in 2015, you without a doubt purchased Project CARS, again a jack-of-all-trades simulator inspired by the same physics engine powering Race 07, bundling a variety of tracks with several modern GT-spec entries and a whole bunch of other random vehicles – like the Radical SR8 that was also in Race 07.
Regardless of what title you purchase, online racing is more or less dead aside from private leagues. Offline racing is unsatisfactory due to an artificial intelligence that just doesn’t quite cope the complexity of modern physics engines. The sad reality is that if you’re sim racing on a budget, there is nothing to be lost if you’re forced to pick up Race 07 over Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, or Automobilista if the decision comes down to your personal finances. Meanwhile, iRacing has been on the market since 2008, and is reeling in more new users than ever before. In fact, one of iRacing’s least popular cars, the 1978 Lotus 79 Grand Prix entry once piloted by Mario Andretti, has seen more unique drivers over the past month than Automobilista has ever had simultaneous active players since graduating out of Steam’s Early Access platform. Even the average sim racers are now starting to clue in that this is kind of odd.
We have now been made aware of the exact reason complaints like the one you see above on Reddit have become commonplace. The reality is that developers have actively been trying to create a legitimate alternative to the iRacing experience because they know they could offer something better at a fraction of the cost; the people who have the knowledge and talent to do so, continue to reject the offers developers have made.
As many of you have probably discovered by now, a whole host of users have took it upon themselves to re-create the iRacing experience of structured, competitive online events within other modern racing simulators, indicating that building a system similar to the iRacing service isn’t the insurmountable task it is believed to be. Sim Racing System by Sim Racing Portugal have done a rather phenomenal job implementing this format into Assetto Corsa via the use of an in-game app that seamlessly integrates the program into the main menu of the game, while Tim MacArthur’s Race2Play has opted for a traditional web-browser format that will make iRacing members feel instantly at home. Once again, I stress that both services function extremely well, immediately rejecting the belief that creating an application similar to iRacing isn’t a task only made possible by the brightest team in the industry, but rather by anyone who puts their mind to it.
As a disclaimer, I have to state that we here at PretendRaceCars.net are sponsored by Race2Play (if you haven’t noticed already), and the amount we receive from them on a monthly basis more or less covers a Netflix subscription for both Dustin and Sev. The relationship came about after I experimented with the online racing hub earlier this year, discovering that the entire operation was in some aspects better than iRacing, though I would have liked for a the races themselves to have substantially bigger turnouts. Now with this relationship, obviously it means Mr. MacArthur and I have discussed a bit about Race2Play’s past when bullshitting back and forth over email, and with his blessing he has allowed me to share this piece of information with the community – which has been copied directly from Gmail and then cleaned up grammatically. This is the reason you do not see an alternative to iRacing on the market.
We have talked with all developers over the eleven years Race2Play has been in operation. All have wanted a part of Race2Play built into their products by default, but not necessarily talked about purchasing outright purchasing Race2Play. It was SimRaceway’s parent company, Ignite SG, that we talked with for four months regarding purchasing R2P in 2009. In the end, when we declined the offers, they went on and purchased rFactorCentral.
Back in 2005, we were in talks with Image Space Incorporated about licensing for our own sim. But the reality was that we are two guys operating on our own finances, and with no investors – just how we wanted it. We built everything from scratch, and we partnered with the National Auto Sport Association back then. We did really well for ourselves considering what sim-racing was before Race2Play – just avg-Joe leagues lucky to have 30 drivers with once-a-week race schedules. Everyone thought we would fail, but we only grew. By 2009, we were the only profitable company in sim racing, with even Image Space Incorporated being hit hard financially. SimRaceway had offered to buy us out at this time. We turned down the $740,000 offer and kept R2P as it was. Sim Raceway was doomed from day one. Their business model was massively unrealistic. Race2Play continued to grow, and by 2012 we had peaked. The era stretching from 2009 to 2012 were huge years for us.
Still, neither of us want to create a sim. We like the low-overhead business that Race2Play is today. We operate at an 85% profit margin and still have many paying members. We started this business model in sim-racing – or at least are the first ones to be successful at it – and now all the developers are getting their fingers into the pay-to-race business to one degree or another. Their problem – as you pointed out recently – is that they can only support their own sim. Race2Play can support all, and it is why we are still here ten years later.
There you have it. That is why there is no iRacing competitor. The online entity that is objectively the most prepared to assist a developer in creating a proper alternative to iRacing, simply don’t want to.
- Image Space Incorporated could have potentially taken a different course for the original rFactor; rather than the game being an open modding platform for sim racers who love frequent trips to Megaupload and fucking around with INI files, it could have been iRacing before iRacing even secured funding for their project. Had this timeline progressed, rFactor Online would have secured the road racing side of the community, whereas iRacing would be free to expand upon the discipline of oval racing and refine the beauty of NASCAR Racing 2003 Season for an online environment.
- SimRaceway could have been extremely successful had R2P taken the $740,000 from Ignite. It’s not like the isiMotor engine is fundamentally flawed, and everyone is in unanimous agreement that Stuart Cowie created some absolutely gorgeous tracks for SRW; a cohesive push to be an alternative to iRacing from the title’s inception, rather than this bizarre free-to-play rFactor where some cars cost almost a hundred dollars, would have been a major game changer.
- Developers aren’t completely retarded. They are fully aware that iRacing is only as big as they are due to the fact that nobody’s tried to make something better. Sim racing developers want to dethrone iRacing, but the guys who would help make that possible, won’t play ball.
Question officially answered. You now know why iRacing is the only racing simulator out there that offers built-in competitive and structured online play.