The Golden Age of Sim Racing has claimed yet another victim – which obviously isn’t how that’s supposed to work. Marketed as a valid, free alternative to iRacing’s structured, scheduled, and ranked competitive online service for a host of modern racing simulators you can find on Steam, Tim MacArthur has announced his intentions to pull the plug on Race2Play for good at the conclusion of the 2016 calendar year. The announcement comes after an extended period of substantially decreased activity for the service, with car counts for traditionally well-attended event types dropping into the single digit range, and most scheduled races not seeing any users turn up at all.Though the brand is technically the longest-running online racing service in the history of sim racing – launching all the way back in 2006 when the original rFactor was still considered new and innovative – all good things must come to an end.
Formerly partnered with the National Auto Sport Association, and offered exclusive lucrative deals by many developers throughout their operational history, MacArthur and company continued to conduct business with the little guy in mind, allowing hobbyist sim racers to enjoy the service completely free of charge while offering additional goodies for those who helped foot the server bill.
Objectively, Race2Play as a service functioned quite well, in many areas improving upon the overall experience sim racers have grown accustomed to in iRacing. Though the overall format is essentially the same – using a website to register for online races at a scheduled start time, with the results being uploaded back to the website at the conclusion of the race – MacArthur’s Race2Play streamlined iRacing’s otherwise clunky interface, while adding various odds and ends here and there to make the service much more than a cheap knock-off of a product that’s currently dominating the sim racing landscape. Race2Play boasted many unique features not seen on iRacing, such as the ability for users to upload screenshots of events, scrapping the controversial safety rating system in favor of giving competitors the option of awarding either positive or negative reputation points, allowing sim racers to directly scout the performance of other drivers they’re scheduled to be competing against, and even generated post-race recaps using a basic algorithm to flesh out what would otherwise be a generic results screen.
Those who paid for the premium membership – again, much less than the cost of iRacing – were able to use the extensive library of supported games and even third party mods for said games to create their own online championships that anybody could enter, without having to worry about complicated tasks such as managing a server or calculating points; the service would handle everything automatically for you.
For sim racers who were looking to participate in a competitive online racing series, but unaware of where to start or what message board communities to sign up for in search of a private league, they could basically head over to Race2Play and have everything taken care of.
Unfortunately, despite an almost infinite list of positives, and no real drawbacks to the service, activity on Race2Play has declined to the point where owner Tim MacArthur has decided to cut the cord and end support of the website. As the banner on the side indicates, we recently became sponsored by Race2Play, but as of this writing Tim MacArthur has not responded to our inquiries regarding the specific reasoning of his decision. If we receive additional information, we will certainly post an update.
Until then, we can only speculate.
The sim racing community is at an interesting point in its evolution, cracking at the center and splitting into two distinct groups. The first mass of individuals have opted to jump aboard the iRacing bandwagon and refuse to look anywhere else for their online racing needs, allowing post-purchase rationalization to fully take over and restrict them from exploring what other options exist for online racing as a way to justify the enormous amount of capital they’ve spent just to rent content on a monthly basis from the team in Bedford, Massachusetts. Across the imaginary border, the majority of users who have adopted newer simulators such as Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, and Automobilista are simply not talented or brave enough to dive head-first into competitive online events, a theory partially supported by the abundance of Nordschleife track day servers that shift the focus to casual driving as opposed to high-intensity online competition.
Neither group want to cross over to the other side; iRacers do not want all the money they’ve spent on iRacing to potentially go to waste after trying a rival piece of software that offers more for less, and Assetto Corsa owners are too caught up in the relaxed atmosphere of living out their inner Chris Harris fantasies by test driving street cars at the Nurburgring to dabble in hardcore wheel-to-wheel competition. Stuck in the middle is Race2Play, which offers a fantastic service for basically anyone with a valid email account to register for and begin competing on, but as evidenced by the recent activity numbers, there just aren’t enough people using it to make it a viable business venture for MacArthur.
I would love to reveal that a deal has been made behind the scenes and the underlying software has been sold to a company intending to go toe-to-toe with iRacing, but unfortunately for our readers, there is no big story to break on this front. Race2Play is simply shutting down due to a substantial decrease in activity. The upcoming Baja 500 endurance race will serve as the service’s last marquee event.