Though discussions of this story have remained primarily within private communities and message boards the average sim racer can’t access without an active iRacing subscription, the biggest online racing simulator currently in business has caused a bit of a stir as of late. Introduced only a few short days ago as an “oh yeah, before we forget” update, iRacing members not residing in the United States of America are now forced to pay a VAT tax on any pieces of content or subscription packages they purchase for iRacing. For almost an entire decade, iRacing have been able to cover the cost of these overseas taxes themselves – to the point where very few international iRacers were actually aware of what VAT taxes were to begin with – but the line in the sand has now been drawn, and it’s making several European members extremely uncomfortable. iRacing is already priced in a manner that requires acquiring each new piece of content to be a meticulously calculated purchase, and the surprise implementation of hefty taxes on virtual cars and tracks is creating a scenario where those otherwise satisfied with the service are starting to question its direction.
What was once deemed to be a quality service priced at a premium, is now slightly out of reach for several hobbyists, and it’s changing how they feel about the game itself.
To explain why several are choked about this, most iRacers purchase pieces of content on the service in bundles of three or six, as the simulation offers a discount on bundles as opposed to single cars or tracks. For residents living outside of America, these already pricey packages – thanks to currency conversion – have now been slapped with roughly an additional $20 USD in taxes, promptly sending the cost of running just four weeks in any official series skyrocketing. Essentially, iRacing members subjected to VAT rules are now paying the cost of two additional cars or tracks in taxes, along with the cost of their original order of content – which can vary depending on world currency. After conversion, a single month of iRacing for those living in the United Kingdom is now 20 GBP or $32 CDN – downright unreasonable for anyone who has browsed the Steam marketplace out of boredom in search of other racing simulators. As one user on Reddit writes, iRacing became around 25% more expensive for the rest of the planet overnight, and it was already expensive to begin with. It’s not good.
But it’s the way iRacing have handled the backlash which caused iRacing member Daniel Fletcher to send in a Reader Submission about this today. Now that the service is slowly becoming difficult to afford for the average sim racer thanks to these sudden changes in the purchasing process, those who once defended iRacing as an elite club of hardcore hobbyists are a bit disappointed to see the service isn’t progressing in a manner that justifies the enormous cost.
Hi PRC, I have something for you guys that you may or may not find intriguing. As you’re probably aware of by now, iRacing recently started to charge a tax on top of the base subscription and content costs for international sim racers. This made me take a real hard look about what was going on behind the scenes and the direction iRacing is taking, because obviously if you’re asking a bit more for the product, the quality of the product should justify the increased costs. Currently, the focus is on pushing out content, while the tire model is still a work in progress project, and there are some pieces of content which receive announcements yet have still failed to materialize after many years.
I first made a post in the VAT thread, stating my displeasure with the emphasis on content rather than quality, and it seemed I was not alone. So rather than the post getting buried in a debate about the VAT, I started a new thread in the general off-topic discussion section. Within 30 or 40 minutes, the thread vanished.
I then made another thread asking why my original thread was locked, as I could see no justifiable reason for it. As you can imagine, it was met with the usual crap of silly memes and people claiming I was ripping iRacing to pieces, which was totally false. After a comment from Steve Moore stating iRacing doesn’t like the truth, that thread was locked as well. Receiving private messages asking what my original thread contained and requests to start another one, I went ahead, this time keeping screenshots as proof. I couldn’t remember exactly how I worded the first, but the new thread was basically a mirror of the first one. Again, the usual forum idiots had their say, and it too was met with a lock. Five minutes later, iRacing unlocked it.
After getting accused of trolling for the crime of answering too quickly, staff member Shannon Whitmore arrived to say I was just arguing with people, and that the thread was locked. My post history is clear for all to see. I don’t insult people. I hardly ever use the forums for that matter. But instead of starting again, I just voiced my opinions in other threads, on topic of course, which were threads about issues anyway.
This morning, it appears I’ve been banned from the iRacing member forums. I can’t see where I’ve broken rules, I just raised issues that many people have within the service. Maybe I’m just being butthurt, which is what people are telling me… but silencing the critics seems to be a real issue on the forums. Maybe this is just pointless… I’m not sure, but I thought I’d send it in regardless.
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I’m sure a large pack of iRacers will quickly make you out to be delusional or mentally ill for using PRC as a platform to voice your concerns – or even contacting us to begin with – but I have to make it very clear that you’re not wrong. The service (God I hate calling it that, it’s a fucking online racing game) isn’t where it should be after eight years in operation, and the staff indeed hand out suspensions and bans like Halloween candy. It’s important to note that most of iRacing’s forum administrators were merely handed the job thanks to their role in the NASCAR Racing 2003 Season ecosystem many moons ago, so the emotional hemophilia and rash decisions you see leading to speedy bans are the result of semi-retired guys with little patience being paid to monitor the forums all day, but it’s not an excuse for how they operate. Just an explanation. When they have to deal with Lance Gomez Jr. shitting up the forums with Reddit-tier memes, I can understand from their point of view why they keep the majority of members on a short leash.
But I’ve dug through what you’ve sent me, and I honestly can’t see any problems with what you or others have written in the threads that were locked and eventually deleted. iRacing is getting old, they’re prioritizing content releases over improving physical elements of the simulator, and in your case, the prices have now been jacked up exponentially overnight. You have every right to question what you’re receiving for your money, especially since promotional material paints the service out to be this be-all, end-all solution for online racing when it clearly has some flaws that need to be ironed out. As I said about a week ago, it’s like iRacing intentionally went and created a country club-like atmosphere where members are encouraged to join with the mindset that it’s somehow not a video game, but instead avirtual online career – as if this somehow prevents it from being criticized like a video game. You’re not wrong, they need to get their shit together when it comes to certain elements.
I also definitely get a kick out of the big spenders trying to brag about how much cheaper it is to sign up for iRacing, than to go racing in real life. Sim dads who can barely work a computer aside from navigating to the iRacing member page have no right to try and say the ludicrous four-figure cost is somehow reasonable compared to something like Project CARS, just because a set of tires for their weekend warrior is $600; especially when most of iRacing’s competitors retail for $50 and provide roughly the same on-track experience in terms of driving model competence. As a member of the younger generation of sim racers – people who have been steadily hitting up Best Buy or Steam for new video games – we know that $750+ USD is simply not reasonable for a piece of software unless you’re offering a phenomenal service, which iRacing doesn’t.
So as I said, you’re not wrong to question what you’re getting for the money you’re putting down. Don’t let the sim dads shout tire costs at you. At the end of the day, it’s pretend racing on a computer monitor, and we should compare it to other video games that allow us to drive race cars on the computer monitor.
Now, in terms of censorship, I’m going to open a mammoth can of worms here. iRacing indeed censors people, or at least makes the lives of sim racers who criticize the service difficult. In late 2016, I published a relatively awkward piece on PRC.net telling our readers about a private phone conversation I was able to have with iRacing’s Tony Gardner, and implied a line of communication had been opened between us here at PRC, and the boys over at iRacing.com. Basically, I dropped hints indicating a few iRacing staff members had been monitoring our neck of the woods given the specific sim racing personalities that had come out in support of us, and they were taking the concerns brought up in our interviews with real world late model drivers quite seriously. Some of you were pretty happy to hear this information.
I would like to take a moment to apologize to our readers for posting a dishonest article – that’s not what we discussed. During the brief ten minute phone conversation, it was heavily implied I had indeed been removed from the service outright, and then ignored for eighteen months by iRacing’s customer support staff members, solely for publishing what they believed to be “unfair articles” about the simulator. It’s very important to note Tony personally apologized for this behavior on the part of iRacing as a company and did everything he could to rectify the situation in a manner that was satisfactory – so don’t pile on him and call him an asshole or anything – but it left me very unhappy that in a simulator boasting over 60,000 user, staff members will absolutely point to a single individual in the userbase and say “fuck that guy.” So I’m not surprised that for “lesser offenses”, guys are receiving the ban hammer just for talking about the direction of the software after a price hike.
It really draws the credibility of every YouTube personality and sim racing journalist who covers iRacing into question; do they genuinely enjoy iRacing, or is there a metaphorical gun placed against their head, with personalities knowing full well the consequences of negative social media postings about iRacing? Sure, in my specific situation, I was able to get things resolved in just under two years, but it was an arduous two years full of iTard fanboys screeching that I’m mentally ill and supposedly harboring an irrational vendetta against the service. That’s the cost of speaking your mind about iRacing, so I’m not exactly surprised that other users are now starting to report censorship issues as well for doing the same, just on a smaller level
What I’m more concerned about, however, is who turns into the next Austin Ogonoski. Does Joe Nathan start his own website in 2019 after a successful string of YouTube videos, and become public enemy number one and wake up one morning to find out he’s locked out of his account, and support emails go unanswered? Does Daniel Fletcher randomly receive a two month ban for a petty infraction, only to be piled on by the community and unable to post on the message board when he returns?
Only time will tell, because as you’ve seen above, some users are already approaching that horizon.