Can Good Simulators Kill Sim Racing?

mclaren-6_aeenhnpOne of the most intriguing aspects of the sim racing landscape compared to other areas of the video game industry, is how small, little-known indie developers can directly compete with major releases churned out by established studios – and occasionally come out on top in the long run. As we saw with Assetto Corsa’s rise to PC simulator prominence for about two and a half years – starting in the spring of 2014 and lasting until the summer of 2016 – even though Turn 10 and Slightly Mad Studios had pushed out comparatively huge racing games onto the market that dwindled what Kunos Simulazioni had created, Assetto Corsa’s active userbase only continued to grow. Steamcharts displays a pretty striking graph for us when we actually try to verify this statement with raw data, showcasing a massive surge in the popularity of Project CARS on its day of release, only for Assetto Corsa to slowly rise up the charts and overtake it in the spring of 2016.

comparisonBut can the opposite also be true? Is it possible for one simulator to be so astronomically ahead of its contemporaries, that the rest of the hardcore simulation developers simply can’t keep up and offer an equally compelling product? I believe so, and this is what might end up killing sim racing as a genre when all is said and done. Not the toxic community or the eternal science projects developers hold their users hostage with, but a game so good, it’s pointless for the others to even try. Those that do, will never achieve enough sales to keep the company afloat, and one by one, developers will simply fall off the map until there’s basically nobody left.

iracingsim64dx11-2016-10-16-19-59-16-57_1_origLet’s begin by taking a look at iRacing. As I’ve touched on in a previous article, back in 2008 when the service first entered the public market, iRacing was a totally different beast compared to every other simulator you could go out and purchase after work. While most pieces of software were just stand-alone games with a very generic, almost dated online component, iRacing offered this elaborate, mammoth online career with races going off every hour, and a genuine sense of progression to the whole experience that other games simply didn’t have. As a result, almost everyone who was interested in half-decent online races flocked to iRacing, while the once-popular rFactor leagues were now full of drivers who were simply too lazy (or poor) to upgrade their PC’s. At the same time, oval racing fans who had been patiently awaiting the next generation of licensed NASCAR console games, promptly abandoned ship from the woeful Eutechnyx offerings after only a release or two, and signed up for iRacing.

Even though other games had objectively better physics models and drove like proper race cars, it wasn’t uncommon to come across people on the iRacing forums, or on the in-game chat feature, who simply refused to install anything but iRacing on their PC’s because “I can’t race people.” Numerically speaking, there are a surprisingly large amount of sim racers for each game to have its core audience on paper, but iRacing did so many things so well, that if other games didn’t offer even a quarter of the iRacing-style online experience, people refused to even test the waters.

This is part of the reason why rFactor 2 stumbled out of the gate and had such a paltry following in the immediate years afterwards; people didn’t want an open modding platform with slightly better graphics when they were fairly content with a piece of software that had this massive online racing world to explore, and most of the cars & tracks they would have spent months building in their free time already available to purchase.

dirt-4-evo-6-carNext, I’d like to talk about what Codemasters are doing with DiRT 4. After years spent appealing to teenagers obsessed with energy drinks and the X-Games crowd that couldn’t care less about rally racing to begin with, Codemasters are set to bring back rally in a big way this June, with the release of DiRT 4 across all current generation gaming platforms. Unless you’re like that one guy on 4Chan who deems Mobil 1 Rally Championship (1999) to be the ultimate rally simulator despite its dreadful physics, there’s an enormous list of reasons to get excited about DiRT 4. From the mammoth roster of cars, in-depth single player career mode, and the randomly generated stages which promise a game you simply won’t be able to memorize in an afternoon, DiRT 4 basically ticks every last box fans of the genre have been asking for. Seeing it in action will obviously be a different story, but for the time being, this game looks really fucking good.

However, on the flip side of this spectrum, teams such as the folks behind gRally, the officially licensed WRC games, or even Milestone if they plan to launch another rally title, have absolutely no point in trying to make a competing rally game. gRally may offer open ended modding support, but no reasonable informed customer, let alone veteran sim racer, is willingly going to choose one add-on stage that took three months to build over a game where you press a single button and the built-in software presents a high-fidelity, seven minute stretch of road based on your exact perimeters.

As a result, these developers simply cant recover the cost of development with sales figures, because there’s one killer app on the market.

project-cars-2-directing-suiteLastly, let’s explore what happens if Project CARS 2 or Gran Turismo Sport end up being genuinely good pieces of software that are enjoyed by a vast array of people. Slightly Mad Studios are planning to inject all of this eSport compatibility into their upcoming title along with a dynamic track element, full seasonal weather effects, and a mass-market roster of cars with no major brands missing in the lineup. Gran Turismo Sport for the PS4 will introduce a dedicated userbase in the millions to the eSport kingdom, with a drastically altered progression system which moves away from the single-player grind-fest the series is known for, in favor of a rigid online structure akin to what iRacing offers. Essentially, the name Gran Turismo alone guarantees a huge crowd of people using the new online competition features of the title to its fullest extent, and potentially asking even more from it.

So how are teams like Sector 3, Studio 397, or Reiza Studios offer even a fraction of that experience on shoe-string budgets and minimal staff members? Currently, there’s a bit of talk that the three “indie” studios mentioned will implement some sort of structured online racing element to their titles in the coming months and/or years – and alright, that’s great, but if these mass-market games like Project CARS 2 or Gran Turismo Sport end up partially warranting the hype surrounding them, you’ve now got three developers rolling out online features they’ve spent a lot of money on implementing that are used by exactly nobody because someone else is doing it infinitely better, and an audience of nobody doesn’t keep the company afloat. And with how small these companies are by nature, they can’t go out and offer “something different than mass-market game X or Y”, because we’re currently in a period where the Sector 3 team still haven’t implemented tire pressures into RaceRoom Racing Experience, and Automobilista is still clearly powered by a modified version of a physics engine lots of us were first exposed to in 2006, if not sooner.

formula-v12-spaWe’re entering a very interesting time in the history of sim racing. While there are a lot of bold promises on the table from the likes of Polyphony, Codemasters, and Slightly Mad Studios, if these teams manage to accomplish what they’ve set out to achieve, the little guys – Studio 397, Reiza Studios, Sector 3 – they’re simply not going to survive. Right now it’s at least sort of worth giving money to everybody and trying out every game on the market, because there’s no one title that gets everything correct and is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. However, with Codemasters acquiring almost the entire team from Evolution Studios and experiencing a resurgence of sorts, followed by Slightly Mad Studios seemingly getting their act together and initial previews for Project CARS 2 looking kind of okay, and Gran Turismo shifting the focus of their franchise into the modern era, away from the Japanese-style RPG progression elements that once made the game a chore to play, we’re looking at a future where a lot of the smaller teams – such as those who don’t even let you create custom lobbies for the console version of their simulator – will be spoken of in the past tense.

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91 thoughts on “Can Good Simulators Kill Sim Racing?

  1. You know, this thing about R3E not allowing tire pressure adjustment. Does anyone know of an explanation for that? Does it maybe break their tire model? I’m curious, because I’ve always felt like R3E’s tire behavior felt the most realistic to me – and across a very wide variety of tire types.

    Coincidence?

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    1. What you say would suggest that R3E is unrealistic in that manner. I mean adjusting pressures is a key element of sim racing. Sorry for saying so but that makes R3E for me simcade.
      Even F1 2016 has tire pressures.

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    2. Raceroom has the best tyre-model? Very few saying this! IMO very poor and AC is far ahead.
      AMS is my favorite and don´t give a shit what “James” is yelling about that.

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    1. The genre is afloat thanks to eternal science projects trapping cucks into obsessing over the development of a game and throwing money at them whenever they release DLC.

      The moment an actually good game comes out, all teams with eternal science projects are DOA.

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      1. “the moment a perfect simulation is released to the public, all less-than-perfect simulations will be obsolete.”

        can’t argue with that

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      2. I’m really hoping that is the case for AC. I’m fed up with poor in-car audio, minimal VR implementation, below average track roster, dumb Ai & having to reconfigure my controls every time i unplug a device. My contempt heightened by the attitude & tone of some of the community who have become beyond arrogant. I’m not sure what is going on with Stefano as well as his meltdowns & general curt behaviour towards people at times he is also very stubborn about some needed improvements & changes. I don’t know how many staff they have at Kunos but couldn’t they hire somebody to do more tracks or hire a guy that knows how to improve the sounds? Credit to them for the quality & price of the DLC i will no doubt continue to buy it, but im just hoping something better comes along.
        My experience of R3E is much shorter but the community there seems actually pretty normal, presentation of game messy, but yes all this depends massively on pcars not being shit.

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        1. No offense but keep dreaming.
          AC won’t improve over the next years that much.

          See company’s attitude etc.
          They just want to make money and don’t care about the community.

          Further AC’s engine doesn’t support stuff like night and rain etc. Its just to bad.

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          1. You forgot to login james.

            Yea AC needs to improve, just like all sim racing games, or are we having sims selling millions of copies? besides pcars.

            Believe it or not, no matter how complete you think a sim already is, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day if people don’t buy it or want to play it. No matter how much you think AC is bad, more people play AC than other sims, so I guess it isn’t that bad huh? But nice trolling attempt, fortunately is just that, trolling.

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            1. I didn’t say AC was bad did I? who is the one who is trolling if you change the context of what i say? I play AC and there are plenty of things that i like about it, I said I’m hoping something better comes along so i don’t have to put up with the things i have listed. I also say that i would be happy if something knocked it off its perch because of the attitude of the devs & some of the fans.

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      3. Is that a bad thing?

        As you mentioned yesterday, sim racing as an eSport can only succeed, if it can succeed at all, with a single structured championship, which obviously also necessitates a single platform.

        Personally, I’d prefer a single title captivated the entire community.

        While it can be argued that such a monopoly would inhibit competition and progress for myriad reasons, sim racing developers (at least the good ones) are usually passionate about their product, and I imagine that passion would likely incentivize innovation much more productively than competition.

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        1. so youd prefer a monopoly so a virtual version of a real sport would be more commercially successful than at present, as i read it. i think thats absurd, but whatever the reason (aside from “its better at everything than anything else & everyone pretty much agrees”, ie, magic), why would a single, truly dominant title be a good thing?

          what products are you referring to, in this environment? if a single title has a stranglehold on the market (something i don’t think realistic for reasons ive mentioned), where are these passionate developers putting their ideas? i can think of 3 possibilities, only 1 of which is plausible, & would negate the question. 1)they all become piboso 2)they all work for the Big Sim, in harmony 3)they are integral parts of separate platforms, each capable of reaching millions of people, with thousands of fans or more. in a word, they are competition…

          hardcore simracing is never going to be mainstream. its never going to be normal to have hundreds/thousands invested in a toy steering wheel & pedals & w/e other gizmos in your living room. thats enthusiast stuff, & enthusiasts want alternatives, novelty, to be on the cutting edge. a mainstream title that can truly captivate & corner this market? not possible. because, fortunately for these “passionate developers” (exploitative assholes), beta cucks keep pumping money into their hobby, fucking suckers, & small companies continue to attract attention, & enough market share to sustain themselves & develop. reiza, kunos, sector3, SMS, iracing are all going quite strong by any indication known to the public. steam server #s can be pointed to again & again, as they have been here, but i don’t think the applicable significance has been examined in any depth.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. From a multiplayer perspective, which has been the extent of my interest for the last few years, I’d prefer a monopoly simply for larger grids and better competition.

            Frankly, all of the main sims offer a driving model that I can live with, but given my interest in online racing, I’ve spent the vast majority of sim racing time on iRacing (road racing).

            Although far from perfect, I’m rarely at odds with iRacing’s development trajectory, and hope the community continues to grow.

            Nonetheless, if sim racers suddenly left for AC, Raceroom, Automobilista, or R3E en masse, I’d migrate as well, and eventually adapt to the specifics of that particular sim’s physics.

            Obviously, those interested in the single player experience/career mode likely disagree, but I’m only commenting from my own perspective.

            Liked by 1 person

      4. to be fair,

        although this seemingly pro-consumer stand-point has some valid ground to stand on,

        it is still a high-risk, limited reward – type investment to go out there and actually model and make a simulator with an objectively better apporximation of real-world physics than the last one.

        Hence all those re-heated gmotor-2 sims over the years.

        And rfactor needed the caliber of some folks like Niels Heusinkveld & other top-modders plus the inception of the “realfeel” plugin to even come as close in feel as e.g. liveforspeed has been since about 2005/2006.

        Thing is: there are fans of actual real-world racing turning into sim-racers as much as there are fans of computer-tech as much as there are casual “broad-spectrum” – gamers all coming together on the virtual race-track.

        Now thanks to you (and in general youtube-replays and hear-say of other relevant sources), I did not jump into Pcars1. I despise the outright deception that went on there, where the “fishes’ rotten stench came from the very top”

        That said, I am willing to give anything a go that meets my requirements:
        no fucking “exclusive licenses”. That includes for similar reasons: console-only games.

        Yet (essentially) saying that individual forays into the unknown is less important than market-relevance of whatever skewed evaluation-scale… …is a fit far-fetched!

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  2. This article got boring to read really fast after you started your iracing part drivel. After that more zzzZZzzzzZz stuff. So came directly to comments.

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  3. disagree, & i dont think dirt 4 is a good reference point…or maybe it is, but if so i’d have the opposite interpretation of what it signifies. making a rally game that hardcore simracers could embrace shouldnt have been difficult. it was surprising that CM were first to do it, but its not earth-shattering. iracing & SMS haven’t laid out their dirt simulations for the public yet, it’s still an afterthought as far as reiza goes (& just imo will continue to be), grally’s not out (but has probably been dead ever since CM [also read: anyone with any money at all] decided they wanted to make something that could play to hobbyists). kunos & turn10 haven’t entered the ring but presumably will. in 5 years time virtual dirt racing is going to look very different, & its not because codemasters will have a stranglehold. itll be the opposite; there’ll be options everywhere.

    similarly, who really loses if one or two well-heeled ‘traditional’ sims can create a multiplayer environment to truly rival iracing? doesnt that question answer itself? unless iracing can match or surpass the content offered, its their problem alone. therell still be room for smaller-to-very-small-market, enthusiast titles & companies like reiza/397/s3/kunos. different content, different physics implementations, different features will still hold sway to most of the people who’ve spent hundreds-to-thousands of dollars just to be able to enjoy the genre in the first place.

    and maybe bc of that initial investment, i think simracers, vociferous minority of fanboys aside, are largely VERY open to & encouraging of competition in the market relative to general gamers. its abundantly clear that investing in one game can result in growth in many, as rivals attempt to match or surpass what’s on the market.

    finally on the subject of investments, i’m not even sure how much iracing has to fear. users end up with a LOT of $$$ tied up there. if they can get up to pace where needed, keep pace where theyre already ahead or with the pack, & throw a bone or two to those users (i think its significant theyve been doing the opposite the past year), & theyre profitable, they can keep charging ‘exclusive’ fees & stay an ‘exclusive’ brand, with miniscule growth but consistent returns.

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  4. Assetto Corsa needs killing off on console. It’s the kindest outcome. Like taking a really ill pet to the vet, you know it’s the kindest thing you can do for the dying beast.
    You simply cannot release shit like this in 2016. No custom lobbies, dreadful framerates, crap menu system, pathetic track and car roster, coma-inducing career mode, an AI that gets more laughable with every dlc release, sorry, I mean patch. Add to that a team leader who calls himself Lord and thinks it is ok to berate his paying customers and generally behave like a stuck-up obnoxious uber-c*nt. I’d like to see it fall on it’s arse just for that reason actually. And to see genuine tears from the arse-kissing brown-nosed fanboys that parade around his forums whilst gently cupping his balls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. nice trolling and swearing, but you were banned from steam discussions.

      Isn’t it quite strange that you accuse Stefano of overreacting in particular subjects about the sim racing game he created (together with more devs) yet you come to the comments section and overreact even worse? You basically have no reason to judge anyone in that condition.

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    1. In 2017 AC is better than the racing games on 360 in 2010. In simulation and in my own preference as well due to gameplay content + multiplayer believe or not.

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      1. The multiplayer is virtually non existent in AC apart from a few drifters and Nurburgring crashers. Six months in to its release and it’s still a pile of unfinished broken beta nonsense.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. virtually non existent? Then it means multiplayer doesn’t exist at all in the other sims, if MP in AC is almost non existent.

          There is drifting yes but most servers are dedicated to racing, with track days afterwards. and only later comes drifting.

          Trolling and bad speculation are getting serious in sim racing… Thanks PRC!

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          1. I’m giving you a synopsis of what I see before me on console. A total of 12 racers online. 9 drifting and 3 doing a track at. No one interested in GTs. I do know what I can see but thanks for pointing out you know better than I do.

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          1. It’s more fun to have diarrhea than to be constipated.

            Neither game was all that great, but with Race Pro there was at least shit to do and a functioning game to play.

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              1. That’s the problem with AC on console. It’s just a small bag of tracks and cars. There is FUCK ALL TO DO. There is no incentive to keep playing it. It’s underwhelmingky boring, anal, and the fanboys can’t hack it. The brown-nosers who continually speak up in its defence are like little serfs scrambling around their Lord and master, waiting for little bits of praise or a pat on the head.

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  5. ISI and rFactor 2 and Not (rFactor3) dead…….Reiza AMS, and what ever New product from them this year or next dead, this is what I predict for those two stale ass developers for 2017 to 2018, and long time in the coming.

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  6. Forza 6 has been updated lately to include more esport and online features. Presumably in preparation for Forza 7, which will probably be announced soon. Another contender

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  7. Anyone interested in starting a wagering pool on whether SMS will dup the public once again with false promises and out right lies?

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  8. It’s pretty cool for us dudes into the, shall we say tougher difficulty games to see the direction things are going. A perhaps more interesting question is who’s left to compete with Forza and is GTSport even the game the fans (there are quite a few) are looking for

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    1. Uh. Yes. GT Sport is the game environment this player is looking for.
      Multiplayer centered, yes please
      Can’t wait.
      I’m not holding my breath for SMS to hit the Mark, or even be in the vicinity really. Even if they fixed half the bugs, its still pretty broken.

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    1. No they won’t, they have plenty of simcades to make blog entries of. Even nowadays half is simcade talk half is sim racing. He’s doing what the other sim racing websites are doing, using popular racing games outside the sim racing genre to have a wider base of readers from an extended genre of racing games. Nothing bad with that, at least they aren’t just covering pure arcade racing games, since in simcades there’s still a form of simulation.

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  9. Since you mentioned Mobil 1 RC, it’s a travesty that it’s almost 20 years old now and no one else has even attempted to put real stages from real rallies into a sim.

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        1. It also has better competition (you’re competing against tons of AI drivers in multiple classes) and a much more detailed and punishing damage model than anything else out there. Shame about the shitty handling.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. JAMES your view is definitly over. You Can t put codemaster, polyphony ( gran turismo) and SMS at the same level. The 2 first one are known for them quality Game, the last one is known thanks to crowd funding and them viral marketing investor army. Then the real question is : Can crowd funding able to give at the same time fresh finances for a company and assure a massive fan base leaching the sim racing community.

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      1. Your shill is showing James.
        Is PCars your full on Sim of choice now?
        Sad, even if it is the only decent science experiment on console………….
        YET

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      1. Or DiRT Rally. If you have something else than a Xbox 360 controller and single screen (read: good quality sim hardware) you’re pretty much screwed.

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  11. I bet James sucked Ian’s lovestick and now he has acces to pCars 2. He’s just slowly shilling up to the point that he can reveal the anal rapage…

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  12. A well done sim can do that of course.
    Problem is… PC2 or GT won’t be a sim. That just does not fit their profit goal, and then you’ll have people thinking they are driving a sim because propaganda and e”sports” bullshit. I gues you got a good payment to write this one

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    1. I don´t think that line of thought is correct. PCARS was a huge success (sales-wise) despite being dishonestly marketed as a hardcore sim.

      People WANT this stuff too, building something hardcore won´t make you sell less, lack of marketing and resources will.

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    2. ^^^^^^^^^^^
      Ohhhhhh great
      One of those AHoles that ruin sim racing thinking their sim of choice is a sim And someone else’s isn’t.
      Slag off and go enjoy your corner of sim land by yourself. No one cares about your opinion or your sim of choice.

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  13. Its common knowledge among economists that enterprises in a free economy try to kill each other so the competition tend to abolish itself in some kind of monopoly.
    Thats the reason governments in all developed countries attempt to prevent monopolies through the use of antitrust laws.
    In the sim racing context such a monopoly will never happen because the enterprise closest to this goal, iRacing, is completely ‎vulnerable to competition from better products because of this sims inferiour physics.

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      1. In what plante you live on mate. Goverments and laws are the only thing in the way of dishonest practices from assholes leading to defacto monopolies.

        Goverments DO build monopolies in some critical areas for society, which is a good idea to keep up quality standards in stuff like aviation security.

        In trivial stuff, they are actually a force keeping assholes at bay and making the competence fair.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I live in the real world of reality check and investigation. Governments create monopoly just to appear as the good guys later, that’s how politicians get votes: creating problems to solve them later. It’s extremely hard for a monopoly to appear in a free economy, whenever they do it’s because of laws and regulations stoping other companies from creating competition.
          “Goverments DO build monopolies in some critical areas for society” oh an innocent soul. Too bad there is too damn much of them in the world putting our lives more and more on the hands of the “leaders”, wish we could get rid of this kind of people.

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        2. Meanwhile. In The land of the real.
          The government is the largest co conspirator in a national War economy pumping billions into bombs anf aid to Isreal to destabilize the middle East.
          But tell me more about his great it is at crushing monopolies. Go on.
          Some seriously dumb scmucks dwell here.

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          1. “Goverments and laws are the only thing in the way of dishonest practices from assholes leading to defacto monopolies.

            Governments create monopoly just to appear as the good guys later

            The government is the largest co conspirator in a national War economy”

            Hahaha. Pretty entertaining – but only displaying a complete lack of understanding what makes the economy tick and what a monopoly really is.
            Long live conspiracy theories – hehe and fake news:-)

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  14. Car physics are garbage in all those mentioned big titles including pCars, so simracing games dont have much to worry about for now, regardless of the esports circus (which for now its simply marketing, it brings no value)

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    1. Oh come on associat0r, you were praising pCars when you were interested in shitting on AC, now you say pCars car physics are garbage.

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  15. I would say the fact that Slightly Mad is taking on the likes of PD and T10 is evidence that the little guy can win – with time and strategy, and a bit of the big guys messing up. While not rejecting your hypothesis, it’s not impossible to go the other way.

    Like

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