Has iRacing Missed their Marketing Target?

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the sudden influx of iRacing shill pieces lately, published on a multitude of outlets from AutoWeek to NESN, often implying that drivers are getting picked up by major racing teams for simply using the service and being good at sim racing. While it’s nice to see iRacing actually trying to market themselves in a broad fashion compared to the past where they relied primarily on word of mouth, there’s still one major problem with their approach: iRacing do very little to cater to the road racing side of the experience – all of the advertising is directed primarily towards oval drivers and oval cars in oval series.

No wonder the costs of subscription and content suddenly went up as well.

iRacing recently announced a partnership with Kasey Kahne to be all over his Sprint Car, as it competes on the Craftsman World of Outlaws Series tour, they’re continuing with Ty Majeski into the NASCAR Xfinity Series, they’re on Clint Bowyer’s dirt late model, yet there is absolutely nothing to represent the other 50% of the service. The biggest market in auto racing, with mass world-wide appeal, is something iRacing has worked very hard to make lots of content for, and yet they seem to have no interest in actually going out and attracting that audience, at least from the public viewpoint – instead focusing everything on a very segregated series from the rest of the world, with both declining numbers in track attendance and TV ratings.


At this point, they are just doubling down on a market that has the most local appeal to them, but yet almost any oval racing fan or driver I’ve talked to already knows about iRacing, they don’t seem to be gaining anything from advertising to local short tracks, and then of those who are reached by the marketing campaigns, how many local racers look at it once, complain about the paywall that most people don’t bother to look past, and never take a second, more in-depth look?

Yes, you can get a three month trial for free with certain promotions, or free cars on top of the base subscription package, but you are advertising to people who most likely don’t have a wheel, and they’ll be forced to spend upwards of $200 or borrow one from a friend – who most likely already has an iRacing account himself to go along with said wheel – and in that case has already done the free advertising for you himself, again making your investment pointless. It just seems like money being thrown into a market they have already tapped, and the gains are now at a point where they’re just not going to match the investment.

Any oval racing fan already knows about iRacing, and on top of that, most of them have already made the choice to sign up for it or not. It’s all a bit silly at this point; double down on the oval advertising when there’s an entirely separate discipline of auto racing they’re ignoring, despite building an abundance of content for. I appreciate the fact that they are giving back to local racing… sort of… but they’re at a point where they’re trying to grow the service by preaching to the choir.

The other major flaw with iRacing’s marketing department that I’d like to discuss in this entry, is how they push their software as the “original eSport racing game,” or sometimes just as “the original eSport,” though I think that tagline was quickly rectified. Here is a place where I feel iRacing seem to have no idea what the eSport audience actually is, and their claims show just how little they know about the eSport landscape itself. First of all, the very beginnings of what we now know as eSports can be traced back to either the Nintendo World Championships in the late 1980’s, or the mass appeal of online Quake or Counter-Strike matches from the late 1990’s – and even then some of the older folks among us will override our claims with Pac-Man challenges in the early 1980’s that local taverns or arcades held, all of which were well before iRacing started handing out $10,000 prizes for their championship wins starting in 2010. In terms of being the first eSport racing game, that tagline is also incorrect; Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo both beat it to the punch by a significant margin, with Forza’s Showdown and GT’s Academy.

Another major part of the story iRacing marketing has seemingly omitted is the fact that every large eSport which they’re aspiring to be, has a massive userbase in the millions, mostly due to being free-to-play games or one time $60 purchases, all of which are designed with mass customer appeal in mind. iRacing can barely maintain 3,000 people online at once without servers crashing and the staff blaming it on a DDoS attack (when it’s really just iRacers mashing F5), yet they somehow think they are equal to League of Legends, reeling in 200,000 viewers for a TSM regular season match. Oh please, I don’t know if it’s just pure arrogance from the small team in Bedford, maybe being sent a blank cheque from John Henry gives them that kind of ego, but the fact is iRacing seem to have completely missed the mark, not only on WHO they are targeting, but what that target even represents.

One element all “simulator” games seem to have missed, is that if you are going to build an eSport, you first need the userbase to support said eSport, and massive paywalls are not going to get you the audience needed to support the marketing world that surrounds the current state of eSports. The only racing game with the potential to attain a decent eSport following has been Gran Turismo, offering a full private racing school followed by a legitimate Nissan contract, just for buying a $60 game. Forcing people to pay upwards of $400 in the cost of in-game content alone, for a chance at making $10,000 – a portion of which is taxed by the US government – seems laughable in comparison.

Games like League of Legends make almost nothing from the average player, but they compensate for this via optional in-game microtransactions that are mostly cosmetic changes to existing gameplay elements. This allows them to actually make way more money and massively increase their audience than they would ever make from a simple $60 purchase or a monthly subscription fee without being pay to win, or pay to play. How many people would play League of Legends if merely competing in lower tier competitive ladders generated a three figure credit card bill? Not many, and iRacing doesn’t appear to understand this. If iRacing were to drastically reduce the costs of the service, they would actually increase the size of the userbase and generate more revenue from loads of smaller purchases, as has been proven over almost a decade with numerous free-to-play titles.

As usual, sim racing tends to be stuck in the past, refuses to adapt, and we always have another one waiting to take the #1 spot. Sim developers all greedily fight for this small portion of the market, while console users hand over their wallets to companies like Electronic Arts or Slightly Mad Studios, all while complaining that the games aren’t realistic enough, yet scoff at the idea of paying anything over $100 for a sim. Not to mention the massive PC investment or the periphreals needed. Stuff like JJacoby88’s estimated $20,000 USD credit card-maxing sim rig, shouldn’t be praised; it only drives away people on the fence who go “yep, I’m never paying that much money no matter how good it looks”, and crawl back to their consoles.

Sim developers desperately need to realize who their target audience is, stop throwing money at targets they already have acquired, and stop the ridiculous paywalls that drive away any sort of casual audience they need to keep their games alive. Gran Turismo has already proven it’s possible to have both a quality sim with massive appeal that can attract the audience needed to support a full TV series, as well as get a major manufacturer involved in finding talented drivers, and that’s all while paying a much bigger team to work on their game off a simple $60 purchase.

The math speaks for itself, a $60 game multiplied by one million sales nets a greater profit than $600 in subscription and content fees, multiplied by only a thousand hardcore sim racers, and if you create a cosmetic item department, then the whales show up and you get the best of both worlds, all while leaving the casual, low income user unaffected and able to enjoy the full game experience – and thus generation more interest in watching the product they actively use.

That’s how to grow sim racing as an eSport. This stuff has to make sense financially for people on the fence, and right now, iRacing – the company with the best shot currently at establishing themselves as a legitimate eSport – doesn’t.


53 thoughts on “Has iRacing Missed their Marketing Target?

  1. Gran Turismo Sport will get that esports user base from day one , what I’m not sure about is how it will hold the interest if it doesn’t have the rules of racing implemented properly. (some will like it anyway)

    I for one do hope it does come with all that has been mentioned (flag rules and damage).

    Now if Project cars and its a big if can also implement working flag rules and damage with their esports outing we then have another option.

    It also comes down to how they implement the whole esports structure and how it handles the advertising and so on, I certainly don’t think it will ever get to the heights of say counterstrike and the like.

    As for Iracing It will always have its hard-core user base that are willing to shell money out for the subscription . The one that can put a dent in iracing is project cars on pc , if that happens or not is anyone’s question.

    From what I have seen from Gran turismo sport has been another boring stale attempt. I do hope they holding so much back and surprise us with something special. (allways full of hope only to get disappointed come release day) 😦

    I for one am glad that other options will be there , if they any good is yet to be seen.

    Have a good day gentlemen .


    1. A great way to market this iracing is to offer a one race free ride in the real series the following year. Take this new iracing dirt league. They should already have worked out a deal where the winner of the iracing 2017 dirt league gets an automatic start at the rear of the field next year at the knoxville nationals! A million red neck dirt dobbers would sign up right away. The money made from that would more than pay for the ride, make millions, put iracing on the map.

      You see goof ball geeks play league of legends and all these shooter games by default. A sports game has to take another approach. They HAVE to offer participation in the real thing to make any progress.

      Lets say Tiger Woods came out with a PC based simulation game. Some people would join sure. But what if he decided to announce at one of his events that if you bought his golf game for $50 bucks and played in the 10 yearly tournaments on the game that the overall WINNER of the game in 2017 would automatically carry his clubs in 4 tournaments next year and be paid the usual 10% caddie fees? Why i bet a million people would join.

      This would work for other sports that were applicable. To make a million plus people play online sports games you have to offer a real life PARTICIPATION element for it to work. You can offer money if you want but participation is everything. It gives them the chance to meet and greet and be seen in a “see me” facebook culture.

      It would work! TALK TO ME! tell me im wrong if you ain’t scared haha!


  2. Fully agree with this,even if they did away with the sub and just charged for tracks and cars,I think they would double that 3000 a day figure,but come on now,this is iracing,the king of market spiel,who can get caught lying and still have people swooning of the thought of licking that foot cheese

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lol this video game triggered Austin big time. I can imagine him in 50 years time as a senile old man grunting to himself about iRacing and Ray Alfalla.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So he’s still gonna talk about iracing despite not playing it in 50 years? His salt mine over iracing will never run out? Oh boy.
      Austin boy is obsessed with sim racing and wants everything to run how he wants. Git gud my friend and build your own sim.


  4. James, tell Ian on whatsapp that his virtualr website got frozen in time, no news for a week. I expected an article from you on this, who’s gonna talk about this stuff?

    I have an idea, Ian could transfer you from prc to virtualr. Now that’d be a treat.


    1. Sadly not even close, although I don’t think they did a good job with RF1 either it just happened to fill a void for modders to work with and took off through that, I honestly believe ISI thought they could just release a whole new physics engines and the modders would do all the legwork for them. Instead most of them stuck with rfactor1 or moved to AC where they could easily convert stuff over. Studio 397 seems to be doing the opposite and screwing over the modders now, the only people actually trying to keep rfactor 2 alive.


  5. There’s still millions of NASCAR fans. Iracing has about 60,000 members. I’d say that’s an untapped market.

    Road participation is higher than oval and the last few updates have been geared towards the road side of the game.

    I’ve seen iRacing advertised at various road circuits. Also here in the UK the Kia league actually has TV coverage!


    1. How many of the millions of NASCAR fans do you think are gamers? How many of them want a more realistic experience then “NASCAR the game”? How many of them have a full gaming PC? Last but not least, how many of them are willing to blow money on a wheel and a subscription plus pay for individual content? The market you are appealing to shrinks pretty fast, it’s not as simple as oh they have millions of fans we should get all of them….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You should be able to work out that gaining even a tiny percentage of those fans would be a big boost to iRacing’s numbers. Are you saying road racing fans are more likely to take up sim racing as a hobby?


        1. I’m saying that every NASCAR/Oval fan has already heard about iRacing at some point or another and if they are interested they have already tried it, you aren’t gaining anything by spamming the same market over and over again. The road racing market is virtually untouched in comparison by iRacing’s advertising, I expect to see more gains there for sure.

          Its been proven there are far more road racing fans into gaming then NASCAR fans and if you compare the numbers from stuff like Forza, GT, PCARS, AC. compared to NASCAR the game, or iRacing it’s pretty obvious which side the majority of race fan gamers are on. Regardless as I outlined in the article you’d see way more gains reducing the paywall and getting more people involved in the game that way to help build the userbase then wasting it on advertising to a market that is most likely not going to start with hardcore sims if they don’t game already, and if they are already involved in racing games at somepoint probably already know about the iRacing’s and rFactors of the world and are just refusing to use them due to the giant paywall regardless of if its the PC requirements or mandatory wheels, whatever it may be people are simply refusing to try hardcore sims and the biggest thing I hear is “You spent how much on a wheel!”.

          iRacing claims they are going after the esport market but yet every action they take suggests otherwise. Esports works purely on advertising and you aren’t going to see any venture capitalists moving into simracing with 1000 maximum stream viewers. You need to increase the viewerbase and the best way to do that is reduce the paywall if we actually want these games to succeed in the future, and if the goal isn’t just putting more money in their pocket. We can all move on to the next big sim in 5 years and do it all over again if they don’t want to adapt. Somebody will catch on sooner or later GT Sport already seems to be focused on this.


        2. To clarify i don’t think that all iRacing’s current marketing is all bad, its clearly working somewhat. I just believe that money could be put to much better use to optimize the value/$ they are getting especially if they are going after the esports marketing as they claim. Regardless of how people feel towards iRacing personally it is definitely the most competitive sim out there, thanks to the irating system and the fact the put up a little money for the premier series but I see way more potential in the service then is currently being tapped and the current marketing they have seems to fall short of what the claimed goal of iRacing is. All it will take is another sim with alot more money put up and all the top level racers will flock to it.


          1. How many other sim developers can access a billionaire’s largesse?

            We haven’t seen anything similar to iRacing, before or since its inception (and no, R2P doesn’t count), and in a market as small as sim racing, I’m not surprised.


      2. You make them gamers by making them an offer they can’t refuse. Giving them a chance to drive a real race car if they win the league championship. Its the only way to get a million people plus to sign up but it would work.

        Win the iracing winston cup series in 2017? You get an automatic ride to start on the rear of the field in the Martinsville 500 in 2018.

        Win the iracing truck series championship in 2017? You get an automatic ride to start on the rear of the field in the bristol 500 the 2018.

        Win the iracing v8 supercar championship in 2017? You get an automatic ride to start on the back of the field for the bathurst 1000 in 2018.

        Win the iracing super late model championship in 2017? You get an automatic ride to start on the back of the field in the snowball derby in 2018.


        its the only way to expand participation. You do anyone of the above and you would have a million red necks sign up next week. If you didn’t have a wheel and pedals already they would be on back order for a long time! You could make a profit on ebay thats for sure!

        Im right on this. Why won’t you respond?


        1. From the 99,97% of all Sim-Racers who are not fast enough to win i think at least 99% knowing this. In global leaderboards like in Forza it´s not easy to get into the Top 1000 in one class/track combination. And Raceroom isn´t more easy, it´s just one digit off. iRacing has a point-system which reminds people often enough where they stay in the food-chain.


          1. 99.9% of LoL players are never going to win a $1m tournament either, but somehow it works. It’s something to look up to, even if you never make it there.


  6. It’s ridiculous to say that iRacing could get a League of Legends scale audience if they lowered prices.
    Sim racing is and will always be a niche market. Lower prices all you want but the average person isn’t interested in realism.


    1. Where did I ever say iRacing could get a league scale audience, I infact say the opposite. However they could probably improve following the footsteps of a business model that clearly works much better then the current paywall that doesnt even allow casuals users to try the service to see if they are interested or not. Also, way to just assume the average user in the racing game market doesn’t care about realism, if that’s the case then the “realistic” console market would have died long ago yet Gran Turismo and Forza are still massive hits, stuff like Dirt Rally wouldn’t have hit massive numbers and praise over Dirt 3 despite almost no marketing for the game.


    1. R3E has a paywall of its own, they advertise it as F2P, but if you actually want to race anybody in the game you are forced to pay a ton of microtransactions, It’s an even more greedy version of iRacing current model without the benefits of iRacing.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “iRacing can barely maintain 3,000 people online at once without servers crashing and the staff blaming it on a DDoS attack (when it’s really just iRacers mashing F5)”

    Still waiting on proof about mashing F5, PRC is probably wiretapping iRacers computers to get this information.


  8. You keep pointing out that a PC based sport game called iracing is bad because it doesn’t have the following as these PC based killing games. Why is that? PC based sports games across the board can’t touch PC based killing games its not just racing come on!

    Where is Football, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, Tennis, Golf, Bowling PC games beating any PC killing games? Are they coming close? No

    Killing games don’t have to charge subscription money when they have millions of people buy a 60 dollar game and then pay thousands for rented servers. Why do you leave out that fact? You can take that model when you have millions playing online killing games every night!

    Lets just educate you a second. Back in 2012 the game Diablo 3 came out and in the first 24 hours 3.5 million people bought that game! millions more later. I guess they dont need a subscription service! Counter Strike has sold 12 million copies last year! Whats $50 dollars x 12 million you got a calculator? Show me a sports PC game that does that? Why can’t lebron james have a basketball game to get millions to play online at night? no? Can tiger get millions to hit a golf ball in simulation every night? no? Can tom brady get millions to come on line every night to throw a football? no? Hey maybe mike tyson can get into back into boxing with a online knockout game, Recon millions will flock to it? no? Then why you think dave kaemmer can?

    League of dummies(i mean legends)…..67 million players a month! How can their be that many goofball geeks in the world to play a game like that which makes no sense and none of what they are doing could possible happen in the real world. All these shoot em up/ fantasy spell killing ork games remind me of the sickness of millions of people who believe in and watch fake pro wrestling. They spend millions on it. How? And you know what? These goofs wouldn’t walk across the street to watch real greco roman wrestling.

    These are the kind of goof ball’s that go see movies like lord of the rings, hobbits, harry potter ect and cause those movies to gross a billion dollars a movie. I wouldn’t walk across the street to see movies like that for free. I have never watched it on tv. It don’t make sense. That stuff is crazy. If they had a brain screwed on right they would play a sports game, go lift weights, go watch a good western movie that makes some sense or kiss a girl for the first time ect. The geeks/goofs are in the millions and they are never going to play a game regularly(like iracing, football, or boxing} that takes skill or simulates something in real life. They need a nutty fantasy like hobbits, girls in bikini’s casting spells, or pro wrestling. forget it.

    All the top 10 games each year are shooter/killer/fantasy games not sports. People like to kill or pretend it by doing it virtually. You see people that like sports go out and play it for real, jog, lift weights, play golf ect. You dont need to play a video game for that. You cant go out and shoot people in real life without going to jail. Therefore you have these games.

    Why don’t you address all these points so i don’t have to?


    1. I watched and liked very much lord of the rings and a bit less the hobbit. Yet I don’t play diablo, league of legends, dota, or any japanese fantasy games. I playing sim racing games and first person shooters.


      1. Beat me to it. I would say FIFA on PC is kinda dying out compared to consoles but I would imagine it’s bigger than iR and all the sims combined.


  9. Did Austin write this article for you Maple? These don’t sound like your words.

    Would it be great if sim racing had a bigger market? Sure, but your assuming casual gamers would all of the sudden be interested in a hardcore PC racing simulator just because the price was lower. As stated in the article, the costs to get into sim racing (not just iracing like Austin tries to constantly make it seem like) are very high with getting wheels & pedals, a good computer etc. lowering the costs of the game doesn’t lower the cost of entry into this niche genre.

    Also did you forget that iracing sponsored the blancpain race at spa a year or two ago. You claimed they “Have no interest” about road racing marketing. Glad you did your research before stating such statements 🙄 This is also why I think Austin wrote this because it’s unlike you to make such idiotic statements based around conspiracies.


    1. Wow one Blancpain race vs, 2 dirt oval cars for entire season, Ty’s entire latemodel seasons Ty’s Roush Xfinity ride. Ya you sure showed me. Where is the conspiracy exactly? Look up the definition FFS


      1. Then why write:

        and yet they seem to have no interest in actually going out and attracting that audience

        Have you talked to any iRacing staff member? Have they personally told you that they dont care about marketing in the road racing side of things? Im guessing the answer to those 2 questions is ‘No’. You do realize that advertisement and marketing is a whole lot more complex than you think. Theres a whole lot of money generally involved so iRacing needs to be selective and smart about what avenues they pursue. The deals they make need to make sense in a way that benefits them and their partners in the long run.

        This is what most of us hate about you guys. You just write things as if they are the truth with no factual evidence to back it up. We cant tell if you just write over the top falsehoods to stir the pot on purpose or if your so blinded by rage & you actually believe the stuff you write.


        1. don’t iracing usually market their road audience with the nurburgring and other endurance events? They also have something for the blancpain gt3 races.


          1. Do they really market their game at endurance events? That’s so embarrassing. A piece of software which has been in the works for nine (!) years and still doesn’t feature day/night transition or changing weather conditions. The perfect endurance experience. LOL!


        2. It’s an opinion piece…… I’m making assumptions based on what I see publically. It’s an article the fact you are defending your iRacing overlords so hard seems to also imply I may have not been that far off the mark. I know how marketing works I’ve done it for quite a while in real racing, and as you’ll see in the next week we at PRC aren’t complettely obvlivious to how to get things done on that side. Everyone already knows you are the mod for r/iracing so I find it hilarious you try to imply I’m biased of all people. God forbid I try to put something out there that actually IMPROVES the game.


          1. An opinion would be stated such like “I wish iRacing would put more effort into increasing their marketing effort on the road racing side of things.” not “they have no interest”.

            Your opinions are fine, I don’t disagree that they could be doing much more in getting their name out there for all forms of motorsport, not just road racing. Most of us just have an issue with how you guys state things in the form of facts. You guys constantly claim you write ‘opinion’ pieces but very little of your work is written as an actual ‘opinion’.

            Also I dont see how the fact that I got added as a mod because I built a new theme for the iracing sub has anything to do with this. Theres plenty of crap that iRacing needs to improve on in many areas. Ex: Day/night, tire compounds, flat spotting & blowouts, server stability, development speed & website bugs. Im no fanboy, but i got no issue pointing out slander thinly veiled as an “opinion”.



            1. “An opinion would be stated such like “I wish iRacing would put more effort into increasing their marketing effort on the road racing side of things.” not “they have no interest”.

              You guys constantly claim you write ‘opinion’ pieces but very little of your work is written as an actual ‘opinion’.”



  10. I agree with James, that iRacing could earn more money by lowering the prices, but not like that.

    The best price model is always the one which is working for the hole game industry minus iRacing. Make the content first expensive and lower the prices overtime. You get the people with enough money who don´t care about the price plus the people on a tighter budget, who just wait a few weeks/months to pay a bit less or far less depending on the waiting time. This model is just perfect and iRacing the only title who give a shit.

    And with the subscription-fee there could be a free- and a premium-model. Lets say you only can participate in x races per week for the free-membership, some leagues are just for the premium-members and so on…

    Just lowering prices is to risky for them and it´s not so clever as well.


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