In an online racing service boasting over 60,000 hardcore members forking over copious amounts of disposable income to continue participating on a monthly basis, and featuring an abundance of laser scanned renditions of virtually every relevant vehicle and location on the global auto racing calendar, it’s ironic how what very well may be the defining moment in iRacing’s lifespan features absolutely no racing at all.
Like the several World Tour events which came before it – one-off races intended to bring the entire community together for a virtual festival of speed mirroring real life marquee events – iRacing’s servers were supposedly once again unable to handle the sharp increase in traffic, and promptly shit themselves about two hours into iRacing’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The lack of a complete day/night cycle was the least of the service’s worries this afternoon; the few sim racers not affected by widespread outages proceeded to stop at the start/finish line in protest of the long-time technical issues iRacing have continuously failed to rectify during the website’s official YouTube stream of the prestigious race, absolutely fed up with a simulator that advertises itself as the premiere option in online racing, yet consistently fails to deliver when it counts the most.
Yes, it’s a bit cringe-worthy that pretend race car drivers are staging an impromptu protest, but in this situation, they actually have a point.
Since starting PretendRaceCars.net in January of 2015, I’ve regularly been forced to publish articles regarding iRacing’s server outages during World Tour events. My first post on the matter dates back to February 2015 – covering races as far back as 2012 – with newer entries discussing both the 2016 and 2017 24 Hours of Daytona events; I’m sure there are even more if you’re inclined to dig that far. Regardless of what the loyal iRacing supporters love to proclaim across social media in relation to the overall quality of the simulator, this is an area where the rabid defense force simply have no legitimate argument; iRacing are demonstrably incapable of holding these events without the entire service grinding to a halt and wasting everybody’s time. It’s complete nonsense for a service to demand its customers fork over a serious amount of cash compared to other racing games for individual pieces of content on top of already hefty subscription fees, only to suffer the same crippling issues with astounding consistency for six consecutive years, seemingly never having a fix in sight.
With a rules package explicitly not allowing any sort of substantial criticism on a public platform, a mock protest on a live race stream with the intent to embarrass iRacing was basically the only option these drivers had.
Server outage-like problems on their own are pretty disastrous and a very dark cloud hanging over the iRacing service, as it’s shitty to continuously hold these mammoth World Tour events with an extensive history of connection issues constantly ruining everyone’s weekend of sim racing, but what’s arguably worse is the events which took place beforehand. iRacing were fully aware that the service was in no shape to hold their virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, yet continued to push forward with the initial scheduled date and even asked users to purchase new content, just for the event.
As far back as May 31st – almost two weeks prior to today’s event – users began reporting within the official iRacing forums that endurance racers were struggling to go off in a technically sound fashion; private leagues racing at Le Mans were suffering from alleged memory leak issues that saw upwards of 20% of the field being dropped from the event. This continued as the official, public iRacing Prototype/GT multi-class series began their week at Le Mans a few days later, with several users reporting widespread disconnects, and even a staff member chiming in about a possible cause.
However, instead of realizing that these massive problems may adversely affect the quality of the 24 Hours of Le Mans event this weekend, and respectfully delaying the marquee race until the memory leak woes had been taken care of, iRacing instead pushed forward with the original date knowing these crippling technical gremlins wouldn’t be fixed in time for the biggest endurance event of the year – leading to a complete waste of a weekend for anyone who bothered to attempt the fabled online race – and then releasing a pair of new cars on top of that, so those who wanted to participate in the GT category would be forced to hand the company more money for a race the company one hundred percent knew wouldn’t be anywhere near the experience advertised, let alone functional.
This is an ugly company, run by ugly people. Obviously for those who have stuck around PRC for the long haul, you already know I don’t hold the company in especially high regard, nor do I possess any sort of positive relationship with the individuals who represent said company, but in this case it’s hard not to get fired up about what’s taking place and label it as one, giant, disorganized mess. iRacing’s marketing department, not the on-track experience, is why the simulation is as big as it is today. Behind the slick trailers and carefully crafted promotional footage that imply this is the pinnacle of online racing, lies an experience where crippling issues go unattended to for upwards of five years, staff members refuse to reschedule events despite advanced knowledge of technical gremlins that threaten to (and eventually do) derail the whole weekend, with the development team continuing to push out car after car and track after track for a substantial price tag in spite of the core service not functioning as the promotional footage proclaims.
Do not give this company any more money until it’s clear that significant changes have been made behind the scenes.