Long known for its’ relatively paltry selection of content in comparison to other titles on the market, the “GT3 Power Pack” for rFactor 2 – the first paid downloadable content for the hardcore racing simulator – was said to be one of many ways in which Studio 397 were helping to turn around a once-dying product. Injecting five cars people would actually want to drive into a simulator that was becoming largely ignored by its’ target audience, those using rFactor 2 as their primary simulator of choice were quick to praise Studio 397 for seemingly listening to the concerns of those on the fence, and giving sim racers a new incentive to check out an objectively sound racing simulator. On paper, things were really looking up for rFactor 2.
Many sim racing media outlets also displayed a sense of admiration for Studio 397, as the release of their first DLC coincided with the start of McLaren’s own eSports tournament using rFactor 2 as a primary platform. In just a few short months, the indie sim developer temporarily landed some time in the spotlight, something Image Space Incorporated themselves had failed to do over four straight years nurturing their own work. Yet what these sites failed to report on, is how this particular piece of downloadable content took more than two full months to materialize. The “GT3 Power Pack” launched in early August, but there was a catch that many outlets carefully danced around so as not to upset potential buyers or vindictive sim racers, who have slowly lost patience with developers failing to stick to cohesive time frames.
For $22 CDN, you could buy the GT3 bundle, but you didn’t actually receive a bundle of cars. The only car of the five advertised that had been completed in time for the release of the GT3 pack was the McLaren 650s, obviously given special priority considering McLaren’s eSports championship was just around the corner. And while a lot of people did enjoy the 650s, even if they’d bought the exact same car twice for other simulators already – once for Assetto Corsa, and again for R3E – a sub-plot began developing in the shadows. There were still four cars left for Studio 397 to complete that people had already paid for, and were advertised as part of the downloadable content.
The pack launched on August 2nd, 2017. Two months later, users still had no idea when they’d actually receive what they paid for.
Thankfully, what was quickly snowballing into a really disastrous scenario – a company selling incomplete DLC with an incredibly vague description – seems to have been partially rectified. The rFactor 2 store page now lists the Radical RXC Turbo, Callaway Corvette, Mercedes AMG, and Bentley Continental as the four additional cars making up the GT3 Power Pack. It’s not the greatest selection of cars; the Corvette, 650s, and AMG assumed to be the vehicles most will flock to, but it’s certainly a start for the fledgling simulator.
However, this delay spawns further questioning. We’ve seen countless blog posts from Studio 397 about a new user interface, online ranking system, structured races, and even new graphical capabilities that certainly improve upon what rFactor 2 currently is as a product. Yet if this team struggle with meeting launch dates for mere bundles of content, leaving users in the dark for two months as to what their money is actually going towards, how can we be certain that significantly larger upgrades will also be implemented in a timely fashion?
I’ll answer that for you: we can’t.
Studio 397 are well behind schedule trying to bring rFactor 2 up to 2015 standards, and while this would have been okay three years ago, we’re now entering a period of time in which Gran Turismo Sport, Forza Motorsport 7, Project CARS 2, Assetto Corsa, and even iRacing are offering substantially more attractive packages to curious sim racers. At the end of the day, I believe Studio 397 are fighting a losing battle. They cannot finish simple DLC packs on a timely schedule, while the rest of the genre advances at hyper-speed. There is simply no incentive to purchase rFactor 2 in this day and age, meaning publicity stunts like McLaren’s WFG eSports tournament, or a pack of GT3 cars, will fail to generate even a temporary passing interest in the title – an observation supported by SteamCharts’ three month analysis.
rFactor was a successful venture for ISI because aside from iRacing, the PC sim racing ecosystem was a random hodgepodge of indie developers all trying to one-up each other; as a customer it was in your best interest to explore everything. Five years later, these same customers have no incentive to even bother using the two hour trial window on rFactor 2, because their competitors have evolved into slightly more attractive packages.