The Rise And Fall Of Virtual And Real World Racing
Being a life-long motorsport enthusiast and avid sim racer, I often get tangled in Virtual vs Real racing discussions. While sim racing is in essence still a game, the last few years we have seen it making a transition towards becoming a fully fledged competitive form of sport in its own right.
While the real world motorsport organizers are beginning to struggle to attract audiences and even participants, due to the spiraling costs, a reduction of sponsorship, environmental limitations, and a host of other issues, the sim racing hobby seems to be making unparalleled growth and is steadily but surely becoming a real sport for the masses.
The last few years, we have witnessed a handful of racing eSports events which actually generated a bigger audience and a much bigger prize fund than their real-world counterparts. This has also triggered potential global investors to become interested in sponsoring this new and evolving market, and lead to discussions regarding the legitimization of sim racing on a professional level.
This brings us to the main question. Is Sim Racing complementing the real-world motorsport scene, or is it a trojan horse that may eventually lead to the downfall of motorsport as we know it?
Currently, the rapid rise of technology and the availability of more advanced simulations and networking technologies, have made it possible for pro and aspiring racing drivers to improve their driving skills from the comfort of their homes. Combined with competition platforms such as iRacing.com, rFactor 2 and global-market racing games such as the Forza and Gran Turismo franchises, we have already seen numerous sim racers and race gamers succeed to convert their hobby into a real-world driving opportunity. This was actually made possible due to marketing campaigns from established motorsport related entities.
While platforms such as the aforementioned brands are currently being utilized to actually promote their real-world counterparts and motorsport in general, you could argue that sim racing may just eventually replace them.
These days, a sim racing career has already proven to be a valid replacement as a starting point to build a possible racing real-world career. Where in the past we could see karting or grassroots racing as the perfect stepping stone into a higher level of real-world motorsport, sadly enough, these days these aforementioned racing disciplines have often become too expensive to accommodate a non-sponsored participant. It is safe to say that we have already reached the point where sim racing is accepted to offer an inexpensive and easily accessible alternative.
That brings us to the real question. Will the rise of simulated motorsports eventually have a negative impact on its real-world counterpart? Ask yourselves the following. If an upcoming racing driver were to be offered better and more realistic opportunities in the virtual racing world, and he would have the opportunity to actually monetize his efforts, would he still be willing to make the transition to the real world, risking losing his potential income and achievements?
In a world where the ever-growing sim racing hobby is being regarded as a legitimate motorsport discipline and features $1 million prize funds, live broadcasts, real-world sponsors, and a host of interesting opportunities, it becomes clear that for many successful sim racers it may not be prudent crossing over to real-world racing. Becoming a sim racing champion might just satisfy all the competitive and financial needs to approach it as a fully fledged sports career, without the constant traveling, hazards, and most importantly the cost of the real world racing life.
Due to these arguments, sim racing will only become more popular for the masses, as just about anyone regardless of budget and physical limitations will have the opportunity to live the dream.
If so, it is safe to say that sim racing will not help to attract more fans and sponsors to the real world circuits, but may in the long term, actually cause the further decline of the motorsport audience and therefore reducing the interest and funding available by means of sponsorship and media coverage?
Only time will tell the outcome of this debate. I would love to read your opinion in the comment section. So if you have a minute to spare, share your personal view on the matter.