There is no doubting that esports are big business. The money at the top has been huge, the sponsors and lifestyle has been eye opening and for the next generation, here you have the biggest sporting stars who are cruelly under-reported. However the question posed as the title came from a well respected person of the simracing community in the form of Empty Box. His tweet got me thinking, and in response, I will answer.
In terms of commercial output and numbers of players, Empty Box is absolutely correct. I do not see a substantial way that anybody can dispute that in the next five years due to the massive console war of Xbox versus Playstation and the need for each platform to have a racing icon to back money behind. Gran Turismo is probably the reason why Japan’s simracing scene struggles to venture into the niche simulators like rFactor and iRacing due to just how important the game is over there.
However you may argue that what Forza and Gran Turismo do doesn’t instantly catch the open eyes as being esports.
For one, I have never heard what goes on at the highest level in Gran Turismo of Forza but that doesn’t say much as a message. What would though is the GT Academy. Many famous GT Academy drivers over the years through one way or another have moved over into the niche simulators. Patrick Langkau, Nikodem Wisniewski, Johnny Guindi, Jeremy Bouteloup and many others have been in the GT Academy picture and have all worked their way to my strongest subject of iRacing. Drivers who, if Forza and Project Cars had the monopoly, would still be cooped within the worlds of GT Sport and Forza 7.
However I would even argue the opposite. F1 Esports was a massive talking point towards the end of the year with their first ever tournament and the idea instantly of making that a yearly fixture is a positive for the industry.
You put into perspective how Project Cars 2 already has an ESL deal making them fast one of the major players in the simracing world and then the door gets blown wide open. McLaren, Joe Gibbs Racing, Formula E, WTCC, Race of Champions and more are wanting to get a taste of what esports is all about and that all has come from simulators who do not have as much of a push in marketing like Forza or Gran Turismo could have if they wanted to.
Who wouldn’t want to be in the esports business right now? esports in the next two years is due to gross in over a billion dollars and while simracing is small talk at this stage, the signs are all there for a sudden boom when it comes to talking prize money and talking competition too. When you talk about real world exposure, there is a reason why Alonso, Verstappen, Barrichello, Ocon, Mortata, Thiim, Norris, Sutton, Van Gisbergen etc etc all have a foot somewhere in the simracing world, proving that it is as close to the real thing and produces greater action than the real thing.
If you put a real and a fake side by side, the fake would be of far greater value because in its deliberate attempt to be real, it is more real than the real thing itself. Simracing has been viewed as esport material for far longer than I have been a part of it and now that there is even talk of an Olympic effort in 2024 for esports, and in that regard, simracing would have to be put as one of the more realistic categories to be considered.
There is no true leader right now in simracing, and be it an arcade style that brings lots of members but no real talking power like Forza or Gran Turismo, or be it a full on simulator that has the hardcore fans happy but doesn’t bring in the money needed. The balancing point is very neutral at this stage.
Any new game at this point in time in 2018 trying to hit the simulator market will be wholly outclassed by those who have the ability to consistently develop their simulators or those who already have games released and pushing for further developments. Forza is a lot better equipped to get close to the esport circle than Gran Turismo is however when your game fails in WFG and you need iRacing to come and bail you out, what more can be said?
Simracing is on the cusp of being major business and in just these first two weeks, Race of Champions has decided to host an eRace of Champions to get a simracing team in the Race of Champions, Red Bull and Amazon have sponsored teams in both rFactor2 and iRacing and what that has all done for the profile of the sport is sensational.
Why is there such a push? Because we are already pushing the LOL 2011 boundary mark. Will Forza and Gran Turismo dominate the competition? I have seen not much to even come close to indicating as such.