What was once the difficult task of getting third parties to license their products for use in video games has shifted to the point where iRacing has to turn down car manufactures and tracks who want to be included in the simulator. For iRacing’s Executive Vice President Steve Myers, it’s a testament to the business model that he has been trying to pursue for over a decade.
“Starting in 2004, the video game industry was broken back when we started in iRacing,” Myers explained to iRacing.
“The model was, let’s take NASCAR as an example, you had to write a seven-figure check to companies to use their brands and marks and getting their product. Fundamentally I have a big problem with that,” Myers said.
When iRacing was being formed out of the Papyrus Design Group – the predecessor to iRacing – Myers and the other founders wanted iRacing to be viewed as a marketing tool for manufactures and as a way for these manufactures to reach what Myers dubbed as the “super users” and diehard fans that use iRacing. This was counter to the traditional method of video game developers approaching series, with the resulting contract often going to the highest bidder.
“I see iRacing as a marketing tool to manufactures and racetracks. At first, that was hard for manufactures, race series, and tracks to hear and to understand because that wasn’t the [business] model back then.
“Through the years as we started signing more and more partners and as our membership grew it obviously became way more obvious to third parties that here’s this really hardcore, dedicated, and now pretty significant group of people that they can put their brands in front of.
“Where it used to be a hard sell back in 2004 through 2010… every year since 2010 it’s becoming easier and easier, to the point where over the last few years, I probably get 50 inquiries a week from manufacturers, race teams, or racetracks about wanting to be included in iRacing. It’s now more of a point where I’m saying no to people, as opposed to me reaching out and saying, ‘hey, do you want to do this with us?’”
What does get developed and what does not is a multifaceted decision that often stretches far beyond that single piece of content. iRacing oftentimes targets the development of certain projects based on what knowledge it gains from doing so, and how that knowledge can be applied in the future.
Project development is “a collection of many factors,” according to Myers. “It’s looking at the features, the development work that is being internally, and how do we leverage projects to do multiple things at once.
“A perfect example is dirt ovals. When we sat down and said, ‘OK we want to do this dynamic track project’ it was very much a pavement-oriented feature, and something I wanted to have implemented all the way back from the Papyrus days.”
Advancements throughout the development of that project enabled iRacing to begin down the road of developing dirt oval racing. That opened the door to a world of new dirt content like World of Outlaws sprint cars. Determining what content can come from what development work is a pivotal factor in the development process.
Another crucial factor in determining what gets developed and what does not is the iRacing community and what content will be popular amongst the user base. Popular content is likelier to bring in new users through word-of-mouth advertising as users spread the word about content.
“We’ve always found that our customers are our best sales tool. Somebody comes into iRacing and they get addicted to it and they love it, they’re going to pull in 10 of their friends to be a part of the service, so we clearly want to talk to them and survey them,” Myers explained.
Myers added that the iRacing team pays close attention to what users are posting on the forums and on social media and try to be as reactive as possible to that feedback.
The partnerships iRacing has in place with series and manufactures can also drive projects. Porsche and iRacing have partnered to run the Porsche TAG Heuer eSports Supercup, the brand’s premier eSports championship. That championship is set to continue next year.
As a result of that connection, the Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Porsche 911 RSR and most recently, the Porsche 911 GT3 R are all available in iRacing. Porsche also hinted at the likelihood that the next-generation GT3 Cup Car would be coming to the simulator sometime in 2022.
Those four Porsche cars are the most for any manufacturer in iRacing apart from Dallara and the three NASCAR makes of Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those are the same manufactures that iRacing has worked on special projects with. For example, Dallara and iRacing partnered to create the Dallara iR-01, a fictional, high-powered, open-wheel car.
From the early days of iRacing with just a dozen or so cars, the service now offers 130 cars across virtually all forms of motorsport. With more cars and tracks coming in regularly scheduled updates, Myers’ approach to sports video games and simulators seems to be working as iRacing fends off manufactures and tracks from all corners of the globe looking to join the party.