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The rise and possible fall of iRacing

Discussion in 'iRacing' started by AnonymousRaceDriver, May 6, 2013.

  1. Brief history on the Service:

    iRacing started out in 2004 by John Henry and Dave Kaemmer. John is a co-owner of Roush-Fenway Racing for those who aren't aware, and so he was able to provide financial backing that has never really been seen before in sim racing. Combine that with the experience of Dave Kaemmer who has competed in the Skip Barber Championship in real life, and is the mastermind behind such sims as GT Legends, and you can expect top notch results. Finally an able developer has virtually all the time and money they need to create the ultimate sim experience. In a period from 2004-2008 iRacing consisted of lots of R&D and closed testing, some early members became part of the testing early on with most early testers joining in 2007 through connections in the sim world. In mid 2008 iRacing was open to the public but through invites only, then released fully to the public later on in the year.

    The stage was set nicely, a huge amount of hype and community buzz had set iRacing above all other racing sims, before it was even released. Laser scanned tracks, cars being measured, weighed, and scanned for perfect accuracy. From a scientific point of view it was very hard for people to argue with what iRacing was doing, they were miles ahead of everyone else. They also have a 10 year plan, and a $20million investment from John Henry which they boasted through advertising and shameless plugs in the sim community. It was a good move by iRacing to let people know how serious they were early on, if they didn't there is no way they would get away with charging what they do for their service.

    iRacing has a model that is unique to racing sims, but not unique to the gaming world. To use the service you must be a member, which requires you to purchase one of their monthly or annual membership packages. With the membership you get access to limited content, at first it was only a few cars on the Oval and Road side, with a handful of tracks. If you wanted some of the faster cars or more tracks, those would have to be purchased individually. People were so excited about the sim, they did not care much to argue with the plan, they did not mind that they owned none of the content, and were only purchasing access to them when their membership is in current status. If you stop paying to access their service, you lose all access to the content you have purchased. How do they control this? It is simple, the only way you can use the service is through an internet connection with a compatible browser. There is a large program installed on your PC, however you cannot access it unless you are logged in securely through their website. This helps them to keep control and monitor all things that happen in the sim.

    This type of service is very controversial, but with the level of professionalism that iRacing was trying to achieve, this was the only way to go for them. By controlling things through an online browser, they prevent people from running modified versions of the game, which could include hacking the physics, or any other type of manipulation. That does not mean iRacing has been free from hackers though, there have been reports of cheats that have been used, patched, with the users who cheated banned, and no refund given. By controlling the sim in such a way, iRacing was able to display itself as a professional service, where people can compete fairly worldwide against their peers, 24 hours a day, with a full time staff of stewards and developers constantly monitoring and updating the service.

    They ran ads showing professional drivers giving testimonies on how realistic the simulator is, which is nothing new, every simulator out has done this. However with iRacing, people are required to give their real first and last name, so users who are part of the service can literally search their favorite drivers name, and through a statistic screen, monitor the progress and lap times. This made iRacing unique because people can actually see professional drivers using the service. This helped give consumers confidence, not only were they confident that the company was on solid ground having John Henry as the financial backbone, but they also are able to purchase content in confidence knowing that professional drivers have sworn by the accuracy. From 2008-current the service has grown in overall members, but so has the sim. What started out as a few thousand people in 2008, has grown into the tens of thousands. Content has also been expanded, it was just a handful of cars and tracks starting out, but now iRacing boasts a car for everyone on both Oval and Road, with 24 hours 7 days a week series of official sessions.

    The future of iRacing is still not very clear...how could this be though? With such a strong foundation, and having the largest active community in sim racing, how
    could they ever fail?

    Downfalls of the greatest sim available:

    Even though iRacing has been the dominant name in sim racing since its release in 2008, it still has its downfalls. The sim does not provide a lot of the simple things that other sims have for years. Some of these things include tire build up, dynamic weather, and dynamic track surfaces. You are basically racing in a static environment all of the time, which is obvious to anyone that the real world of motorsports simply cannot be simulated accurately in a static environment.

    Other downfalls are development times. In the beginning the members were very forgiving over long development times. Cars and Tracks were basically announced, then several months later eventually released, with some projects lasting over a year. As time has progressed and their team grows you would expect development time to go down, but it has not. Members are still finding themselves waiting almost a year for new content to be released.

    Another downfall of iRacing is the content it provides, a lot of the cars are somewhat unpopular or outdated when compared to race cars in other sims. Instead of Ferrari, BMW, and other big names in racing, we see Pontiac, Kia, and what seems to be at random one car selected from several different series all over the place. So when you see something like Formula 1 advertised you will be sad to find out you only have two F1 cars available, and they are decades apart from each other. If you are a fan of Grand Am racing, the Daytona Prototype available is a Pontiac, and it is already half a decade old. This is the trend with iRacing, they tend to model only one car from a series, then by the next couple years it is already outdated, and then they tell people they have a virtual version of that series even though it is only that one car that is most likely not used in the series anymore.

    Then there are the tracks, other than Nascar, you will be lucky to find more than a few real world tracks available where your favorite series actually races in real life. This, combined with the random car from a random year, can make you feel as if you are competing in some fantasy series, rather than simulating the real life series. Some are hopeful to one day get a complete series, but with iRacing's super slow pace in their development it seems near impossible for them ever to release a complete series will all the cars and tracks from the same year competition. Some tracks were scanned, and left to be forgotten with excuses given from the staff members that they simply do not have the manpower to complete, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many members. On top of that, some projects end up getting delayed, like the coveted Lotus 49, it has been promised many times by the staff, but delayed every time.

    This brings me to my biggest concern with iRacing, its quest for perfection comes at the expense of its members wallets and patience. For iRacing to prepare a release to the public they seem to have very high quality standards and must simulate things accurately through a formula. This sounds great, except they don't always get it right, and when you wait several months for something to be released, you expect it to be good to go when it is released. Several of the iRacing fans will just use the excuse that everything in the sim is a work in progress, and things will always be updated and changed. The problem with that, is it gives iRacing a fail pass, meaning they can release something that is a failure and get a pass from the community because it is a work in progress and will be updated. This is not just limited to iRacing, now that the internet is here to update games, developers across the board are releasing unfinished products and just updating things later on.

    The problem with this whole situation, is it creates a circle of long development times, and a pass for mediocre content. Some will say they cannot have it both ways, they cannot offer an advertised realistic experience, yet make dramatic changes to the core of the simulation. Things like the tire model and physics have changed dramatically over time, and to this day the tire model still is not right. When individuals question the tire model they are met with some resistance from iRacing staff members who believe things are not as bad as they seem, but are also told there are yet again going to be more dramatic changes to fix bugs such as more grip with cold tires, but like everything at iRacing, even the tire model gets delayed over and over again.

    Then you have cars that were driven by professionals before their release and have sworn testimonies of being accurate to the real life counterpart, that have since been changed dramatically, so now iRacing has to answer the question,are the cars inaccurate now? Or were their professional spokesman just spewing company lines to promote iRacing early on?

    One will ask themselves why has iRacing not hired on more experts to help with the physics and tire models, or more professionals to help speed up development time of cars and help with the completion of tracks. Well, as unlimited as their resources may seem, they do not have an endless supply of money. If you think about how much it must cost to run a business like this year round, that $20million will get gobbled up fairly quick over the years, and the membership alone cannot support a super large staff. Even with a small staff they are paying several yearly salaries, sending employees all over the world to scan cars and tracks, not to mention other expenses like the cost of equipment and an office headquarters. They simply cannot afford to stay in business, and also have a super large staff.

    There is a lot of controversy over the direction of iRacing, with its lack of features, and its ever changing view on how physics and tires work. One can only ask how long can this company keep all its members? Right now
    iRacing has somewhat of a monopoly on sim racing. They are the only sim offering full time year round organized racing in a professional environment. Everything feels official with iRacing, and anyone can join with ease. This gives iRacing an edge over all other sims which depend on mods and communities to bring people together, which as we have seen before can be very messy, but also very rewarding if done right. Personally, I would love to see iRacing just "get things right", but at the moment with how they do things, it would take years before they ever start releasing complete series or getting cars that are up to date instead of outdated ones that are already retired from their current series.

    Sooner or later, iRacing will lose its monopoly on this type of service, someone else is bound to come along and offer a similar service. If such a service comes along, and offers things that iRacing still has trouble with, like a correct tire model, or dynamic environments, then iRacing's future may be in trouble. They can only exist in such a state as long as there is no competition to steal their customers away. Eventually when another sim does come along that rivals iRacing, they better be ready to deliver on their promises, or face the reality of having to eventually close their doors after everyone but a few dedicated followers leave for the new kid on the block who offers something bigger and better.
    • Like Like x 10
  2. Great post. Well thought out and I agree with the essence of what you are saying. Did you manage to post this on the official iRacing forums? I tried something similar, and it got deleted pretty quickly...

    To add to this topic, I believe iRacing ARE loosing their monopoly and it's going to happen this year with the release of rFactor2, Assetto Corsa, Project CARS and the multiplayer portion of RaceRoom.

    I believe that is why they are so desperate to rush Steam support and Mac/Linux support without using their usual long development time to get things right (even though they despite this do fail in various strange ways), and I think it's going to bite them in the ass.

    Not all publicity is good publicity and they have used up quite a lot of their goodwill with the constant fidgeting back and forth with the NTM, drafting and such. God help them if the Lotus 49 isn't a dream to drive!
    • Like Like x 3
  3. I'm pretty sure he didn't want his own name/reputation attached to it. Which is probably why everyone has essentially ignored it. Without a byline, it's most likely not worth paying attention to. If he's not willing to say who he is, why should I care what he has to say?
  4. Andrew Ford

    Andrew Ford
    Premium Member

    Whoever you are, you might want to read this.
    I posted something similar a while back although it ended in a massive debate/slanging match :O_o:

  5. Heh- kind of funny becuase there is a slew of people who post here and on other sim forums, including the steam discussions without their "official names" gushing over iRacing and how great it is. Are they to be taken seriously or not seriously? Some of these people do it all day across a variety of sim racing websites too as if they were being paid by iRacing or insecure about losing their $1000 in content and sub fees if the place goes south. Interesting huh.

    Same deal as when Austin O made his post:
    1. It isn't just me or a few other disgruntled people who are out to prove a point anymore, alot of people are arriving at the same conclusion these days.
    2. Again nobody is actually disproving anything OP or Austin said, just trying to ostracize them and make it like they are just being ridiculous.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. They've got bigger problems than that, I have heard from several different sources that that car may not come out before there is a major re-write of the underlying code. It's not the tires, but the whole physics package holding back the release of that car.
  7. Feel free to post it there if you want, I have had enough with that place though personally I try to avoid their forums.
  8. Still boggles my mind that all these small sim developers go it alone, so we've got god knows how many small teams selling 40-100k units, rather than merge and release a sizeable sim.
    All we need is GSC physics with some extra rf2 FFB and who'd be unhappy from a sim POV...?

    Obviously the extra budget and manpower means extra cars and tracks+ the other features AnonRacer mentioned, but as it stands, we're getting a stream of unfinished, small featureless sims that don't appeal to the average racer and sometimes appeal to the sim racers.

    I accept that the game would need to be structured as a simcade, ie, career and gameplay modes, but as long as one could drive any car on any track and it was proper sim physics and FFB, who cares.
  9. That's precisely why not starting an 'anonymous' account to whinge with is important. It lets you sort the 'haters' from the 'fanboys' from those who tend to have a balanced, measured opinion worth listening to even when you disagree with it.

    If I wonder why you have a particular opinion, I can just search for DewCrew88 and see your history. You've had run-ins with the iRacing protest system because you lost your cool, and you still call it iceRacing. I know what to expect from your posts. Same with myself, you can search Bakkster and find out more than you need to know to form an opinion of me and figure out my viewpoint. See Austin's review, when people started wondering why it sounded a bit ridiculous, they saw the byline and remembered he has a history of ridiculous posts in the past as well as being suspended.

    Reputation matters, whether it's your given name or not.

    All we know is AnonymousRaceDriver is having a whinge. The only thing we have to base his reputation on is that he's complaining on Race Department about iRacing (a novel thing to do) and trying to get people to pay attention to it (took 50 hours for the first post to this thread which came from someone else just here to have his own whinge, Anonymous even took to referring to me on Twitter to try and get people to see this post).

    So we have nothing to base his reputation on but this complaint post, which isn't doing him any favors to being taken seriously as anything but a 'hater'. Why make an anonymous account to post something like this, then? Is his reputation even WORSE than if all we know about him is this diatribe?
  10. Bram

    Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    If it were me we ban nicknames completely as they are silly when people hide behind it.

    I have no problem with people venting another view (thats what a forum is for) but at least don't do it as anonymous racer which is kinda lame and indeed makes you look like a hater.

    Fake name + Fake email address = Double Fail imo.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. Why is it so hard for people to take arguments at face value and either counter them or agree with them?

    Very often when I see people disagreeing, they instead choose to derail in some form or another instead of applying their effort to the actual discussion at hand...

    Nobody has still shown that the OP is wrong.

    EDIT: I see now that DewCrew88 basically made the same point as me already. Sorry! But Bakkster was pouring out quite a lot of words without actually saying anything, or (again) trying to counter the arguments raised by the OP so that's why I missed it.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. No, but that's because it's not worth doing. Just a sour grapes post by some anonymous complainer, there will be no rational discussion with the OP.

    Besides, if I did disagree I could probably set my watch by how long it took for somebody to call me a 'fanboy' instead of showing why I was wrong. Again, this is not the kind of thread that's going to spark a rational discussion.
  13. Bram

    Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Not saying he is wrong, actually he has some valid points and for the development of a game its always good to read both positive as negative aspects of a simulation.

    I just feel uncomfortable with this whole hiding behind a nickname and a fake email address. Makes the feedback less valuable for me.
  14. Why can a person's view on something not just be read at face value? Why do you need to know who is posting in order to make sense of what is written?
    • Like Like x 1
  15. You seem to have this desire to weigh someones opinion based on your approval of them. Would me being someone who you approved or disapproved of change the definition of my words? Would it give my words more or less meaning? The words are words, and can be read without bias as they are. If you need to know who says what before you can form an opinion than all of your opinions will be biased based on your view on the person who said them. I wrote this article in this fashion to give people an unbiased view, and to help their views be unbiased. I would hate for someone to approve of me, and say they agree just because of who I am, the same goes for if they do not approve of me, and say they don't agree because of who I am. I would like each individual to read the article for what it says, not for who wrote it.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  16. No it's just that most of the time the fanboys are the ones refusing the have a rational discussion.

    The OP and people like myself actually think iRacing does some good things, you guys just pass over that.
    • Like Like x 3
  17. Bram

    Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Because I am not a Catholic priest that takes a confession. When people are deliberately using fake email addresses and names you have something to hide or think you are doing something wrong by writing a comment on the internet.

    You don't need to hide to post an opinion (good or bad) in my opinion.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Bakkster, pay attention to your own words: you deny the possibility of discussing the OP's post because you deem it "not worth".

    As if that isn't bad enough, you then carry on with a "sour grapes" comment.

    The final nail in the coffin...no pun intended...is when you, having denied the OP any chance of discussion of his valid or invalid points, complain about someone potentially calling you a "fanboy" instead of showing why you were wrong. Two people, too different measure.

    Did you not accuse him of having "sour grapes"? Didn't you refuse to discuss his post? Why would anyone want to discuss this with you?

    That is baffling, mate. Why not simply disagree? Or, if you don't feel like disagreeing and let others know of it, why post at all?


    As for the OP...He has made good, valid points. But his talk about downfalls is not only premature but also exaggerated. As I have been saying, there is too much hype surrounding iRacing and too much of that comes from Marketing Dept (and Eric); the ridiculous claims they've been making can and will hurt them in the future, in particular because other devs are waking up to the "new" world exposed by iRacing (in regards to service) and may bring forth products that easily rival and beat iRacing from the physics standpoint. However...if DK finally manages to do away with the assumptions he made for the NTM and tackles most issues remaining, iRacing has the muscle and potential to continue on and survive for years.

    The OP, though, did mention in the title of the thread (here and at NG) "possible fall".
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Well, Bakkster did hint at the issue of credibility. You can't run away from that.

    Let us suppose you represent or work for a competitor of iRacing. Even if you do make valid points, would anyone easily accept you and your post/article as credible? No.

    Let us suppose that you were kicked out of iRacing for whatever reason. It's only human to lash out at those that kicked you out. Wouldn't your credibility be at stake here, even if you made valid points? Yes.

    The issue of anonymity is an odd one: roughly a year ago, this forum defended their members' freedom of speech against what looked like an attempt by a known entity to control what was said of it and its product. So, are you free to say what you want? certainly, within the bounds of rationality, simple decency and truthfulness. Are you allowed to post anonymous articles or opinions? Well, that seems to be the case and, in my opinion, most people hide behind a nickname and an email which does not reflect their true name or persona - if they're allowed, so should you, crystal clear. The issue is not that, but rather, and we're back again to it, one of credibility. Yes, you are free to post as MrAnonymous or MrBean, or Tony Blair or Tina Turner - but by doing so, you are jeopardizing an important facet of posting one's opinion: credibility.

    On the other hand, and again, since when do we have to use our real names in forums such as these (RD, NG, SimHQ)? Seems clear there's a contradiction of philosophies here if we remember what happened last year.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Bram

    Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    You don't need to use your real name if you don't want to, thats why I said if it were up to me we would enforce that rule. I don't like nicknames associated with virtual motorsports, hence we have as a requirement to use real names for licensed members since 2006.

    Lewis Hamilton is also not racing as TheDarkDude85 or McLarenHat0r in Formula One.