Formula One’s Head of eSports Julian Tan recently confirmed that a simulation alternative to the series’ official Formula One game franchise made by Codemasters might be in the cards in the future.
Speaking at the Black Book Motorsport Esports and Gaming Webinar, Tan acknowledged that simulations are becoming “increasingly important” and could be an “interesting long-term development” for Formula One’s eSports strategy.
Until a few years ago, the discussion on whether an official game is realistic enough may have been a hot topic in sim racing forums but for the sports executives, this had little relevance compared to the official game’s sales numbers and the return of investment.
The increased involvement of real life drivers in officially-sanctioned leagues, a process that was very much accelerated by the Covid-19 outbreak, is drastically changing this though as the shortcomings of officially-licensed racing games are suddenly put in the mainstream media spotlight.
Be it countless connection issues, constant track limit and penalty controversy or the flat-out refusal from one of the series star drivers (Max Verstappen) to use the officially-sanctioned title, F1’s issues with their official game have suddenly become very visible and real, well beyond the hobbyist sphere of sim racing community, prompting Formula One to possibly consider offering a simulation alternative to the current mass-market game.
“When you take a step back outside of Formula 1 for a second, you think esports as a product, esports is essentially the use of a video game in a competitive setting, you get professionals playing that and I think a lot of it will come down to a wider gaming portfolio. So being able to have the capabilities and the gaming titles within each of these different niches I think is important.
I do think that simulation will become increasingly important. When we think about the longer-term strategic objectives of Formula 1 esports and how we operate within this space, I think that there are many, many levers.”
The blue print for such a strategy is of course already there as NASCAR is the first major racing series to offer products dedicated to both casual gamers and hardcore simulation drivers and eSports competitors with NASCAR Heat being the licensed title on consoles and PC and iRacing being the base for NASCAR’s official eSports series.
Will Formula One go the same route? Time will tell, but it seems like the major focus on eSports during the last few months may have accelerated a process that would have otherwise much longer to bring chance to how the official F1 license is handled with regards to games.