The most popular driving game is Grand Theft Auto V. The number of people tuned into that is greater than all other platforms combined (I’m using Twitch statistics for the last 180 days). To be fair, GT5 isn’t really a driving game. I don’t think anyone buys wheel, pedals, and shifter to play GTA5. But the number of average viewers, 73,267, is an indication of how popular driving content (ish) can be.
The next most popular game, Rocket League, is soccer played with cars. But the cars don’t really move like cars. They drive up walls, spin and flip in the air, and generally behave like superheroes. It looks like fun. Not like driving, but it looks like it takes a mixture of skill and teamwork. It’s roughly 1/10th as popular as GTA5, but 6,485 average viewers is pretty amazing.
iRacing is the most popular simulation title, and its popularity is climbing consistently. The yearly numbers from 2016 to 2019 are 141, 167, 299, 642, and if you focus on the last 180 days, 732. That’s great, but still only 1% of the viewership compared to GTA5.
Weirdly, Euro Truck Simulator (726) and American Truck Simulator (199) are some of the more popular simulation titles. Apparently it’s more engaging to watch someone navigate city streets than race tracks.
F1 2019 is doing surprisingly well with 415 average viewers. F1 is the most watched motorsport in the real world, so it stands to reason that it would be popular in the gaming world. I’ve never tried F1 2019 or its predecessors. When I buckle into my virtual harness, I like to drive cars I might drive in real life, and have those cars behave authentically. I can’t imagine driving an F1 car in real life, and if I did so in simulation, I wouldn’t have any idea how authentic it was.
It’s surprising how poorly some of the iRacing direct competitors are faring. Assetto Corsa Competizione was designed to be an iRacing killer. ACC is the official Blancpain GT simulator. That license used to belong to iRacing and the GT3 cars were the most popular on iRacing. Somehow ACC got the rights instead, and their competitive esport version of the series has only 42 average viewers. Near the same popularity, 58, is Gran Turismo Sport, another esport attempt that hasn’t proved popular. Other mild failures include Project CARS 2 (48) and DiRT Rally 2 (36), two titles whose sequels were arguably not better than their originals.
At the moment, my 3 favorite platforms are rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa, and DiRT Rally, in that order. I’ll post soon about why rFactor 2 has overtaken Assetto Corsa. But rFactor 2 and DiRT Rally have miserable viewership: 10 each. What’s worse, I’m really looking forward to Automobilista 2, due out in Spring 2020. The original Automobilista has zero viewers, and I don’t imagine the sequel will have a huge impact either.
Why is iRacing winning the relatively small esports racing market? I think there are four main reasons.
- It’s the most popular platform. New players will be attracted to the game with the most players.
- It’s good enough. Among hardcore sim racers, iRacing isn’t considered to have the best physics. The tire model, in particular is often criticized. However, all the tracks are laser-scanned, and the feel of the game is pretty good.
- They have the best racing support. Whether you’re racing in official series or building a custom race of your own, iRacing makes it easy to get into a race, or manage one.
- The iRacing community forums are very helpful and a great resource for the improving sim racer. Perhaps the requirement for using your real name reduces some of the toxicity rampant in other esports.
So why isn’t iRacing my favorite title? Because esports racing isn’t my #1 priority when it comes to virtual driving.
- 73,267 Grand Theft Auto V
- 6,485 Rocket League
- 1,344 TrackMania2 Stadium
- 732 iRacing
- 726 Euro Truck Simulator
- 415 F1 2019
- 302 Forza Horizon 4
- 199 American Truck Simulator
- 58 Gran Turismo Sport
- 51 Assetto Corsa
- 48 Project CARS 2
- 42 Assetto Corsa Competizione
- 36 DiRT Rally 2
- 10 rFactor 2
- 10 DiRT Rally
- 0 Automobilista