Eavesdropper: Racing will hold its charm intact

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Published: April 13, 2020 5:15:53 AM

E-sports is gaining ground, now is the time to bring tech innovations.

As the world is in lockdown and there is no activity, people have started turning to e-sports.

Last month when Formula 1 announced that FIA wouldn’t be able to hold races till the COVID-19 threat passes, it also tried to push its virtual racing league. The virtual racing series had been in existent for long as a fantasy league, but Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body for motorsport, had found new vigour for it.

And, the attempt was not futile. The event attracted a few big stars like Lando Norris and Ferrari driver Charles Le Clerc, and FIA was able to garner 1 million views. But FIA is not the only racing body working towards driving user engagement online. NASCAR reported 4.5 million views in its first three races. MotoGP, on the other hand, garnered 201,000 views for its March 29 race. With stars like Rossi participating, it may be able to do more in the future.

Although games like PUBG and Fortnite already have a huge fan following, e-sports as a category has not grown as expected. It does add more new users each year but is considered more of a leisure activity than serious engagement. That may change after this crisis.

As the world is in lockdown and there is no activity, people have started turning to e-sports. More critical, international bodies are recognizing the importance of gaming leagues and fantasy events. A football or a hockey league may not find much traction in such a scenario, but sports like NASCAR, chess can. Although people would certainly love to watch Federer or Nadal play each other using Play Station or Xbox controllers that trend may not hold for as long as motorsports can. A grand slam may not be a bad idea, though and people may log in to watch Agassi or Sampras.

Motorsports have an edge if they can utilize it. However, technology has been a bane for most until now. The technology deployed by these companies is still at its nascent stage. F1 may have the most advanced cars in the world, but when it comes to esports, it is using its 2019 version of the game. NASCAR may have a full setup, but it is not going beyond the traditional format. Virtual reality, simulation is still far off for racing. The trend has not caught up in consumer electronics either. But motorsports can drive engagement. Imagine being able to experience Lewis Hamilton driving using VR glasses or better yet looking in the rear-view mirror to see Bottas or Vettel chasing.

Besides, this can also help drive sales of content not just on YouTube but to gaming console enthusiasts. F1 will find takers in wanting to buy a Ferrari or a Mercedes staring wheel or set up to compete with their favourite stars. Gaming then is no longer a sport, but everybody’s playing field-a complete engagement platform. Racing, meanwhile, won’t lose its charm. But F1 and others will undoubtedly gain more viewers.

Asian Games is to have e-sports as a medal event in 2022, so there is still time.

ishaan.gera@expressindia.com

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