ROB LAD­BROOK

“One Youtu­ber has over 13m sub­scribers”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News -

OK, I’ll ad­mit it. Hands up: I’m a big es­ports fan.

No that doesn’t mean I sit alone in a dark­ened room in the wee hours of the morn­ing go­ing on quests with to­tal strangers and pre­tend­ing to be a myth­i­cal char­ac­ter in an­other uni­verse.

That’s one side of on­line gam­ing, but es­ports is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent con­cept, and it’s grow­ing at a truly phe­nom­e­nal rate.

I al­ways wanted to be a foot­baller as a kid, but I was never go­ing to cut it. EA Sports’ FIFA se­ries has been my sal­va­tion for that long-held dream. Al­low­ing me to com­pete against any­body in the world at any time at the click of a but­ton, pro­vided my con­troller is still in one piece af­ter the last ses­sion…

It’s sim­ple es­capism, but it also pro­vides a ca­reer for some. Pro­fes­sional gamers can earn truly in­sane amounts of money. The best play­ers in the world can win sums into the mil­lions. In fact the largest tour­na­ment in the world – The In­ter­na­tional for the De­fence of The An­cients 2 [DOTA 2] game – boasted a to­tal prize fund of $18.4m [£13.7m] – that’s $400,000 more than the Day­tona 500.

Crowds are huge too. Thou­sands of fans pack out sta­di­ums to watch the ac­tion live, and mil­lions more stream cov­er­age on­line.

Need more con­vinc­ing? Take Youtube. I sub­scribe to nu­mer­ous vir­tual gam­ing-re­lated chan­nels. It’s my lunch­break guilty plea­sure.

There’s a group of users called the Side­men. Their most prom­i­nent mem­ber – KSI – had 13.4 mil­lion sub­scribers at last count, equiv­a­lent to al­most twice the pop­u­la­tion of New York City. Other mem­bers have huge on­line fol­low­ings too – Wroe­toshaw [7.2m] and Min­im­inter [4.5m]. They all share a com­mon theme in that they made their names sim­ply play­ing FIFA on­line and mak­ing en­ter­tain­ing videos of it. It’s an art form of sorts.

Now foot­ball doesn’t need an in­ter­est boost, but chan­nels and con­tent like this help to draw new fans in every day and cement its place as the most played sport on the planet.

Imag­ine if the same went for mo­tor­sport? Us-based irac­ing is the mar­ket leader at the mo­ment with over 60,000 play­ers world­wide. The On­line Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion [TORA] is a healthy UK or­gan­iser with over 5000 plus. Both al­low play­ers to con­test cham­pi­onships at home for just the cost of a con­sole and game. Real-life classes such as Bri­tish GT have jumped to badge up TORA’S vir­tual rac­ing se­ries, and are re­ceiv­ing the ben­e­fits in ad­di­tional in­ter­est in the ac­tual cham­pi­onship. Fan at­ten­dance is up as a re­sult.

Ini­tia­tives like that are fan­tas­tic for sport as if a gamer likes a sport in vir­tual re­al­ity, chances are they’ll love it in real life. Mo­tor­sport might still be con­sid­ered a niche pas­time com­pared to other ac­tiv­i­ties, but mak­ing it ac­ces­si­ble is the best way to boost par­tic­i­pa­tion and se­cure its fu­ture. New or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Dar­ren Cox’s ESPORT+CARS team only aid that, and hope­fully the rise in vir­tual rac­ing will only ben­e­fit re­al­ity.

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