Is NASCAR about the jump aboard the digital gaming craze? That looks to be the case after a report from The SportsBusiness Journal revealed the racing series’ plans to finalize an eSports venture. Nothing has been confirmed at the moment, but the report indicated that NASCAR is in the final stages of hammering out a venture that would lay the foundation for NASCAR-themed video game race competitions during race weekends this season.
It’s actually surprising that a popular racing series like NASCAR has not yet capitalized on the eSports craze. The industry has turned into a billion-dollar behemoth that has attracted millions of players from all over the world, playing organized, multi-player video game competitions against each other.
In other words, it’s the perfect venue for NASCAR to not only attach its name to a booming industry, but also expand its reach to a younger demographic that doesn’t count itself as a fan of the sport. It’s a good thing that NASCAR is doing it now, though, because eSports is still ascending as a business. According to the report, an announcement could be made in the coming days, possibly after the season-opening Daytona 500 race on February 18.
The exact details of NASCAR’s eSports venture are still unknown, but it is believed to be based on starting two different tournaments, specifically iRacing and the “NASCAR Heat” franchise. The latter is the series’ official video game franchise for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows via Steam. The second installment, NASCAR Heat 2, had its release date last September 2017 so it’s still new enough as a game to build an eSports tournament around it. For its part, iRacing is a subscription-based racing simulator that’s seen as a more advanced and technical offering that can cater to hardcore gamers and actual racers themselves.
Logistically, the events are expected to be held during race weekends. That part of the plan appears to be in place because both the International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc., are involved in the discussions. Together, the two companies own 20 race tracks and venues in the NASCAR calendar. The involvement of the three independently owned tracks — Dover International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Pocono Raceway — are still unclear, but if this eSports venture is to see a green light, they probably need to get on board with the plan so the competition can build a full schedule for the whole season.
Cross your fingers that we get to see this project come to fruition. I’m a fair-weather fan when it comes to eSports, but the addition of a NASCAR-owned tournament will raise my interest in the business.
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