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Exclusive interview: Managing Director at Studio 397 Marcel Offermans - Part 3

Welcome to the final part of our conversation with the managing director of Studio 397, Marcel Offermans. The main topic is esport and which role rFactor 2 have played in recent years and months and where they are going in the future. Enjoy!

Esport has escalated as a business in the last few years, but sim racing hasn't had its big break. But with the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual being such a huge success, do you see things changing?

It’s true that within the esports world, sim racing is a niche. You could even argue that, except for maybe F1, the same holds true for racing in the world of sports. That said, the last year or so we see an increase in interest for esports from the world of motorsport. There are probably several reasons for this, apart from the current situation in the world. Most importantly, sim racing and real racing require a very similar set of skills and as we get more successful in simulating cars on consumer grade hardware, there is a growing interest to use rFactor 2 for all kinds of training purposes. At the same time, sim racing democratizes racing, lowering the barrier of entry into motorsports, which traditionally has been labelled as a sport for the very rich only. I would like to see the two worlds merging even more, and that is definitely a trend we are seeing right now.

It’s hard to predict the future of motorsports. With the changing ways we all think about future mobility, it’s clear to me that there will be big changes.
We grew up with the car as a status symbol. The current generation sees it much more as a way to get from A to B, with many alternatives that are more environmentally friendly. Over time, I’m sure that will make the big car manufacturers rethink their huge investments into motorsport and that might actually be a good thing, as it pushes the sport in a direction where it’s not all about money, but about competing on equal terms where the skills of the driver are decisive and not the research and development that goes into the cars.

While we are at the esport topic, Studio 397 is working on a competition system for rFactor 2. How will it work? Will it be a matchmaking system as we know from other platforms and how will drivers be sorted or will you do something completely different?

We have a couple of goals with this system. First of all, we want to provide people with daily races, where they can pick their favourite series and compete against people of similar skills as well as race with their friends. We focus here on making this as easy as possible by obviously hosting the races, but also by making sure it is easy to download the content, required for such a series.
We realize that a large part of our community enjoys racing and the competition, but not everybody has the talent or the time to compete at the highest level. Secondly, we want to build a system where people can move up the ranks, from regional and casual racing with friends to national and international series.

This is where we also want to involve existing leagues, integrating them into the system and providing them with the benefits of the system. Finally, this system should also cater for a few “special cases”. We’d like to be able to use the same system for people who enjoy racing the AI in offline championships, where they are free to race whenever they want. Other cases we are targeting are LAN environments and esports tournaments, where an automated system needs to be flexible enough to also be used with humans doing race control, live broadcasts, etc.

Last question. What does the future of rFactor 2 look like?

In short: bright. We started on this journey four years ago and year after year we have managed to increase the user base, grow our sales and extend the world of rFactor 2 in many interesting ways. It’s our intention to keep evolving the platform over time and stay relevant for many years to come.

Those words conclude our conversation with Marcel who was very open and transparent about the issues the studio are facing in their effort to unlock the potential of rFactor 2. A big thank you to Marcel Offermans for the talk and Studio 397 for their contribution to grow sim racing as a whole. More information about rFactor 2 can be found on https://www.studio-397.com/

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