Sofa-jockeys given crack at virtual Formula 1 world championship

This whole 'Esport' thing looks serious – for games developers looking to boost sales

F1 2017 game
Screen shot from Formula 1 2017, the game/Esport arena

Formula 1 has announced it's getting into “e-sports”, the preferred phrase for competitive computer gaming, with a new “Formula 1 Esports Series” that will see a virtual F1 champion crowned later this year.

Many gamers think their pastime’s enormous following and facilitation of networked competitions makes a legitimate sport that can stand beside other competitions that test speed, strength and skill. That argument was accepted by the Asian Games, which has made gaming a medal sport at its 2022 event, with a little marketing and promotional help from Alibaba's gaming tentacle. Even the Summer Olympics is keen on the idea: Paris' bid for the 2024 games reportedly proposed including e-sports.

Formula 1's announcement details a virtual race to be run from September, which is co-incidentally when developer Codemasters will release the 2017 edition of the F1 game on PlayStation, XBOX and PC. And guess what? You can pre-order it now.

Players rated among the world's 40 fastest racers will be summoned to London in October. The top 20 will then score another trip, this time to Abu Dhabi, where the crowning of the first virtual F1 champ will take place at the same time as the winner of that nation's physical race is revealed.

We're not told if the virtual champ gets to spray champagne around or drink it from their shoe, but F1 will make the winner a “character in the F1 2018 game” as “a timeless reminder of his or her accomplishment.”

F1 says one reason it's doing this is a “continued ambition to build a greater connection with wider audiences, especially younger fans.” It's hard to fault that logic: kids these days raised with on-demand-everything are less likely to tune in to F1's travelling circus at all hours, potentially shrinking TV audiences and in turn likely lessening the fees F1 can charge broadcasters. All of which makes tapping into a cash stream from games sensible business, even if the timing if the launch of this virtual race series looks like a tawdry tie-in. ®

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