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Formula E Racing Will Add ESports Racing Series For 2021 Season

James Murphy
by in NASCAR on
  • The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is a racing series that began in 2014 using only electric cars.
  • The circuit is growing in popularity in Europe and has attracted some serious sponsors including Tag-Heuer, DHL, Hugo Boss and BMW.
  • The Formula E circuit has announced that they’ll run an esport racing series simultaneous with their 2021 on-track season.

We told you this was coming. The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship racing circuit has announced that they’ve added an esport racing series for the 2021 season. The series will be called Formula E: Accelerate and will take place on the rFactor 2 racing simulator software with a price pool of $120,000 USD.

Here’s how the excellent website SportsTechie described the new esports endeavor:

Electric car racing league Formula E will add an esports series for the upcoming season called Formula E Accelerate. The six-race series will take place on the rFactor 2 racing simulator software and offer a $120,000 prize pool.

Competitors in the esports series will include 12 real-life Formula E drivers (one from each Formula E team) as well as top gamers and special guests. Fans can compete in an online qualifier until Jan. 13 for the chance to join Formula E Accelerate, which will hold its first race on Jan. 28 and final on March 25.

The esports races will broadcast in a 90-minute format on Formula E’s social and streaming platforms. The actual Formula E season, which includes teams such as Audi, BMW, and Porsche, is scheduled to begin Feb. 26 in Saudi Arabia.

Formula E Accelerate is an expansion upon last year’s Formula E Race at Home Challenge, which debuted after COVID-19 suspended Formula E’s season in March. That esports series featured a scandal in which Audi driver Daniel Abt secretly used a professional gamer to impersonate him in the virtual races.

This is the first I’ve heard about the Audi driver hiring a pro gamer to impersonate him in the virtual races. That’s hilarious. It didn’t work out well for driver Daniel Abt who lost his ride in the fallout.

Here’s why this is significant–for the first time that I’m aware of a professional sports league will run a ‘virtual’ season in conjunction with their ‘real world’ season. Furthermore, you’ll almost certainly be able to wager on the esport version of Formula E racing. The ‘drivers v. gamers’ angle is interesting but the next step in the evolution will be a complete ‘virtual competition’ simulated using official statistical and telemetry data. This is something that we saw coming back during the early days of the COVID-19 sports shutdown:

This could get very interesting. In the near future, you might see leagues playing a ‘virtual’ season simultaneous to their ‘real’ season. The current hiatus of most sports worldwide will likely mean that bookmakers, players, teams and leagues will want a ‘hedge’ against that happening in the future. Hopefully, this isn’t something that we’ll have to deal with again anytime soon and if that’s the case the ‘virtual’ season can be a nice ancillary revenue stream for everyone concerned and a fun ‘alternate reality’ betting opportunity for handicappers.

If there is a shutdown of any type the ‘virtual’ games could continue even with the ‘real’ leagues on hiatus. This would keep at least some revenue streams coming in for everyone in the food chain. It wouldn’t take much to add even more revenue streams. In-game advertising (something that is already common in video games) is the most obvious way to further monetize the ‘virtual’ sport and possibly the most lucrative.

Want to go deeper into ‘The Matrix’? Could there come a point where a generation raised on video games and esports will gravitate toward the simulated version of a sport as an adjunct or even substitute for the ‘real’ sport?

This could have myriad implications. Would a generation that grew up on video games and Esports gravitate toward this type of betting? Would sportsbooks accept that, say, the ‘virtual NFL’ is a legitimate sporting event and take action? In the US, there are interesting regulatory implications. Many states have a list of ‘approved events for sports wagering’ that delineate which leagues that bookmakers can take action on. They don’t have any stipulation that these events must take place in the ‘physical’ and not the ‘virtual’ world.

With the convergence of Esports and sports betting along with the desire of professional leagues and the media to leverage both trends this could not only be inevitable but happen sooner rather than later. There are plenty of signs–ESPN is hosting a NBA 2K20 video game tournament featuring a number of actual pro hoop players. Most pro sports leagues already run their own officially sanctioned Esports competitions. The more traditional sports betting market is turning to Esports with so many ‘real’ sports on hiatus.

The journey down the rabbit hole has already begun:

Not enough convergence for you? Sportsbooks already have sports video game titles among their Esports offering and quite a few are running and taking action on their own ‘virtual games’ based on video game play. And to bring this all full circle Seattle Esports betting startup Unikrn has created a ‘virtual Esports’ betting platform based on historical game data. With all of these examples happening as we speak it’s a no brainer for leagues to operate their own ‘virtual leagues’. Virtual players don’t have to be quarantined and the games–and revenue–can keep on coming.

Y’all no doubt remember the ‘Virtual Kentucky Derby’ that was broadcast in place of the actual race after the ‘Run for the Roses’ got postponed to September?

This is how I see things ending up–a virtual sports platform offered by sports leagues without any human input. Just a simulation using actual statistical data. At the same time, I think you’ll see continued growth in esport competitions based on sports video games. Running a simulated version of a season or event simultaneous to the actual event is a no-brainer–it allows everyone involved to make more money without the requisite logistical demands of extending the season, expanding the playoffs, etc. Sportsbooks would eat it up–it would give them another revenue stream and assuming that the sports simulations were sufficiently accurate they could hang the same line on a ‘simulated’ NFL game that they’re using on the ‘real’ NFL game.

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