“I’m Paul Page… from Papyrus… this is Indycar Racing 2!” – the immortal words uttered at the start of 1993 classic Indycar Racing 2, one of my favourite-ever games and the last one I owned to run in DOS – something which now seems frankly rather silly. Ten years and many games later, Papyrus developed the acclaimed Nascar Racing 2003, before the company folded. The Phoenixes (… er… Phoenixi… Phoenee…. whatever the plural of phoenix is) that rose from the ashes of Papyrus were David Kaemmer and John W. Henry who have ended up in charge of iRacing. iRacing, for the uninitiated, is a subscription-based online racing service that claims to have the most advanced / realistic physics and handling model in the market and boasts celebrity racing fans such as Dale Earnhardt Jr, Scott Speed and Jacques Villeneuve.
VW-Virginia 4 by jbspec7 on Flickr (Used under CC Licence)
It has a reward model similar to the Gran Turismo series’ licences – the more you pay play the better series’ you can enter and the better races you can go up against. The series even has its own sporting code, and drivers’ safety records are tracked – which seems fair enough as you’d be pretty gutted to spend a hundred dollars on a years’ subscription and to be constantly rammed off the track. Even better than that, you don’t even need an expensive set-up to run it, just a semi-decent graphics card and a decent internet connection. Sounds great huh? Well it might be… but I’ve only ever seen footage of it on YouTube. Why? The cost. The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that small matter of the “hundred dollars” I mentioned just then. That’s sixty-eight of your British pounds. Want a two-year subscription to lower the cost? That’s £120, saving you a staggering eight pounds.
It sounds like an amazing game that I could really get into, but for in return for the initial outlay you only get one years’ play, three cars and seven tracks. If you want more, you’ll end up paying more than your initial subscription just to have access to the rest of the game – want all the cars? That’ll be £60 please. Want all the tracks? Another £151. This Sim HQ forum estimates the whole cost is just under £235 for the full package (with a 20% discount for buying it all up front, it’s £276 if you don’t), and even then your access to the game still ends after a year. Compare that to a good console racer like a Forza, or a Gran Turismo, and what you get for your £40, and I just can’t bring myself to take the plunge and invest in iRacing. It looks brilliant – smart, well-run, great fun and something I could lose myself in for weeks on end, but it’s simply just too expensive this average punter. You can get a PS3 for less cost, complete with games, controllers and Blu-Ray capability and iRacing just doesn’t seem good value for money.
You might wonder why I haven’t yet tried the month-long trial option, and thus written a balanced assessment of the game’s merits based on actually playing it… and I have to hold my hands up – I should have done. My bad. You may spank me. The truth is I don’t trust my addictive personality not to temporarily take control of my body, whip out my credit card and punch in a few numbers after I inevitably get really into it after a few days. If it was £50 for the lot I wouldn’t be writing this now – I’d be far too busy hot-lapping Laguna Seca. Yet for now iRacing, I’m just going to put up a poster of you in my mind, and dream that one day I will be rich enough to afford you and laugh and play and throw my spare bullion at all the peasants playing Gran Turismo. Until then, I’m afraid me and all the other peasants won’t be going to Paul Page’s Papyrus party.