It has been announced that Formula One is to launch its first official esport series with the soon to be released F1 2017 game.
The Formula 1 eSports Series will be run as a partnership between F1, Codemasters (the games developers) and eSports specialist Gfinity.
The first series kicks off next month with qualification events through September. This will determine the 40 fastest drivers who will then head to London for the semi finals in October.
From this semi final the field will be halved to 20 to make up the final which will be a three race event held during the F1 season closer in Abu Dhabi in November.
The first ever winner won’t just get the privilege of being the inaugural F1 eSports champion but will also receive automatic qualification to the 2018 semi finals and will be included as a character in the 2018 edition of the game as well. They will also be named ‘Formula 1 eSports Champion expert.
“This launch presents an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans,” said F1 commercial boss Sean Bratches.
“First, it’s a growing category with tremendous fan engagement that we’re entering in a big way; and we are proud to have Codemasters and Gfinity joining us on this ride.
“Of course as we do in Formula 1, we’ll continue to evolve and innovate in the way we run this virtual counterpart to the F1 championship to ensure we provide the most exciting and enjoyable experience we can for our fans.”
According to Codemasters CEO Frank Saigner, the eSports concept will take fan engagement to a new level.
He said: “eSports is one of the fastest growing sectors of gaming already attracting audiences in the tens of millions.
“We are delighted to be announcing this incredible racing series with Formula 1 for our upcoming F1 2017 game.
“The highly competitive nature and high-speed spectacle of the sport combined with the authenticity of our game will provide a thrilling experience for players and viewers across the world.
“We look forward to engaging more deeply with our loyal and passionate community, and to bring new fans to both our game and the sport itself.”
Although this represents Formula 1’s first official foray into eSports motorsport as a whole has been involved in gaming for years. This is most noticeable with Gran Turismo and the Nissan GT Academy programme that brought along the likes of Jann Mardenborough in GT and Le Mans prototype driving seats. Gran Turismo continues this with the upcoming GT Sport title released in October with two FIA certified championship through its online service. Recently McLaren also dipped its toe into the eSports world with the ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’, giving games the chance to win a job at McLaren as a simulator driver.
Formula E has also been involved with eSports and had a race off last year between games and actual series drivers before having a major event in Las Vegas in January with a million dollar prize fund. Project Cars also has eSports with the ESL series and of course there is a vast array of online racing leagues for all racing games with sites like AOR and NXTGEN among others are popular amongst racers for organised racing with fair opponents using a vast array of games and platforms including Iracing, RFactor, F1, Project Cars and Assetto Corsa amongst many more.
The rise of motorsport eSports hasn’t taken off in comparison to the likes of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft but being a more niche market to many games the opportunities arising now are much more than any normal gamer could ever dream of just a mere few years before.
Photo Credit: Autosport