Popularity of a sport can be measured in many ways, so you can check the official TV figures (once they’re out) or you can travel to one of the events yourself and see firsthand what the stages are like. As unfortunate as cancelling of stages is, it shows the WRC has a huge following, spectators ready to endure hours of heat or cold just to see few dozen cars race by on a technical part of the road. Even in its darkest years this sport had no big issues with popularity, but it was absent from mainstream media and communication, which made it almost unsustainable. Fortunately, situation looks and feels much better now and I can only hope WRC Promoters are not done yet, promoting and presenting should be all about invention and fresh ideas. Because other sports and disciplines are growing and expanding too, slow down or doze off and you’ll end up behind them once again. There is still a long way to go before the sport returns to its former glory, as far as “uninitiated folks” are concerned.
One way to get more people interested in rallying is through computer and console games. Every single game counts, because they all offer different perspectives and experiences, (even though they also present a major hit at your wallet, especially if you’re looking to try them all). Variety is good and as much as I like to criticize the current official WRC game series, I do appreciate their efforts because their products are improving and they are doing their part in sharing the excitement of this particular motor sports discipline. Codemasters’ Dirt Rally is, at the moment, the best rally game out there and it’s still growing. Sebastien Loeb Evo Rally, which I think is more or less the same thing as official WRC Game, but with slightly different contents, is also there, along the established Dirt series and old legends such as Richard Burns Rally. Yes, we can finally say we have a nice number of games to choose from, but we should never ever be happy with what we have, because world is moving forward and we could be in for even bigger and better things in the future.
Perhaps right now Dirt Rally is, without a doubt, the best rally game money can buy, but they could soon(ish) be challenged by another already very ambitious project. You probably know about Project Cars, undoubtedly one of the best and biggest driving game projects ever conceived. The original game is still growing and new contents are being worked on, but developers are also pushing forward a new game, Project Cars 2. And in that new game we should be able to get a virtual taste of the virtual mud and snow and gravel and dirt. Aptly named Slightly Mad Studios promised another very interesting feature (which I sort of dreamed about a while ago) – you should be able to take on a supporting role, yes, you will be able to play as a co-driver (if I read and understood their brief about the PC2 correctly), even if they call it a co-pilot. They have time to learn the proper vocabulary. And also do proper stages, not (just) rallycross, as their brief suggests.
Codemasters and Slightly Mad Studios, Dirt vs. Project Cars, each with their own unique business and development models and philosophies. It’s like Sebastien Loeb vs. Sebastien Ogier, yet in this case they’re both winning and we get to share the spoils by enjoying some of the best virtual driving in history.
I know Dirt Rally is still not finished and I am sure Codies have a lot of goodies still waiting to make their way into the game, but I’m already looking forward to Dirt Rally 2. The “original” Dirt Rally has a great chance of repeating the revolutionary success of the first Colin McRae Rally, and then accept the Project Cars 2 challenge and deliver an even better product. We can dream, because hey, some of our dreams are turning into reality already.
Or we can have both these games (and many more, please) co-exist peacefully, each with its own good and bad sides.
IDEA: As we all know, Dirt Rally is still collecting ideas and reviews, so how’s this (unless someone already thought of that): Let’s have a Richard Burns (Rally) Tribute, with all of Richard’s cars presented in Dirt Rally, a whole lot, you know, Subarus, Peugeots… Maybe even combine this tribute to the driver with a look back at the original RBR so maybe put a stage or three from the RBR into Dirt Rally, same or similar looking. Just an idea. (I know you cannot simply copy stages, not the same games, not the same IP, but if Voat vs Reddit taught us anything, “All cars have four wheels. Does that mean that every car is the same?”).