From playing a quick game of Pac-Man on an arcade machine at the corner café, to becoming part of a hugely sophisticated digital ecosystem, gamers and gaming culture have come a long way over the past 40 years. Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with gamers, has now designed an in-game race car, which will soon be debuted on the virtual grid by Team Fordzilla, the automaker’s esports team.
The popularity of competitive gaming, better known as esports (electronic sports), has skyrocketed over recent years. What was once a niche gaming scene has been transformed into not only a mainstream form of home entertainment, but also a legitimate sport, recognised by the International Esports Federation’s (IESF) 60 member nations, including South Africa. In fact, South Africa’s national esports team, competing over a number of games and platforms, has participated in every IESF World Championship since 2009.
According to the Business Insider Intelligence Esports Ecosystem Report 2020, “most projections put the esports ecosystem on track to surpass US$1-billion in revenue for the first time this year.” But with a surge in online gaming globally during the unprecedented COVID-19 lockdowns, this projection may prove to be on the conservative side. Esports could quite possibly become one of those industries which not only survives the pandemic, but thrives in its wake, as a new generation of avid online gamers is currently being born.
Ford enters Esports arena and designs brand new virtual race car
Racing games have always been hugely popular. But not all racing games are created equal. There are three main categories, with varying levels of realism. From arcade racing games with little regard for realism, to hyper-realistic sim racing (simulated racing) games with a strong focus on physics and AI, and simcade (simulated-arcade) racing games somewhere in between, which are more accessible to the average petrolhead than full sim racing games.
‘Forza Motorsport’, which is available for Xbox One and Windows 10, and ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ which is exclusive to PlayStation 4, both fit into the simcade category, and are two of the world’s most popular racing games. And it is for these two simcade games that Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with gamers, has designed the ultimate in-game race car, which will soon be debuted on the virtual grid by Team Fordzilla, the automaker’s very own Esports team.
At Gamescom 2019 – Europe’s leading trade fair for the digital games culture which takes place annually in Cologne, Germany – Ford became the first automaker to debut a vehicle at the fair, revealing that its Ranger Raptor performance bakkie would be coming to Europe.
Ford also took the opportunity to announce at the fair that it was recruiting gamers for Team Fordzilla. It has since established five Fordzilla national teams –France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK – and from these teams, it has assembled a European all-star team, comprising the five team captains.
The two racing games in which Team Fordzilla will initially compete are ‘Forza Motorsport 7’ and ‘GT Sport’. And while there are already several new and classic Ford vehicles in each game’s expansive roster, it’s the brand new and exclusively virtual race car, codenamed #TeamFordzillaP1, which Team Fordzilla drivers are understandably most excited about.
“We all love racing our dream cars but ultimately these are usually painstaking recreations of vehicles that actually exist in the real world,” says Angelo Bülow, captain of the German Fordzilla team. “It will be an absolute thrill to get behind the wheel of the #TeamFordzillaP1 for the first time knowing that not only have we helped to create it but that no-one else has ever driven it before.”
Ford shares virtual race car with launch of Team Fordzilla P1 Hub
Among those closely involved in designing #TeamFordzillaP1 from the ground up were Ford of Europe’s Design Team – which imagines and designs human-centric cars for the real world – and expert gamers who lead the way in racing their virtual counterparts. This included the five captains of Ford’s national Esports teams, as well as motorsport fans in the wider gaming community whose input to Team Fordzilla was sourced via a series of Twitter polls around key design attributes – from engine layout to cockpit shape. Because this is an exclusively virtual race car, and not based on an existing real world Ford model, it is not constrained by any real world limitations like technology, practicality, or cost.
And now Ford has launched the publicly accessible Team Fordzilla P1 Project Hub, a fun and interactive space for budding car designers and gamers to find a few new ways of beating boredom or the blues whilst self-isolating during lockdown. Along with personal recommendations from Team Fordzilla captains on the latest video games you could try playing whilst housebound, the hub is packed with DIY creative content designed to unleash your inner Rory Byrne.