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Ford sets sights on eSports: launches European virtual racing team

By Alex Affat, 23 Aug 2019 News

Ford sets sights on eSports: launches European virtual racing team

Ford reckons its real-world racing heritage will give it an edge in the virtual realm

Ford is set to launch its first ever “factory-backed” virtual racing team, and seeks to build on its real-world racing pedigree with a competitive online-racing team named… Fordzilla.

Beginning at Gamescom, Europe’s biggest video game fair, Ford will be looking to recruit national Fordzilla teams representing France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Top prospects from each national team will be invited to be a part of a larger pan-European team.

Roelant de Waard, Ford of Europe’s vice president of marketing, stated: “We at Ford have a racing pedigree that others can only envy. Now is the time to take that know-how and apply it to the world of eSports”.

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While the notion of a factory –backed virtual race team may seem surprising to some, the world of competitive eSports is quickly becoming a booming one.

The global eSports industry is predicted to generate $1.1 billion by the end of 2019, representing an increase of 26.7 percent against last year. The eSports audience is said to reach 453.8 million people globally with 201.2 million of that total being dedicated viewers and the remaining 252.6 million being casual viewers.

And while the common gamer stereotype is of a jobless teenager, the average gamer is more likely to be in their early 30s and with a sizable disposable income. Little surprise, then, that Ford is keen to tap into such a juicy demographic.

“The distinction between real and virtual worlds is blurring” said Amko Leenarts, Ford of Europe’s Director of Design.

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“Gaming is now a part of mainstream culture. Top gamers challenge professional race drivers in real life and many of our day-to-day activities are ‘gamified’, from, using fitness apps to collecting loyalty points for a free coffee”.

“Harnessing the passion and expertise of the gaming community will help evolve our thinking around what future journeys will look like – something that we are all committed to and really excited about”.

Fordzilla teams will one day compete in a number of games, but has pegged Forza Motorsport to be the game of choice for big brand’s first forays into virtual racing. Published by Microsoft and developed by Turn 10 Studios, the Forza franchise is home to one of the largest virtual racing communities in the world, with millions of players logging on each month.

News of Ford’s first eSports team follows the storied Stuttgart brand, Porsche; who announced their partnership with the iRacing World Championship Series. Over 2019, 40 participants will take part in the 10-race series, all competing for a six figure prize pool.