There aren’t too many sports missing from the video game industry. In most cases we are extremely well served as sports continue towards market saturation. With FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, the soccer market has no more room. It is the same for American football and basketball. However, there is a sport that's completely underrepresented in the game world: Horse racing. The “Sport of Kings” is a sport with a universal nature. Whether it is someone placing a bet on Grand National favourite Shutthefrontdoor to win in the UK or punting on a horse in the Melbourne Cup, the sport has international and cultural significance. It is therefore a surprise that despite the far reaches of horse racing, its video game is solely sold in Japan.
Winning Post World 8 was released in Japan last year and although it doesn’t look likely that the game will make it over into Europe and North America anytime soon, at least there is now a platform for the possibility to at least occur. It does not matter whether Winning Post enters the worldwide market or if a new game steps in to fill the void, the point is a horse racing simulator needed for the industry. Here’s why any game developers should consider such a venture.
In the UK, horse racing is second only to football in attendance figures. The demographic of those in attendance makes for good reading. Not only do people flock in their droves to racecourses but there are also a significant proportion of young people in attendance. All of these would be part of the intended target audience. Stats suggest that more than five million people in the UK go to the races. Factor in the number of people who go in the States, France, Australia and Ireland and you soon see the size of the target market.
Quite honestly, there are more than enough people to at least make the game economically viable for the European market and that should start making some people in the game world see money signs in their eyes.When it comes to the arcade there were none better than Sega for making machines. Yes, the SNES was the superior console but Nintendo couldn’t even hold a torch to Sega’s arcade dominance.
One such game released by Sega during this illustrious period of time was the Derby Owners Club. This was a horse racing game that allowed the user to race up to 11 different people depending on location. The game itself was popular enough, absorbing many a quarter. What’s more is that with Derby Owners Club you already have a brand. Even better you have a brand that is associated with the stellar gaming name Sega. If you were a game developer you would bite someone’s hand off for the chance to have Sega attached to your product. Marketers can play on the sentimental appeal of the old-gamers to attract them to the game, something that a majority of other games do not have the pleasure of being able to offer.
Arguably the most important point about any perspective horse racing game would have to be the game itself. We have seen with Frankie Dettori Horse Racing that horse racing simulators can be fun. That’s a game that is pushing ten years so the graphics are understandably dated but at its core you have a fundamentally decent game. When you think about it, all that separates Forza and Frankie Dettori Horse Racing is the mode of transport, and of course the jumps which the horses have to undertake. Racing games are grossly underrated, the amount of pleasure you take from playing one really cannot be understated.
What is so enticing about a horse racing game is the fantastic opportunity you can have in regards to a story mode. Besides open world games like Grand Theft Auto V, no other game can offer the sheer size of a horse racing story mode. Here you have to sire a horse from birth, you have to train it, make sure it eats correctly, hire the right trainer and jockey, and ultimately win races
There is ample room in the market for any would-be developer to swoop in. Should it happen? Yes. Will it happen? It is highly unlikely. That is because while we are members of an international society that loves to watch horse racing, it seems that we are not part of an international gaming community who will play the game. Whether it would be Winning Post or another game, it does not matter. There would be some money to be made and, you never know, if the game was put into the right hands we could be given a racing simulator capable of attracting a mass audience.
Article by: David Brooks