This was brought to my attention by comrade Hobbes, via an Xconomy article. iRacing is a new motorsports based MMO. Except "MMO" isn't really the phrase the developers would like. They'd prefer "MMIS". That is, “massively multiparticipant Internet sport". It's a serious endeavour, to say the least - it's minimum spec includes a steering wheel and pedals, for example. More details beneath the cut...
Even its origins are interesting - the company is being driven by John Henry (the owner of my girlfriend's favourite American bat-to-ball team, the Boston Red Sox) and Dave Kaemmer (Who you may remember from Papyrus, who are most often celebrated for the hyper-hard Grand Prix Legends. So, yes, that's all the hardcore racing cred you really need.
And it's that angle they're pushing it (Example quote from Henry: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ‘game’ is a four-letter word to us, but we don’t think of ourselves as a game company”). It's not even sims-heads who they're considering their primary audience - it's actually racing drivers, with them trying to offer the definitive tool for learning race courses. Well... while I'm sure that works fine, achieving that would also have an appeal to anyone who fancied themselves a famous racer like - er - Mr FastDrive. Yeah, RPS' sports knowledge is failing again.
The pricing says a lot about how it positions itself. Payment plans are $20 monthly up to $156 for a year, plus extra payments for extra tracks and cars and similar. Oh - and there's no trial version at the moment either. The article explains they plan to actually market this primarily through word of mouth - as in, for a product this niche, anything else is pretty much useless. All this kind of implies an actual serious belief in their Sim's potential to appeal to its specific audience: As in, "We will build it: they will come". Oh man! We've gone back to baseball.
Admittedly, of RPS, only Tim Stone is even vaguely within that audience, but it's still excellent to see people trying something aimed at a completely different audience. Would this sort of thing appeal to any of you?