Thursday, December 23, 2010

Can A Video Game Save NASCAR?

Stranger things have happened. As NASCAR continues to look for a way to break through to younger folks, there continues to be nothing on TV or the radio targeted for that audience.

Last week, we saw the offerings from SPEED for 2011 and the only NASCAR show listed was the same old tired highlights program. FOX, TNT and ESPN offer nothing. SPEED's Race Hub has Ms. Sprint reading tweets every week, but nothing for the teenage audience.

This February, hopefully well before Daytona, there will be a new official NASCAR video game released. It's not hard to understand that getting the younger demographic actively involved in a top-notch video game creates a nice pathway for leading those players to watch the sport on TV.

It's called NASCAR 2011: The Game. Here are some details:

Players can choose to play as themselves or as one of the sport’s real-world drivers as they battle it out for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Each Sprint Cup Series driver behaves in the game as he does in the sport.

Damage is meticulously detailed and multi-car wrecks are the most extreme ever experienced in an officially licensed racing game. From the 22 real world tracks to full pit stop strategy action, NASCAR The Game 2011 captures the real atmosphere, sense of speed and spectacle that embodies NASCAR. Players can even feel the thrill of a win with the interactive celebration mode.

The game also includes in-depth multiplayer modes which allow up to 16 players to battle it out for the win online. In both online and offline races, players earn NASCAR experience points which help unlock rewards such as decal packs or special car designs, as well as career sponsorships and special races throughout career mode. Everything you do on the track counts!

“It was crucial to take a fresh look at what makes the sport so popular," said Ed Martin from game design company Eutechnyx. "We’re working very closely with NASCAR, the drivers, the teams, the tracks and the sponsors to get all the minute details right, and give this game the polish and push the fans deserve.”

A fresh look is exactly what so many tired areas of the sport need. This future release is the buzz on gamer websites worldwide. The creators of NASCAR 2011: The Game are renowned for putting together detailed and exciting video games with driving themes. This one is intended for Xbox 360® video game systems from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment systems, and Wii.

Needless to say, there is a website that has lots to offer. Screenshots, a video trailer and information about the new gaming features and how they were developed is fascinating. The attention to detail from speaking to fans, watching races and having drivers relate how they would act in certain situations is pretty amazing.

Strolling through the 43 car field was an experience. Among the familiar names are some that one would perhaps not expect. Danica Patrick, Michael Waltrip, and Kevin Conway are in the field. So are Ryan Truex, Scott Speed and Todd Bodine. It seems that even when putting together the video game of the sport, NASCAR had a tough time with a full field.

NASCAR 2011: The Game also features pit stops and a Chase for the Championship. I'm not a gamer, but it was interesting to see that the game creators managed to add-in pit stops. Supposedly, the in-car perspective gives players the experience of being inside the car for the stops on pit road complete with full crew working in real time.

Click here for the video game's Facebook fan page that is almost at six thousand members. I would expect that this number is going to swell as we approach February. The developers and NASCAR have done a good job with this project in terms of keeping active players, potential buyers and even us hardcore fans involved in the process.

At a time when FOX, ESPN and SPEED are getting ready to roll-out the standard TV coverage of the three national touring series at Daytona, it might just be a stroke of genius to release a video game with drivers from all three series.

Fans of the game drawn by the speed and racing can be led to the TV and online coverage as Daytona approaches with some coordinated marketing efforts from NASCAR. It should be interesting to see just how well NASCAR'S new Integrated Marketing Communications group based in Charlotte, NC handles this challenge.

If the racing on the actual track matches the antics in the video game, NASCAR might finally get some new young eyeballs on Daytona. What an advantage to get new fans simply because they like how a certain driver handles himself on the track in the game and now want to see how he or she handles themselves in person.

Expect to hear a lot more about this major video game effort after the New Year. NASCAR may have an instant hit on its hands as well as the first new attention-grabber for teens across America. Ultimately, the challenge will be for the drivers to keep the new fans they gained through technology and gaming once the real green flag falls.

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