Like other eSports platforms, online sailing has seen a huge surge in interest since the onset of COVID-19. As part of this month’s Virtual Racers story, we reached out to Virtual Regatta CEO Philippe Guigné this month to talk about the game and the company’s future plans. His answers are translated from French.
Can you tell me about the evolution of Virtual Regatta Inshore?
We made a choice at the beginning to separate the two platforms of the game between Offshore and Inshore. Sailing Offshore is not the same as coastal regattas. We really wanted to make a game that respects the dynamics of real life as much as possible and not just an adaptation of Offshore. After that, our improvements evolved more like regatta rules—so that it is as close as possible to the real thing. We receive a lot of feedback from many sailors and this helps us to constantly improve the game.
How much of an impact has COVID-19 had on acquiring new users?
Downloads multiplied six-fold during the early quarantine period. It’s begun to fall back as confinements have been lifted, but we gained many new users who’ll continue sustainably.
Did COVID-19 spur more interest in the 2020 eSailing World Championships?
Absolutely! The Inshore community was already on the rise with the partnership with World Sailing to organize the eSailing world championship, but the circumstances imposed by COVID-19 boosted this growth even further. We’ve been contacted by sailing federations from countries all over the world who, because of quarantines, have had to stop their local championships. Hundreds of thousands of athletes were stuck at home and the solution was online regattas. At the beginning their objective was “escape” from confinement, but very quickly they understood the potential the game offers: eSailing promotes the sport and also brings communities together.
How often do you update Inshore?
We are already constantly updating to support the growing number of players. Every 1.2 months we launch a different body of water and new boats. Players can navigate the waterways of Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Sydney, Marseille, and many more. A huge amount of research work goes into these environments. We recently added New York harbor and the result is impressive, especially when you know that our designer took almost two months to finalize it!
Given that a large number of people have become more familiar with eSailing in such a short time, what does the future hold for 2021?
Today we have two games: Inshore and Offshore. Offshore is very popular in France, thanks to the culture of offshore racing here. Inshore is more successful internationally with New Zealanders, Italians, Turks, Brazilians, and Americans. We have active players in all corners of the world from a very wide variety of origins. Thanks to this “international” character, we want to go further than 2021 in our conception of things. Today the main objective is to make Virtual Regatta the official platform of the 2024 Olympic Games for eSailing and that’s what we’re working on at the moment.