When was Virtual Regatta born?
Would you have been a fan of figure skating, would you have created a game about this sport?
No, because the company was originally called Many Players (multiple players) and the first game I made was a soccer game when it’s not really a sport that I particularly like. I found that at the time, soccer games were quite complicated to learn and I thought there was a way to gain a wider audience with a game that was easier to access. We launched different games of football, tennis with Roland Garros, rugby, endurance racing with the 24 hours of Le Mans, cycling with the Tour de France. The first Virtual Vendée Globe game dates back to 2008, we had 300,000 players.
We are talking about more than a million players in the Vendée Globe …
That’s right, we have 1.04 million players. It is enormous. We have 700,000 that connect every day. It comes from all over the world, from the United States, China, Australia, but we have 80% French people. Of these 80% of French people, the vast majority live near the coasts and in particular Brittany. Yes, we must have half the players in Brittany but we have players in Strasbourg, in Clermont-Ferrand. The 700,000 daily players come three or four times a day to the game and spend between 40 and 55 minutes. Some are more interested in virtual racing than real racing.
Do we know the profile of the players?
It plays from 5 to 85 years old but the majority are between 30 and 50 years old, mostly men, so quite in tune with what sailing is in France today. However, we have one in two players who declare themselves non-sailors, who tell us “I do not know the boat, I have never done one, I do not know anything about it”. This represents 52% of the players. Me, that amazes me. That’s what makes the game so successful, I’m sure. We managed to design a sailing game that could be played by non-sailors. We are very careful to use general public terms, we do not go into too much technical detail otherwise we know that we will lose players. We stay on the fundamentals. On Virtual Regatta, it is no coincidence that we do not manage the currents, nor the state of the sea, nor the setting of the sails. We go to the essential. On offshore (offshore racing), what is fascinating is the weather strategy, that’s the heart of the matter.
There were certified skippers: who are they and why?
I haven’t contacted any pro skippers but we thought that having certified skippers was a plus. We took about sixty but it was too complicated to manage. I assured the certified skippers that they would be visible. For them, it is a new communication medium, for them and for their sponsor. This is the case of Loïck Peyron who is sponsored by a company. There is also the story of Achille Nebout who, while playing on Virtual Regatta, found a sponsor for the 2021 season in Figaro 3. This example makes me happy.
Can Virtual Regatta players become “real sailors” tomorrow?
I have been saying this for years, Virtual Regatta serves sailing and sailing serves Virtual Regatta. We help the sail to be understood. Our sport is complicated to understand. I think the game trains and helps people understand what is going on in real racing. And, the more you master a sport, the more you will become a fan of it. Virtual Regatta is a converter from a simple spectator to a real fan.
What did the winner gain this Saturday?
A very good value Ulysse Nardin watch. We had put a sum of money in 2008 for the first edition of the game in the Vendée Globe but we were yelled at by the organizers so we stopped. We try to give gifts to the players but we know that’s not the point, people don’t play to make money, they play for the game, for the pleasure of getting off the hook with friends, family or work colleagues.
We see you on D70 in the bay of Quiberon: are you better in virtual or real?
I’m much better in real life, we finished 3rd in Spi Ouest France with my friends this year. I sailed like a pro between 1995 and 1998, winning the Tour de France in 1997 alongside Bertrand Pacé, but now I sail for fun. I come from inshore, I have never competed in any transatlantic race, I am passionate about the regatta between three buoys and it is the same in virtual. I play more inshore games than offshore games. But hey, this time, I took a game in this Vendée Globe: I am 6500 and I am very happy. Four days ago, I was 5,000 miles, 100 miles from the first one, the fleet is incredibly dense.
Having over a million players, does that require huge servers to store all this data?
Ah yes and that has a cost, hosting is 100,000 euros per month.
Do you already have ideas to evolve and improve the current version?
Yes, of course, there is so much to do but be careful, that doesn’t mean more complicated. I am very close to Loïck Peyron and we talk a lot about the game. Loïck keeps giving me new ideas, like “it is a pity that in the Azores there are no whales in the game , we often see them at sea ”or“ in the Indian Ocean, it would be great if you could put albatrosses in 3D on the game ”. Personally, I would love to be able to show the coasts, especially places like Cape Horn, but today, technologically speaking, we can’t do it, but one day we will. But yes, there is a lot that can be done to improve this game.
What are the prices for the options?
Already it’s free and almost everyone plays for free. This game is “free to play”, so the overwhelming majority of people play it without paying. Afterwards, you can buy options in a pack that costs you 29.99 euros and there you have everything, the foils, a radio alert system when your boat gets too close to the coast or when you are stopped facing the wind , you get a little alert. We also have the VIP pass by subscription and there, you have premium support with a guaranteed response within 24 hours.
Is it a profitable game?
Yes, it’s profitable, it works very well. Before the start of the Vendée Globe, I was asked how many players I thought I had. An easy question but a complicated answer, it’s a bit like asking a director how many tickets he hopes to get with his film. I was saying between 500,000 and 1 million. Well the health crisis has helped to exceed the million, so we are beyond the most ambitious goal. It is a huge success. And yes, we earn money and fortunately because it is very expensive to set up. It’s a game that’s expensive to make and then run. This is the technology of this game. There, just to run it for maintenance, I have six full-time people.