Virtual TT: The perfect vehicle to showcase esports’ potential


The 2020 Isle of Man TT is almost upon us – albeit virtually. After the COVID-19 outbreak forced the race to be cancelled for the first time since 2001, organisers announced a series of races will be contested via video game. The Virtual TT is born.

Eight TT riders will be paired with experienced gamers to contest four races, playing Isle of Man TT: Ride On The Edge 2.

Five-time TT winner Peter Hickman will be racing and the races will be broadcast live, with Steve Plater and Chris Pritchard helming the broadcast.

The eight-day tournament starts on Saturday, June 6, with fans able to tune in via the official TT website, on Facebook and on YouTube.

While it’s clearly not going to completely fill the void left by the absence of the real thing, it is at least something for the fans and organisers should be applauded for thinking and acting creatively. If nothing else, the publicity generated from the announcement alone is valuable as the island looks for stronger links with esports.

Esports to the rescue, again

The TT, of course, isn’t the first event to turn to gaming for a solution. We’ve seen Premier League footballers playing FIFA against each other, basketball superstars contesting NBA2K matches and virtual F1 involving elite-level drivers have been a huge success – more than three million viewers apparently watch the first Grand Prix in April.

Some purists might argue these games aren’t really esports. They’re certainly not established esports in the way that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends and Dota 2 are but they are computer games being played competitively and, in a nutshell, is esports.

As well as giving sports fans some live action to enjoy during an unprecedented barren spell, these events are providing an excellent showcase for esports as a form of entertainment.

Along for the ride

The idea of watching someone play computer games is an alien concept for many but millions of people – most of them young – do it every day.

Make no mistake, esports is big. It was big before COVID-19 and it’s only going in one direction.

Sure, most fans who tune into the Virtual TT will never watch another esports event in their life but a small slice of them might just do a little more exploring to see what all the fuss is about.