Chat up any old-school PC gamer about software simulators and you’ll conjure images of flight yokes and rudder pedals or souped-up throttles and infrared head-tracking clips. But what about racing sims? On-road track hugging loops for formula, touring, and GT autos? Off-road gravel-flinging rally-based mud-thumpers? Where’s their library of tricked-out plastic peripherals?
Enter MAK-Corp, purveyor of all things dash-mounted, from speed, fuel, and gear gauges to traction control and overheating lights. They’re aimed squarely at Motorsports buffs, to be sure, and proudly specialize in some of the highest end sim-grade racing displays on the market.
Game On: Most gamers probably associate race sim peripherals with steering wheels or pedals. You sell complementary cockpit dashboard displays that integrate with third-party stick-shifts and racing wheels. What got you into the display business?
Petros Mak: The original concept of the Sim-Racing dash displays was created by my partner Sergio Pupella of Renovatio Development in Italy. Sergio had contacted me to enquire if MAK-Corp would be interested in making a partnership to produce Sim-Racing Hardware under MAK-Corp’s modding department MMG (MAK Modding Group). Being in Sim-Racing for many years I picked up the chance immediately as I knew that there was a big market for these type of products. With the community wanting these types of products but no major companies producing them, we decided to make our own line and target the general household gamer. What came forth were the three current models of the SimRDisp1X, SimRDisp7X and the SimRDisp7X – G25. These models were aimed at the time to target the majority of gamers along with the most popular PC steering wheel for the time, the Logitech G25. This was also to be the start of our venture in the Sim-Racing Hardware genre which we hoped to grow further and currently are. Bear in mind however the that SimRDisp7X Desktop edition does not require any third party stick-shifts or racing wheels. It is a complete standalone unit that the user can mount anywhere they want.
GO: Are you limited to Logitech G25 steering wheel support, or can your dashes be used with other peripherals? Do you integrate with products like the Hotseat Racer GT chassis?
PM: The two products (SimRDisp1X and SimRDisp7X – G25) are limited to the Logitech G25 due to their mount. At the time we began our business the Logitech G25 was the best known wheel in the market and to some degree, many Sim-Racer’s feel it still is. We decided to target the non Logitech G25 owners with the SimRDisp7X Desktop units, and the G25 owners with the cheaper SimRDisp1X SLI model and the more expencive SimRDisp7X – G25 model. We felt that these models would appeal to everyone as those who wanted to mount a unit to a different wheel could simply buy the desktop version of the SimRDisp7X and make their own custom mount.
At the current time however the SimRDisp1X and SimRDisp7X G25 are having a clearance sale where we are stopping production (but continuing support and software updates via our website www.mak-corp.net) to those two models. This is done because the Logitech G25 is now an older steering wheel and we want to produce our new 2010 line of products to be similar to our SimRDisp7X Desktop unit in the sense that it can be placed and/or mounted by the user anywhere they want. We will not be limiting our new units to a specific wheel.
In addition, we do plan on beginning to sell PCB versions and add on parts such as buttons and knobs where the user can purchase and customize their units to the style they want.
GO: Do you support anything beyond SimBin Studios’ lineup of GTR brand racing games? Is it possible to use your products with console-based “sims” like Gran Turismo or Forza?
PM: Our current units support a variety of PC games primarily starting with ISI’s rFactor and soon to be released rFactor 2 which is highly anticipated by the Sim-Racing community as the next generation of racing games to come. Our units are however currently only compatible with various PC games we have made plugins for. We are aiming to extend our compatibility to games such as Need For Speed series, Race Driver GRID and other Race Driver Series, and also with Codemaster’s F1 2010 game when that is released. As for console compatibility, we do aim to extend our units to console compatibility in the future, but at the current time with our budget, we do not have the capabilities of doing so. We do plan to, but don’t know when.
GO: Do your dashes emulate any particular type of racing vehicle? Do they reflect recent advances in racing feedback indices?
PM: Our dash’s are made to simulate more of an Open Wheeler type car dash display, similar to ones you will find on Formula 1, Formula 3 cars and the likes. The SimRDisp7X provides basic data such as Speed, Gear, Fuel and a small led underneath that the user can set to light up for traction control loss, safety car period or engine overheating. Our new lineup of products however will include much more data. Split times, lap times, position, and more, it will allow the player to acquire more data through the display instead of wasting time pressing buttons to change the in-game LCD.
GO: How enduring do you think the enthusiast-grade sim market is? Is the market renewing itself in terms of younger newcomers, or are you selling to an aging window of racing sim buffs?
PM: The Sim-Racing market is an ever growing market that just keeps growing and growing and in some ways is becoming too big for some websites to handle. We do have many great websites that do a great job at keeping the community growing with the primarily leading one being VirtualR.net providing anything a Sim-Racer could hope for in regards to Sim-Racing Game and Hardware news for both PC and Consoles. Just like thousands of other members online, I visit VirtualR.net several times a day to get the latest news on all things related to Sim-Racing and Racing genre’s of gaming. We then have many online racing leagues that provide professionally run championships of various series such as Formula Simracing which is a free league or more Pay to play leagues with prizes such as Simraceway or even Race2Play. These community based sites and leagues including the thousands I have not mentioned make up a big part of the Sim-Racing market’s lifeline. Without these, the Sim-Racing market would cease to exist and its because of many of these sites along with modding groups that keep games alive for many years to come where other games would have been placed in the forgotten bin.
More and more younger people are coming into the Sim market due to sites and racing leagues that exist around the net, many of them introduced by friends who are members at those various communities. Young people love the thrill of fast cars, racing against other players and having bragging rights when they win. They love the exhiliration of competing against other real life players online. The older generation love being able to reminisce of cars they can now race in games that they grew up working on or enjoying. They are the so called veterans with the experience the young people crave for but don’t have. The Sim-Racing market is growing in both age groups, from young and old and this is what keeps this market so strong for any developer. Of course the older generation of players will have more of the ability to buy our products due to their having already made money through many years of work, but we have a very large younger based buyers too and quite a few of which who ask their parents to purchase our units for them. No matter how you look at it, if people enjoy the product you produce, they will find a way to get one, young or old.
As we aim our prices to a more “General Consumer” standard, it allows both younger and older based members of the Sim-Racing community to be able to buy these hardware units and enjoy them while racing their favourite games of which these units are compatible with.
GO: Thanks Petros!
Follow me on Twitter (@game_on)