Racing games today cost millions of dollars and thousands of work hours to produce. They utilize bleeding-edge graphics and physics algorithms so complex that they'd give Tony Stark a panic attack. All of that is to make the experience as realistic as possible—though much of that effort is disconnected from the player when they are sitting on a couch using a control pad.
That is where the aftermarket comes in. Yes, video games have an aftermarket just like cars do. Furthermore, racing games have their own specific aftermarket targeted exclusively at making said games feel as close to the real thing as possible. Steering wheel peripherals and bucket seat rigs that sometimes use real racing seats from the likes of Sparco are commonplace. Depending on the parts used these setups can easily cost 5 figures and even into the millions.
If you're still skeptical of how something like that could cost so much money, allow me to break down a prime example for you. I found the simulator rig you see here in the Next Level Racing (NLR) booth at E3 this year and altogether it is a $20,000 set up. This was a fully featured rig complete with motion simulation! I will break down each part of it. By the end, you will hopefully have a better idea of how one of these rigs come together, but also some inspiration to do something similar that fits your specific budget.
NEXT LEVEL RACING GTTRACK COCKPIT (MSRP $899)
The heart of any simulator rig set up is going to be the cockpit. It's where you sit and what the wheels, pedals, and other accessories will mount to. The GTTRACK cockpit comes complete with a rigid chassis, several adapters for external accessories, and adjustable racing seat with 4-point harness. There are cheaper options, but this cockpit is where the "high end" territory begins.
NEXT LEVEL RACING MOTION PLATFORM V3 (MSRP $2,999)
This is one half of what makes this rig so unique. The motion platform bolts onto the bottom of the GTTRACK cockpit which allows for the seat to move in sync with the game. It can simulate driving over different terrains, hard shifts, and tilts during turns. Though with some help it can go even further.
NEXT LEVEL RACING TRACTION PLUS PLATFORM (MSRP $5,999)
This is the most important component of this rig when it comes to the immersive feeling. This is also the single most expensive component of the rig, but the price does include shipping. The Traction Plus Platform picks up where the Motion Platform leaves off. When bolted onto the cockpit, its lateral tracks allow the entire rig to move to the left and right. Combined with the motion platform, it covers nearly every axis of motion someone would feel when driving a real car.
NEXT LEVEL RACING FREE STANDING TRIPLE MONITOR STAND (MSRP $399)
Certain racing games allow for a triple display setup. This effectively can "surround" the player in the game's environment. Though, obviously you'll need a place to put those three displays, right? This stand designed to hold monitors between 36- and 65-in. in size. The end result is a 195-degree field of view around the driver.
SAMSUNG QM55H 55-in. 4K UHD MONITORS (3 AT $1,938 EACH)
The reason why these particular monitors were chosen for the rig at the NLR booth is because of their commercial-grade quality. Samsung originally designed these monitors to be used in applications such as digital signage. That means they can stand up to being left on for hours on end without quality decreasing. They aren't the brightest, but they will last for a good long while.
THRUSTMASTER TS-PC RACER FERRARI 488 CHALLENGE EDITION (MSRP $799)
A high-dollar seat and 4k screens don't mean much in this situation if you're still holding a controller in your hand, right? For their simulator rig, NLR opted for a Thrustmaster TS-PC unit with a limited-edition Ferrari 488 Challenge wheel rim. Isn't the highest end wheel from Thrustmaster but is definitely in the upper echelon. It can accept different wheel rims as well so if you aren't a Ferrari fan you can swap that wheel out for something else.
THRUSTMASTER T3PA PRO PEDAL SET (MSRP $169)
Fun fact, many pro-level racing wheels don't actually come with pedals. In this price range, manufacturers assume that you will likely shop for a pedal set particularly suited to your personal rig. The NLR team decided to pair their TS-PC racer wheel with this Thrustmaster T3PA Pro Pedal set. These pedals have full metal construction, include adjustable tension for the brake pedal, and can change mounting positions from F1 style floor mounted, to a GT style suspended mount.
THRUSTMASTER TSS HANDBRAKE/SHIFTER SPARCO EDITION (MSRP $299)
Rounding out the trio of Thrustmaster offerings is the TSS unit. As the name suggests, this piece can alternate between being used as a handbrake for drifting or rally games, and a sequential shifter. This particular version is a limited edition with Sparco branding.
CUSTOM GAMING PC (MSRP $2,000)
Gaming PC setups are an infinite rabbit hole that are meant for other magazines to fall down. Just know that depending on what racing game you're playing and the displays you're using, you'll have to config your PC accordingly. The PC that NLR is using here features a Nvidia 2080Ti graphics card, AMD Ryzen 5 CPU, and 32 gigs of RAM. There is definitely more to it than that but those are the parts doing the heavy lifting.
NEXT LEVEL RACING FREE STANDING KEYBOARD STAND (MSRP $129)
Most racing simulator rigs at this level run off a PC; and if you're using a PC then you are going to need a place to put your keyboard and mouse, right? This stand offers a convenient place to keep that stuff so you can easily access them without having to get out of the chair. This is helpful for those times when you need to navigate menus and change settings.
KANTO YU 4 SPEAKERS (MSRP $330 per pair)
To add that extra gut punch of visceral racing satisfaction, a good set of speakers are required. Speakers that can produce strong low end are particularly adept at reproducing exhaust notes and the deep crunches of car crashes. A pair of speakers from Kanto Yu are utilized here and from experience I can say they were super loud.
NEXT LEVEL RACING FLOOR MATS (2 AT $39 EACH)
Racing simulator cockpits and stands tend to be made from metal and that doesn't always mix well with hard-surfaced floors. A floor mat protects from scratches. It also reduces unwanted movement if a floor is slippery. The setup here was so wide, due to the traction platform, that NLR used two mats.
The grand total for each of the parts used here comes out to $19,914. If someone had a budget of $20k, they would have just enough left over to buy a game or two to play on their new setup. Obviously, not many people can afford to drop this much cash on something that will never leave the house. However, remember that there are a ton of great simulator parts out there. If you shop carefully you can put something together that fits just about any budget. This is just to highlight what is possible for the hardcore enthusiasts who really want to flex their setup!