When Asetek SimSports – the Danish liquid-cooling manufacturer’s new sim racing subsidiary – launched the hydraulic Invicta pedals, people sat up and took notice.
Here were some premium-priced pedals for virtual racing, with a high standard of build quality, bleeding-edge software and from a company with a sense of confidence. For a fluid and pressure-based unit, they set a new standard for value and ease of use thanks to a sealed master cylinder.
Its next venture is wheel bases and steering wheels, and recently it announced its quick release system followed by a Gamescom reveal of a prototype Invicta 27Nm wheel base and two Forte wheels.
Usually, when you purchase a racing ecosystem, you can be locked into that one manufacturer. Which does make a semblance of business sense.
Think of it like Apple’s walled garden for apps and services when you buy an iPhone.
But Asetek SimSports is trying to be more like Android, which is open source, providing the end user with more choices.
The dream of mixing and matching sim racing equipment
“Let’s say you’re a 15-year-old kid and you spend all your savings on sim racing hardware. You cannot mix and match anything, you basically have to decide which manufacturer to marry,” explained Asetek CEO, André Eriksen on the Traxion.GG Podcast.
“I don’t like that because I think it’s limiting the business more than it’s expanding it.
“So what we are in the process of, for this particular quick release, is offering it for sale to other steering wheel manufacturers.”
The new design utilises a large paddle, that in practice at Gamescom on a 3D-printed prototype at least, we extraordinarily easy to use. One tug at the device and the wheel easily disconnects. To affix, you simply slide the wheel from the top downwards until it clips into place.
The main benefit of such a design is that the steering wheel can have a large display powered from the base without the need for a Bluetooth connection, batteries or a visible cable.
While the Forte wheels we tried did not feature a screen, the top-end Invicta wheels will.
“Many wheel manufacturers are doing their software and hardware differently. So it’s not, unfortunately, as easy as many end users would like,” continued Eriksen.
“Our wheel bases will have the electrical wires inside the shaft… If you have a wheel base where that’s not the case, then, of course, our quick release cannot do magic, we can only do the mechanical interface.”
The design is based on some intellectual property that Asetek recently purchased – alongside further wheel base IP from Granite Devices’ Simucube – but has evolved since that initial design that required a pin to be placed each time a steering wheel was attached.
“We would offer [a steering wheel manufacturer] to buy at least the half part of our quick release,” he said.
“Okay, they could also buy the motor part too. But they can buy the quick release for a very fair price and we could do the same with the other wheel base manufacturers too.
“And people are like, ‘well, we will be locked into your ecosystem’. No, not at all, on the contrary, we hope you will be able to mix and match steering wheels, across manufacturers.
While the deals are still to be made with steering wheel manufacturers, at least having the intent to offer the quick release for sale through business-to-business channels is a unique proposition we hope is pulled off.
“At least I can say from my perspective that we will be offering it,” clarified the enigmatic Asetek leader.
“Whether people buy into it…
“So we have the intent to not try block customers in. But if we do, then it’s because the others will not play along.”
Pedal upgrade path
Switching back to the Asetek SimSports pedals already on the market, as a fresher there are the Pagani Huayra R Pedals at the very top of the range, and the hydraulic sister set, the Invicta, just below. Then there’s the non-hydraulic Forte as a mid-tier device.
We say ‘mid’ for the Fortes as a fourth model, entitled La Prima, will sit underneath and be the entry-level pedal set. The same nomenclature will apply to its upcoming steering wheel range too.
However, in a move akin to wanting the quick release to be picked up by other manufacturers to help not lock in customers, each of the pedal sets will be upgradeable.
“I can actually reveal a little bit more because what we are selling, and you will see it with the steering wheels as well, will be a platform,” said Eriksen to Traxion.GG.
“So if we talk about this new pedal set that will be a substantially lower price than any of the others, you can in one time, or in steps, upgrade to either a full Forte or full Invicta.”
So it would seem that the initial products on sale in the range have all been designed with saleability from the offset, unbeknownst to the sim racing community at the time.
“I don’t want to sound like a green preacher here, but we do think about the environment so that’s one reason,” highlights Eriksen.
“Another big passion of mine is Hi-Fi. There’s this company called Linn in Glasgow and you can have an amplifier from 2004 where you keep everything including the chassis and then even now upgrade it to the latest version.
“I think that’s a great way for end users to get into our ecosystem and say ‘okay, I don’t really need the hydraulics now, or I cannot afford them, but if I can get in cheap, then I can build on it.’
“Personally believe that’s a great concept.”
How this will work in the real world, plus availability and pricing, are all under wraps for now. However, if it functions as discussed, being able to go from an entry-level set of pedals and work your way up to a hydraulic brake system is another way Asetek is trying to break the mould.
Whether you like or dislike the end products upon release is purely subjective, but there’s no doubt that Asetek is in sim racing for the long haul and will disrupt the market along its way.