SimXperience: From Father-Son Project to Industry Leader

Paid Article Presented by SimXperience

Nobody pictures a 10-year-old kid on his PlayStation when they talk sim racing, instead picturing the huge simulators that professional athletes put in their man caves. The reality is that sim racing represents a broad spectrum of hardware and software, and a simulator of your own might be more attainable than you’d think. To learn how, we spoke with Darin Gangi, who covers marketing, sales and support for SimXperience. With less than a dozen employees, they’re a small company with a big impact, and their products can be found in most simulators on the market today. 

Company History

The SimXperience story started as a family’s story more than a decade ago, born from a doctor’s bad news. Berney Villers Sr., the family patriarch, was given an ultimatum: After a stroke, his health simply wasn’t adequate to renew his racing license, meaning he’d be forced to give up his hobby racing Vipers. 

Berney Sr. wanted to keep racing, and he had an idea for how to do it: Digital racing simulators were getting more and more popular, and they offered the next best thing to real track time. But it was 2006, meaning you couldn’t just buy a ready-to-go simulator unless your name was “Andretti” or “NASA.” 

Fortunately, he had sons. Smart sons, including Kevin and Berney Jr., a software engineer. Tasked with building their father a simulator to replace his race car, Berney and Kevin set out in search of the necessary components, scooping up bits and pieces of technology to assemble their first simulator. Berney Sr. liked it, and so did his friends. Before long, the father and sons (joined by their third brother, Josh) incorporated SimXperience, aiming to turn their father’s new hobby into a new business. From there, SimXperience grew and grew and grew. Darin describes Berney Jr. as a “mad scientist,” and they’ve steadily added better and better products to their portfolio since.

Sim Racing History

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As Darin tells it, sim racing is older than you’d think. It began back in the ‘80s, when the first racing games were appearing in arcades. That trend continued through consoles and PC gaming, with the focus always on casual users. 

Five or six years ago, though, there was a shift. Partly thanks to hardware, partly thanks to software and partly thanks to other eSports success, sim racing made the jump from a toy to a real sport, with eSports leagues now holding racing competitions. It’s also a real training tool, with many professional drivers using it to learn new tracks, test new techniques and stay sharp in the offseason. 

Glenn McGee, now a professional driver, even got his start in eSports, making the jump directly from iRacing to pro racing in 2016. Before making the transition thanks to a $100,000 racing scholarship from Mazda, he’d never driven a real car on track. Darin notes that many other drivers, including Lando Norris and Max Verstappen, use sim racing as a training tool.

SimXperience Products

Now that sim racing is real, so are the simulators. The industry has come a long way since the brothers’ first home-brewed simulator, and that’s thanks in large part to SimXperience. The company’s mission is to add extra layers of immersion to sim racing, starting with quality driver controls and going all the way to turn-key, full-motion simulators.

Before we went any further, though, Darin offered this disclaimer: “To start sim racing, the biggest cost at first is buying the PC. After that, you could be competitive with a $200 wheel and pedal set. Adding extra layers of immersion is immensely helpful when you’re training for a real car, and can also help with consistency when racing online.

Of course, it’s way more fun–and way more applicable to your real race car–if your simulator does have those extra layers of immersion, which is why SimXperience offers a full line of products to do just that. They sell to both individuals and companies, and as Darin explains it their hardware and/or software is found in most of the turn-key simulators on the market today, as well as in tons of home-built rigs. Darin also boasts about the software and hardware product development side of the business, which is kept entirely in-house. They’ve even got some big names–including Todd Bettenhausen, the son of Indy 500 legend Gary Bettenhausen, on staff as a mechanical engineer. 

The company’s best seller, at least in terms of copies sold, is definitely a software product called Sim Commander. What is it? Here’s our explanation: When you’re driving in a simulator, the game (iRacing is the most popular choice) outputs telemetry during the race. Put simply, the game is constantly saying “Hey, the car is going this fast in this direction.”

That’s of little use for a simulator, which doesn’t care how fast the car is going or which direction it’s pointing. The simulator needs to know how far to move its actuators, and how much force to put on the steering wheel. Between these two is Sim Commander, which translates the game’s telemetry into commands for the simulator. Basically, it sits between the two and calculates that telemetry in real time to provide motion and tactile feedback. That way you feel exactly how the virtual car is performing and can react accordingly. By most accounts Sim Commander is the best in the business, which is why it runs on most simulators–no matter who the manufacturer is.

Of course, SimXperience isn’t just a software company. They’re known for their hardware, too, especially their AccuForce Pro V2 Steering System. Darin’s blunt here: “We can’t keep the AccuForce on the shelf it’s so popular!” What makes this wheel so good? It’s direct-drive, meaning rather than a gearbox separating the motor from the steering wheel, it’s bolted right to it. That means more force can be imparted on the driver, more-realistically imitating high cornering loads, bumps, etc. The AccuForce wheel offers 12nm of torque, versus about 4nm from competing wheels.  

Darin’s favorite item in the catalog, though, is the Rear Traction Loss Kit. It simulates rear traction loss, meaning the simulator can actually drift. Darin says it replaces the seat-of-the-pants feel that many simulators lose, and helps him drive more consistently on the edge of traction.

There’s a new product that’s worth mentioning, too: The GS-5 G-Force Seat. What is it? In laymen’s terms, it’s a Kirkey race seat with 4 modules that are powered by industrial-grade electric motors. The four modules press against the driver’s body independently during cornering, acceleration and braking, replicating G-forces much better than a simulator normally would. Its effect is huge, and Darin says this allows you to dial back the sim’s other motion, better recreating the feeling of a real car. 

Check out a video of the seat in action below:

 

Turn-Key Simulators

In Darin’s words, “All of our components, tied together, create a beautiful symphony!” And while they sell plenty of a-la-carte components, SimXperience sells turn-key simulators, too. The top of the food chain is the SimXperience Stage 5 Full Motion Racing Simulator, which stickers at $26,000. It’s the Cadillac of racing simulators, and offers everything you’d ever want in a simulator. “It easily beats competitors’ $60,000 simulators,” Darin is quick to point out. The company offers two other turn-key simulators, the VR Racer 2DOF and the VR Racer 3DOF, with prices for those starting at $10,999.

Too rich for your blood? SimXperience offers four stages of simulator kits, with prices starting at $2199. You can view the full list here, but all of them represent fantastic value for money. We’d probably start with a Stage 3 kit, as it includes everything necessary for a full-motion sim, but without some of the appearance items that the nicer simulators offer.

This video covers the different stages of simulator kits:

 

The Sim Racing Market

So, who’s buying these? Everybody. The global gaming simulator market is expected to reach $7.78 billion by 2021, and Darin says his customers range from DIY enthusiasts in their basements to professional race teams. 

SimXperience’s message to all of them, though, is simple: Sim racing is more immersive now than it’s ever been before, and they offer a huge variety of products to make it possible. Whether you’re a first-timer or somebody looking to take their existing simulator to the next level, check out the SimXperience website to see what’s possible.

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Comments
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te72
te72 Reader
5/17/19 11:21 p.m.

I've joked about buying a setup like this before, but that's a LOT of money. I could be racing my real cars for probably close to a decade or so for the same ~$25k.

 

However, I live in Wyoming. The one and only month I haven't seen snow here is August... so far. Our summer is short, our nearest tracks are all out of state, and the roads in general are, "alright" you might say. Sim rig that costs a fortune, but replicates 98% of the experience, that you can use year round? Doesn't sound so bad when you look at it that way.

Schmitzna
Schmitzna
5/18/19 12:04 p.m.

I time trialed a C6 Corvette for ten years.  When I gave it up and sold everything, just the proceeds from the wheels, tires, trailer and stuff was more than enough to fund a nice triple-screen sim rig with GS-5 Seat, AccuForce Wheel, ButtKickers for chassis feedback, and hydraulic pedals.  Sim Racing is much less expensive than campaigning the Corvette.  It is so affordable that I wish I built the sim rig while I was racing just so I wasn't wasting track time learning the circuit.  And all the telemetry just isn't for SimVibe -- you can use the Motec data analysis tools for iRacing and Assetto Corsa and look at way more variables than I could with the Aim Solo with OBD connection.

StuntmanMike
StuntmanMike New Reader
5/20/19 8:21 a.m.

These seem like a no brainer for people who campaign a series. The experience and practice could pay for itself in a season easily. And its a buy once cry once situation. You can buy a turn key race car but tires, brakes, fuel, etc will cost more than a decent sim rig.

Just doing HPDE I still really want one just to get my fix in between track weekends. If I ever reach a point that I cant hit the track for some reason, I'm definitely investing in one of these. 

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