On Tuesday morning, a website that calls itself a “platform for esports racing” named Overtake.gg tweeted a short video clip teasing an announcement planned for May 6. The clip only lasted about 15 seconds but immediately antagonized viewers on social media, opening with the phrase “racing is a male sport” and flashing through a series of negative stereotypes before encouraging the viewer to “See the full story on May 6th.”
The clip spurred controversy among the small-but-close-knit community of sim racing competitors, streamers, content creators and fans on Twitter. Overtake responded by deleting the tweet containing the teaser and posting the full video hours later with a clarification, saying it was “sorry for creating confusion” with the earlier snippet.
The full video includes interviews with content creator MaximeMXM and McLaren Shadow esports driver Emily Jones discussing their passion for racing, as well as the gender gap and desire for more inclusivity in the field. The “full story” is that women actually are capable of competing, the site just put the short version up for attention. As my friend Kyle Patrick of AutoGuide appropriately described, it’s basically everything that was terrible about Burger King’s “women belong in the kitchen” tweet on International Women’s Day, except longer and overlaid with ass rock.
Anyway, brands commit tone-deaf self-injury all the time. That’s nothing new! What makes this case a bit more curious is what happened after Overtake posted the full video. An individual named Claudia Feiner began responding to some tweets — like this one from Traxion-affiliated streamer Aero — retweeting Overtake’s half-hearted apology seemingly in an attempt to douse the flames.
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A quick glance at Feiner’s tweets and replies show she tagged at least 10 other individuals while trying to bring awareness to Overtake’s message. Feiner’s Twitter account does not list any affiliation with Overtake, but there are Porsche hashtags in her bio.
According to LinkedIn, Claudia Feiner is a Porsche employee who currently holds the title of esports community manager.
Elsewhere, Feiner has been identified as the community manager for Overtake, as seen in this keynote speech she gave at last year’s Expo 8 virtual conference for innovation in the mobility sector.
Initium’s website is an empty shell with no content, and a landing page that doesn’t make it clear what business the company is in, much less who it belongs to. Fortunately, the 2020 financial statement for Porsche SE, the holding company that owns the Volkswagen Group, makes the latter abundantly clear:
Overtake is the property of Initium, and Initium is the property of Porsche. I reached out to Porsche for comment, and Frank Wiesmann, the automaker’s North American product communications manager, responded with the following statement:
OverTake is a content and community hub focused on esports racing. The platform is intended to unite the esports community, from professional sim racers and casual gamers up to long-time motorsport fans, thus making virtual racing more visible. Porsche has a long tradition in motorsport and has also been active in esports racing for a few years now. To connect with the growing community of esports racers, Porsche launched the platform as a separate editorial entity. OverTake’s content and community hub features independent editorial shows and formats which are created and produced by Omnicom Media Group FUSE and Freaks 4U Gaming.
As for the video:
We can understand and share the concern expressed around the posting on Twitter of a short exert from a larger film created by OverTake. Ironically, the full film issued by OverTake was intended to make the point that esports are for everyone. Unfortunately, this message was lost as only the first moments of the film were shared. This was an error. OverTake have since shared the full film, which makes the context and the message clear. OverTake has since apologized for this mistake, as the impression given was precisely the opposite of what was intended and contrary to its values. The OverTake team will learn from this and will take greater care in the future.
The question, of course, is why Porsche obscured its relationship to Overtake. I’d heard before from individuals in the gaming industry (who I’ll refrain from identifying) that Porsche owned Overtake. Those same individuals cautioned that it wasn’t public information — or at least, not information the public appears to be aware of. The common sense explanation would be that Porsche paid for the creation of Overtake and wanted it to look like an independent editorial product. It is branded as a grassroots collective of fans, competitors and creators — by the community and for the community.
If anything, it puts Porsche’s sudden about face five years ago to broadly license its cars to various racing games in a new light. That came after the end of its 16-year exclusivity deal with Electronic Arts. The brand clearly understands the value of esports and sim racing to the wider motorsport realm. Overtake may represent another prong in the company’s strategy.
It’s also yet another example of the rising trend of vertical integration in virtual motorsport. Consider that Traxion — an Overtake competitor that’s also been around for a similarly short time — is owned by Motorsport Network. Motorsport Network is a media operation that owns sites like Motor1, Autosport and Motorsport.com; it also runs Motorsport TV and, most crucially, video game publisher Motorsport Games. On Wednesday, Motorsport Games confirmed it completed its acquisition of rFactor 2 developer Studio 397 in a move that might prevent every other racing game franchise from featuring a 24 hour-long endurance race at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
To Traxion’s credit though, at least the site admits its ties at the bottom of every page, where it clearly states “Part of Motorsport Games, Inc.” Overtake hasn’t done the same with Porsche. That’s a risky strategy these days, especially when you’re catering to a subculture of motorsport fans who essentially live on the internet. If the information is out there, they’ll find it. It’s only ever a matter of time.