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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
All of the major manufacturers have entered the digital realm. Is digital a fad or does it hold real merit? It has been described as a "hobby within a hobby", but can it peacefully coexist with analog or will digital eke out analog in market share?

I feel it is safe to say that digital will not disappear. Even if it maintains a foothold in the hobby by catering to the bash and crash crowd or those lured by bells and whistles, it will not disappear. Unlike slot derivatives from past years, the major manufacturers have all entered the digital realm. And all users report that it is fun!

There are few objections to the many positives advertized by this new technology. Undeniably, the ability to have 4 or more racers on simple home sized tracks is its greatest asset. What was originally an impatient activity of racing with a single friend while others waited, now the whole gang can participate.

Additionally, reports describe the abilty to pass and block as adding new tactical elements to racing. Simple digital ovals have extended play value. Instead of buying track to improve upon the experience, the new hobbiest can buy extra controllers and cars to get his friends involved. Digital will not go away.

There are other intangibles like not having to use lane stickers and an end to "riders" which also solves a number of timing and scoring problems. The list of benefits is long.

And digital manufacturers have shown an abilty to bring digital systems to market at *very near* the same price of analog. Economy of scale will further support this trend. Distribution of these systems is probably a greater concern than the additional cost of a few microprocessors.

So we know that digital WILL NOT go away. The question then becomes, will it remain a niche, peacefully coexist with analog, or will it take over?

It is important to look at the problems introduced by digital. I view the biggest problem of digital systems as a lack of compatibilty with existing analog cars. The people who are in this hobby primarily for collecting and modelling might see digital as useless and divisive. Because the systems are proprietary, smaller manufacturers who bring high quality and diverse modles to this hobby are no longer compatible with the track systems. This may be fine for these people, because as long as track is available, analog tracks may be constructed.

But what if manufacterers start dividing their time between these two branches? So far, all the cars released have been available as either analog or digital. The critical turning point will be when a car is released as "digital only". This will be very telling that development has been diverted from analog cars.

So what is going to happen?

The play value of digital systems is undeniable. New hobbiests are going to get digital sets under their christmas trees. Because there is greater play value, more of these sets will be sold. More cars will appear. Manufacturers WILL devote greater resources to developing digital products. Digital will become the "entry point" into this hobby. I expect to see many bells and whistles programmed into these systems. Unlike analog technologies, digital system are "smart" and may be capable of things we have not yet imagined. What about a button to flash the headlights? Even something as trivial as this could add great appeal to new users and be realized even without lane changing.

So once someone has entered the hobby with digital (and lets not kid ourselves, 95% of all new entrants will be through digital), will they at some point step "backwards" to analog? Will they recognize that the fundamental reason they enjoy slots is to model their favorite cars? Will they recognize that they cant scratchbuild a digital car and thus reject digital? Or that the additional crashes of digital jeopardize their models? Or that digital racing can never be more than a demolition derby and that it doesnt test true racing skills?

This is possible, but more likely, people will seek to augment their love of modelling and collecting with the digital features. Even without lane changing, a standard four lane club track could be converted to digital, enabling drivers to flash their lights and honk their horns in the current race format. No one would deny these advantages, and at the cost of fiting a small chip inside your model, the appeal is hard to deny.

To existing hobbiests, the advantages of digital are not profound and are mostly unrealized at this point. Digital will not replace analog today. But it might be surprizing how quickly it does take hold and then dominate. For every "old geezer" with a fleet of vintage models, there are ten kids around the world getting a digital set as a gift. Even if a fraction of them stays with the hobby, the percentages will start shifting towards digital users.

The speed with which digital gains acceptance will depend upon an abilty to appeal to modellers and collectors as well as racers. For this to happen, I believe the abilty to convert ANY car to digital will be required. While standards do not currently exist, at least one of the manufacturers is advertizing the fact that you can fit a chip to you favorite analog car and it will work with digital. (Of course this is true of all digital systems; the availability of chips is yet to be determined. Carrera, Ninco. and SCX could tomorrow advertize they are selling chips)

As time passes (and old modellers pass with it), the remaining hobbiests will be in the digital camp. They will remember their first set complete with lane changers. Some of these hobbiests will mature and seek to model their favorite cars. Rather then throw out their lane changing, horn honking, light flashing, pit taking digital systems, they WILL seek digital versions of their favorite models. The market for digital cars and stanalone chips will increase, and this demand will be answered. It is not clear who or when these demands will be answered, but it is clear that they WILL be answered.

My prediction is that ten years from now, all manufacturers will have digital systems, 100% of entry level sets will be digital, and all manufacturers will offer some means of converting existing models to work with their track system. Given the track record of slots to date, (and the abilty of several differnt and incompatible track systems to survive), I predict a digital standard will not emerge.

Digital will completely replace analog systems for new users, and for old, the prevalence of digital will not matter in the slightest because the abilty to convert and run older models will exist. The price of chips will go down and the procedure of fitting a chip to a new model will be as common as truing it's tires.

It is important to note that we are only beginning to see the "first generation" digital systems. Things wont start to get really interesting until the second generation. Digital slot racing is in its infancy and it is difficult to predict the specifics of its implementation, but one thing is clear: It is here to stay.
 

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It will be a while before all new entrants begin with digital.

With scalextric digital you could scratch build a car and fit it with a conversion chip.

I agree that the format has a lot of potential and could, one day, supercede analogue as far as RTR sets go.

I doubt that analogue would ever die out though.
 

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The only way that digital can possibly become accepted as mainstream is by manufacturers moving towards making ONLY digital cars and controls.

If Lane Changing were seen only as a SECONDARY OPTION, as opposed to being the PRIMARY REASON for going digital, then digital control would have a chance of becoming THE standard. ie, all cars and controls would become digital and the user wouldn't even need to know that this was the case, but the technology to Lane Change would already be in his hands, whether he knew or valued that fact. But the situation is that manufacturers do push Lane Changing as the PRIMARY REASON and, except for a small segment of intelligent enthusiasts, lane changing is definitely detrimental to the primary attraction of slot racing and that is its pure simplicity. Every single complication that is introduced, every need for yet more rules, further decreases the attraction for most people.

But, in any case, I don't see digital as becoming the norm, not even faintly.
Why not?

Just think how long digital control has been available for trains.
I daren't put a quotable figure on that time, but I know it is MANY years.
Yet there is NO sign of digital taking over in the train world.
After all this time, it is still seen as an expensive option of questionable advantage.
How often do you see 'digital starter train sets' being sold in shops?
How many of them do you see under the Christmas tree?

Sure, there will be an explosion of digital slot sales when Scalextric make them widely available before Christmas - a massive blip, followed by a steady downslide to minority status and virtual oblivion.

A pity, because I love the concept personally, but I am a realist.
 

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Maybe digital control and cars will be the main selling point in the longer term but, for now, the gimmick is being able to change lanes and it's the gimmick that will sell sets.

There is the potential for a more realistic racing environment with digital, but sometimes more realistic isn't the same as more fun.

I hope it succeeds as I think it looks a cool system. I'd like to get my hands on a scalextrick digital set when I get a chance.
 

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The next 5 years - analogue will be a strong if not dominant player in 2 areas:

1: entry level sets. Until the price of manufacture of the extra electronics drops to negligible, and the development costs have been recouped, the cheapest sets on the shelves will be a small analogue set with low-detail cars. These will be bought by parents whose kids clamour for scalextric when the parents think it is destined for the loft, or when dad wants to buy it for the kids, mum says no, and cheap set is the compromise! Having a low entry point - hoping to hook a percentage of the first time buyers into the hobby, is vital.

2: a certain select crowd of club racers, building custom wooden/copper tracks, racing without magnets, rewinding motors, sponge wheels etc etc. (Although there will be a branch of this type of enthusiast who will probably be designing their own chips and control stations too, and running digital too!) There will always be people who enjoy the direct and immediate response of trigger to car, and are not interested in tactics and strategy getting in the way of pure speed and skills of negotiating corners.

Analogue (and digital) will also often be bought out of ignorance - people tend not to do full and detailed research into the pros and cons of one toy rather than another, I know I didn't when I got my first set! I didn't even realise Fly and Ninco etc cars were compatible, and lets face it, if a lot of us realised how many cars we were going to end up buying and how much it would have cost, it might have put a few of us off!

The next 10 years:
The oil crisis and resession of the early 70s killed the hobby from an amazing size back then, who knows what the next 10 years will bring? It's a long time, particularly in a luxury/disposable income industry - the first to be hit by peoples insecurity over the future....
 

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John Roche
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I think that the main factor in real growth for digital will have to be a standardised system that is compatable between the manufacturers. I suspect it will be like VHS and Betamax videos, only one will win for "serious hobbyists".

We might end up with a system where different makes are dominant in different countries e.g. Scaley in the UK, Carrera in Germany etc. It's also likely that a cottage industry could develop making adaptors for different makes unless corporate lawyers dictate otherwise.

I am sure a lot of people will sit back and watch. I will, with interest.



John
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The comparison to trains are not necessarily valid.

First, trains are a solitary activity and the entry level set gains little from digital control. Slots are about racing which is a group activity.

Second, trains are standardized by gauge. Differnt manufacturers make HO, N, etc track which is interchangeable.

In five years all entry level sets will be digital.
 

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Slot City
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Any comparisons with model railways are pointless, as slot cars have a totally different use (racing vs model building) and a totally different market. You might as well compare slot cars to model kits or radio control - the difference is just as big as with model railways.

I'd also disagree about the marketing of digital, as being able to switch lanes isn't the only selling point being used by Scalextric and is definetly not the only selling point we are using. Out of the three systems, Scalextric is the only one that actually has extra features at present - so it is difficult for Carrera and SCX to market their systems in any other way.

Most of the discussions I have seen on forums only cover the multiple cars and lane changing features. These are not the only features that our customers are interested in. The extra race options are a major selling point.

Within a couple of years I can see digital being a bigger seller for Scalextric - possibly as early as 2006. If there was a standard system in place then it would probably take over the rest of the market as well. But due to the lack of standards I can't see it happening just yet.

The Scalextric digital system is going to be BIG. We have already taken an incredible number of pre orders for the ready to race set, and the products are by far the most viewed on our website.

It might not be perfect for club or enthusiast use, but if you were buying a set for your kids the ability to race more than two cars at once is a massive selling point. It works out a lot cheaper to get a 3 to 6 car circuit with digital than it does without.

Jon,
Slot City.
 

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Trains are not only a solitary activity. Otherwise there would be no clubs. Just as I am a collector more than a racer. There are Digital starter sets available. The price of chips are coming down. And when you have ten engines in a depot. Would the opportunity of moving these individual rather than relying on the track work for isolation be more preferable? Its still in its infancy. But one of the shops is supplying the locomotives with Digital fitted.
Slot cars will always go the way of the most income for the firms.
 

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QUOTE (slotcity @ 26 Oct 2004, 14:16)I'd also disagree about the marketing of digital, as being able to switch lanes isn't the only selling point being used by Scalextric and is definetly not the only selling point we are using.

I agree that features other than lane changing are being overlooked. What feature does scalextric offerthat is not offered by SCX and carrera?
 

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Alan Tadd
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Again a very interesting thread, with some very good points put forward.

As regard the original question, yes I do think Digital will replace analouge as the entry system to the hobby, almost exclusively for Home Racers and groups of Racers. I'm afraid I can also see a reduction in scale appearance of the cars required for this type of use, and the increasing use of magnet traction aids.
There must also at some stage be the adoption of a common digital system, but the progress towards this goal will most likely be very painful for some Manufacturers and there may well be casualties.

I also think certain groups of people will move away from the Homeset situation completely and progress to tracks and cars they either build themselves or obtain from specialist Manufacturers, so a significant growth in the "cottage Industry" type of organisation can be foreseen. This Group will remain not only digitally free but also magnet free.

You will then have a third group who are only interested in Racing, and it is this group that it is more difficult to predict, as they could stay analogue or move to some digital system, such as DAVIC.

Very interesting times ahead.

Regards

Alan
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
QUOTE (BEEJAY7 @ 26 Oct 2004, 16:01)I also think certain groups of people will move away from the Homeset situation completely and progress to tracks and cars they either build themselves or obtain from specialist Manufacturers, so a significant growth in the "cottage Industry" type of organisation can be foreseen. This Group will remain not only digitally free but also magnet free.<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with most of your points.

This is where I disagree: I believe these "cottage industry" cars will still be made (FLY, slot it), but that people will be increasingly willing to put chips in them to reap the benefits of digital. Therefore, they will never "move away" from the Homeset situation. In fact with digital, the homeset situation has just improved drastically and there will be less need to seek clubs with large tracks.

One of the points that I did not underscore in my original post is that people who have started with digital will not be willing to take the step backwards to analog and that they will become accustomed to fitting chips to their older cars. I do not believe it will require a standard, in fact the lack of standards will be what drives profit in the industry and will continue to develop digital features. Just take a look as Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Carrera and Scalextric are banking on the ability to sell cars and chips and will continue to add features.

I do think that durabilty requirements will go up, and in my experience, scalextric are the ones who need to grow most in this area. Some of the highly detailed FLY cars are surprisingly rugged.
 

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You raise many interesting issues. I don't think that digital will replace analog. I think it will complement analog.

I perceive the real problem with digital being the skill level required to make it enjoyable beyond the crash and bash level. Yet, people seem to report that they catch on quickly.

I think you'll see analog only clubs. Digital only clubs. And clubs where both co-exist and some racers compete in both camps. There will be arguments... and conversions. There will be stubbornness and openness.

As Mao once said, "Let a thousand flowers bloom." Diversity is good and the best solutions will shake out in short order.

cheers,

Mike
 

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Slot City
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I don't think you can get away from the fact that Scalextric have got their system 'more right' than Carrera and SCX, due to the use of existing track and the upgrade chips. What happens next will depend on how well the Scalextric system does, especially the sales in Germany and Spain.

The other factor is what the non track brands do, especially Fly, Revell and Slot.it. If these three brands alone started making their cars 'Sport Digital Ready' by the addition of mounting points for the upgrade chip it would have major repurcussions.

The next couple of years will be very important to the major brands. Its not just the battle for the digital market, but the track market as well - due to digital being integrated to the track system. I imagine this is one of the main reasons that they are going their own ways at present.

Jon,
Slot City.
 

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Hi

So, the sky is falling and I am an old fogie and it dies withme?

naaa..

MiniZ already does everything digital does, who quit for MiniZ?

WHICH SYSTEM:I count 9 out so far.

See, here I am hosting an international proxy for 60s F1 cars and all is lost.

1)How do you build for a proxy in the future? Which system? Do you need examples of each system's chip for your car.

2)where do you put it in a 60s F1?

3)With proxy racing dead, do you also quit racing with others? I mean, how can you organize a big event, specify system AND setting?

Analog has survivied against miniZ(and before that 1/12 R/C) because it is cheap, simple and easy. Right now, Digital is none of these.

I could be wrong but I doubt it.

Prof.Fate
 

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Despite all of our pronouncements and the use of crystal balls and chicken bones to foretell the future, I think it's safe to say that we'll all be wrong and all be surprised.

Ten years from now, someone could dig through the archives to this discussion and say, "How could they not have foreseen the development of inexpensive, holographic racing?

LOL.


Mike
 

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Slot City
QUOTE The extra race options are a major selling point.
Sorry Jon, I don't think so - they are major TALKING POINT.
You will sell a lot in that massive initial sales blip - I may well go for it myself.
But, for the most part, for most people, it will go the way of every other overly complicated 'great idea'.

Talk is cheap, digital setups are not and, in the end, most people (but NOT all) will find that it is less satisfying than what we have now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
QUOTE (slotcity @ 26 Oct 2004, 17:05)I don't think you can get away from the fact that Scalextric have got their system 'more right' than Carrera and SCX<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

<_ I just used this because I thought it was funny.

I actually disagree that Scalextric has got it more "right". The only thing they have on Carrera is the announcement that they will be providing standalone chips to upgrade existing cars. Carrera's strategy of offering RTR cars is in line with "walk before you can run" -- I have no doubt they will offer chips in the future. OTH, carrera currently has 12+ digital models shipping right now, which is enough to set up an organized NASCAR or F1 racing series.

Additionally, I can build a 3 or four lane digital set with Carrera right now due to the superb straight switchers and offset construction. And a working pit lane is being delivered that the pace car will automatically pull into.
I dont mean for this to turn into a debate of which is better system, just that digital is here to stay and it will infiltrate the hobby through it's sale in home sets.
 
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