Almost all of the world's best- attended sporting and entertainment events have strong footholds in video gaming.
Consider this year's Super Bowl. It attracted nearly 75,000 people. Its sport is represented by one of the most popular gaming franchises ever: the Madden series.
The World Series was seen in person by nearly 250,000 people and has had a host of game franchises over the years.
Even World Wrestling Entertainment, whose signature event, WrestleMania, was seen in person this year by more than 70,000 people, has more than 50 video games under its (championship) belt.
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But what about the Kentucky Derby, which drew more than 150,000 fans to Churchill Downs, or the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which had attendance this year of more than 500,000? Well ... um ... not so much.
Horse racing and equestrian sports attract lots of eyeballs in person but have never made a splash in video gaming.
As millions of eyes tune to watch undefeated Zenyatta during this weekend's Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, it makes some people wonder why the "sport of kings" can't boast anything worthy of a crown in gaming.
"Video games are pretty good at serving niche markets, but that one would be so obscure," said Shaun Conlin, editor in chief of Evergeek Media, which provides news coverage of the gaming industry. Conlin said he has ridden horses, and it's tough to adapt it to gaming. "If you're a horse rider, the video game isn't going to do it for you, and if you're a fan of racing, it's just you looking at a horse."
Game developers, he said, are used to people driving: cars, go-karts, whatever. "You ride a horse; you don't drive it," Conlin said, noting that it's much more involved than just a steering wheel. "So translating that to a normal, familiar game doesn't make sense."
The two most notable efforts on gaming consoles have been Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, released in 2005 for the Xbox and PlayStation 2, and the more recent equestrian-themed My Horse and Me, created by Atari, which licensed content from the Fédération Equestre Internationale, a sponsor of WEG.
Breeders' Cup allowed players to build stables, race horses at numerous tracks, including Keeneland, and featured race-calling by famed announcer Tom Durkin.
But the few critics who even bothered to pick up a copy panned the game. The leading game reviewer, IGN.com, gave it 4.3 on a scale of 10, noting that "despite a variety of options, the gameplay turns out to be extremely limited, since it's so easy to make money and quickly create the best stable possible."
Released in 2007, My Horse and Me also received a 4.3 from IGN.
"If all you seek is the novelty factor and don't care about gameplay, My Horse and Me is a galloping time," reviewer Jack DeVries wrote. "Not a good or great time, but a time nonetheless. If any form of interactive entertainment is desired, you'll have to jump over many, many hurdles to find it."
The goal of the game and its sequel was to target girls ages 8 to 14, and the series has sold more than 800,000 copies worldwide, FEI spokeswoman Tracie Simpson said. That might sound like a lot, but by comparison, Fallout: New Vegas, the best-selling game last week, sold 645,971 copies on just the Xbox 360. Include other systems, and it has exceeded 1 million in sales.
She said FEI will not evaluate the success of the franchise until its contract with Atari ends in 2011.
A photographic display promoting the game was at the World Equestrian Games recently in Lexington, but the game was not available to play.
And that's an example, Alltech founder Pearse Lyons said, of why horse-themed games haven't taken off.
"The equestrian world doesn't do a good job of marketing itself," he said. "Look at what NASCAR does and how many people go to NASCAR. Horse racing could be just as exciting, but they don't make it exciting."
There are more horse-themed games available online. Among them is an interactive game by Horse Racing Simulation LLC that had about 140,000 active users in the past month, chief executive Michael Calderone said.
"You breed, you train and you own your horses. Horses get better, horses get worse," he said. "We wanted that emotional aspect inside the game.
"You could have a champion one day and be screaming at the top of your lungs, and you wake up the next day and he's not the same horse."
Calderone said the sport has never taken off on video game systems because "no one wants to build them to suit horse-racing fans."
But he and Conlin said the industry needs to focus on bringing in casual fans, such as those who fill Keeneland every April and October.
"I think it just needs a broader appeal," he said.