By Aaron Waldron
The RC nerd in me loves getting emails into our press release inbox that shares details of innovative new products that could radically change the status quo. Whether it’s something like XRAY’s new progressive shock system, Team Associated testing Redworkshop’s 3D-printed “Low Rider” B5M tranny, or Kyosho going to a heavier chassis for its 4WD buggy, I enjoy geeking out over new technology that could help RC cars go around a track more quickly within the confines of existing rules.
However, my grumpy inner curmudgeon gets a much larger kick out of the new product releases where the the item looks a bit too much like something else that’s already available. That’s when the fun REALLY happens.
The instant that the image hits our Facebook page, fans of other brands come crawling out of their dark caves (I’m assuming that all Internet trolls live rather modestly) to spew vitriol ranging from accusations of forgery to decrees of impending failure due to lack of innovative ideas. Here are some of my favorites from this past week:
With regards to Fantom Racing’s new pit light:
About a new prototype tire from Sweep Racing:
Discussing the new Team Associated RC8B3:
Of course, that last one isn’t quite as fun as this one:
Sure, you can find much more obscene insults stemming from more deeply rooted hatred on almost any YouTube video, but this stuff is more entertaining than anything on cable television these days.
If I’m a social media junkie, comments like these are my heroin. There are a few reasons why these kinds of reactions are so darn hilarious to me:
- The products being criticized are rarely, if ever, available to the public when the comments are made. People are judging the item based on a 600 pixel-wide photo that’s been compressed for social media (because these people are rarely the type to read past the headline.
- In a competitive form of racing adjusted and defined by mere millimeters, all you really need to determine whether or not a car/tire/product will perform is a general idea of what it looks like.
- Products designed by college engineering graduates with experience and research at their fingertips are dissected by mid-pack club racers with backgrounds ranging from “liberal arts” types to sanitation engineers
- Some of the most egregious comments come from drivers “sponsored” by competitors of the products in question
- A portion of those “sponsored” drivers will inevitably switch to the company that they were tearing apart
- EVERY SINGLE COMPANY COPIES ITS COMPETITORS
Chances are pretty much 100% that you’re not reading this story on a Programma 101 or an IBM Simon, which means that you’re the PC or smartphone you’re using wasn’t very “original.” And you probably drive a full-size car that has anti-lock brakes, fuel injection, sun visors, and other equipment once pioneered by a single brand and now “copied” by every competitor still in business. You might think that two kits are “copies” because they both have four tires, four shocks, a four-gear transmission, dual bell crank steering, and a front shock tower that connects in the middle, but that doesn’t undo the hours of time and money spent by companies and the humans they employ.
Every company borrows ideas from each other, for both engineering and marketing. You didn't think Team Durango was the first to release a staged "sneak peek" today, did you? Heck, if it wasn't for Thunder Tiger deciding to give discounts a bunch of people ten years ago 90% of these racers wouldn't have "sponsors."
Not everyone who comments on these stories has their head buried in the sand/some unhealthy emotional connection to their favorite brand. In fact, a few even understand how the business works:
These companies don't give a darn whether or not some of you think it's too similar to something else, as long as there are people out there who will buy it. Sure, there are plenty of RC brands whose version of “R&D” is less “research and development” and more “rip off and duplicate,” but even the most innovative brands in RC borrow ideas from one another. They ALL do it. The “big three” tire manufacturers all have a handful of tire patterns that are indistinguishable from one another. The top five kit manufacturers all use suspension geometry and other design concepts derived from someone else. The first company to produce a 2.4 GHz radio for RC use doesn’t even exist anymore. Electric motors, nitro engines, speed controls, servos, chargers, almost everything available from nearly all brands have relatively similar lists of features and work interchangeably.
Go ahead, challenge me. Comment on this story with an RC brand and I’ll point out an item that they currently produce that is not an “original idea” but rather something that they borrowed from someone else. Just be aware that the brand you choose better not have produced a ball differential, slipper clutch, oil-filled shock, soft compound tire, foam insert, sensor cable, Lexan body, etc.
And until someone manages to stump me, perhaps it’s best to keep your baseless opinions to yourselves - or not. After all, I can always use more entertainment.