The Digital War
Why the financial battle for the future of racing games is looking grim
If you’re a die hard racing and video game fan like myself, then you may have heard the news. Codemasters, a video game developer that has brought us some of the best racing games of past and current generations, had a deal in the works with game publisher Take Two Interactive, a distributing & publishing company for games that owns prestigious studios like 2K and, more notably, Rockstar Games. Publishers may not be directly responsible for the games development, but they often pressure studios into making games in the image they desire. Some publishers, like Take Two, are more loved than others. But some inspire vitriolic hate. Some publishers disregard their entire fanbase in order to make money.
Electronic Arts, a name that inspires much hate and fear among gamers, swooped in to steal the deal from Take Two for a whopping 1.2 Billion American dollars. When I saw this headline, I immediately lost all hope for future Codemaster games. Electronic Arts has built up hate on an international scale. For Americans like myself, we watched EA turn Madden (an American Football Game) from a masterpiece into a disaster. For those in Europe, and for that matter, those around the globe, you experienced the same in the FIFA franchise. Most importantly for us, EA publishes the Need for Speed titles. We remember the best that that franchise offered in Need for Speed’s Most Wanted and Hot Pursuit. These were fantastic games that hold up extremely well today. Yet Electronic Arts ruined these franchises as well, giving us Need for Speed Payback and that wretched mobile game I refuse to mention. Why did EA ruin these franchises? One word: money (insert Mr.Krabs meme here). EA made these titles almost entirely DLC. They frequently used loot box mechanics and pay to win schemes to make you pay more money on top of the $60 you are already required to invest in these games. Take Payback for example. Electronic Arts used loot crates to incentivize players to buy customization effects for your cars. This would have been acceptable if these customization effects were not so lackluster. If you wanted tire smoke, a special horn, or air suspension for your ride, you’d usually have to pay for it with money. These purchases are not nearly worth your money. Due to this focus on loot box mechanics, the driving and gameplay became extremely boring. I haven’t touched NFS Payback since I finished the story, a problem modern NFS games are plagued by.
The good news is that EA has made several decisions to cut ties with their selfish ways. However, they have not made this push across the board. I think that EA bought Codemasters for either one of two reasons. The first is rather hopeful. NFS Heat was not a great game, but it was a good game. No DLC driven mechanics and decent gameplay. I can only hope that EA either intends to let Codemasters continue making their F1 and Dirt series as they already do, or gets them to work on the Need for Speed franchise, something that I’d really like to see. Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts said that “together we will be positioned to lead in a new era of racing entertainment.” I hope that this is true. However, the alternative is that this “new era” may not be a good one. Electronic Arts now holds the majority of the racing franchises. It’s only competitors are Microsoft and Sony, with their Forza and Gran Turismo titles. With no incentive from other independent companies to create good games, the lack of competition may result in some unfortunately bad games. Imagine you’re playing F1 2021 and you have to pay extra to unlock Monza. Or maybe you are playing the Dirt franchise and you have to buy a loot box to unlock another car. The only thing we as racing fans can do is hope and cry out in protest. We can only hope that this doesn’t represent a change in Codemasters, but in EA. We can only hope that consumer outcry can save these franchises that we all love. Either way, no one knows for sure whether the future of racing games will be one we can look forward to.