When NASCAR 21: Ignition released late last year, it was immediately obvious that something was wrong. It was the first NASCAR video game developed from the ground up by Motorsport Games, the upstart publisher that is left in a tear in recent years to grab a host of exclusive licenses – from the pinnacle of stock car racing to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, IndyCar and the British Touring Car Championship. The product was, it is fair to say, sub-optimal. And now NASCAR is reportedly trying to flee motorsport, according to an industry insider.
Motorsport Games has begun its acquisition of NASCAR heat publisher 704Games in 2018. This series was developed by Monster Games, which iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations acquired in January. With NASCAR 21: Ignitionthe series moved on to a new one rFactor 2-engine based, with glitched results.
The sport is said to be unhappy with the game, as are many players – the PS4 version is currently at 53 on Metacritic. This, in addition to the publisher’s financial difficulties, would have convinced NASCAR that it had to cancel its current agreement as soon as possible. Like Michael Straw of Sports Gamers Online writes:
Multiple sources told SGO that NASCAR is actively looking for ways to get out of its current deal with Motorsport Games. Sources say NASCAR would like to license another publisher and developer within the next two years.
“NASCAR is not happy,” the source said. “There’s a reason they don’t even promote their own game on the shows. It’s because they don’t want to be associated with a game as broken as NASCAR 21.”
If you want to better understand how “broken” NASCAR 21 is – or, at least was at launch – consider a streamer to be held hostage in a looping pit stop during half past nine, after being transported from the track to the pits at random. The game also launched without stage support, a key necessity for any modern NASCAR title. This has since been corrected in a update after releasebut he nonetheless left a rotten first impression on the players.
Straw writes that because NASCAR’s exclusive deal with Motorsport Games has barely begun and expires “at the end of the decade,” breaking free from it won’t be easy.
While NASCAR may want to get out of the deal, it won’t be that easy. This is not the case for a party that simply decides to cancel and move on. NASCAR will have to – and is working on – building a case to present to justify an early termination.
While Motorsport Games will simply point to the existing agreement that expires at the end of the decade and use reasoning such as transitioning to an all-new game engine for issues with NASCAR 21: Ignition, NASCAR itself will have to present more than that.
2021 hasn’t been a stellar year for Motorsport Games, which is part of the wider Motorsport Network media empire which includes Motor1 and Motorsport.com. The gaming division lost $33.7 million and admitted in its last financial report two weeks ago that it “did not believe the existing cash would be sufficient to fund its operations for at least the next 12 months”.
This should and will be to the likes of IndyCar and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest which organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, both of which have recently entered into collaborations with Motorsport Games. the future IndyCar game is aiming for a 2023 release, as is the title at Le Mans. All of these games are also the first iterations of annual franchises, which means it will be a great effort to get them out in a short time and in a polished form, like NASCAR 21 illustrated. Jalopnik has reached out to NASCAR for comment — although, as this is a report, we wouldn’t be holding our breath for confirmation.