It will be an exceptionally long Friday at work for the hardcore virtual road racers among us, as Reiza Studios have announced via RaceDepartment that their highly anticipated 2016 title, Automobilista, will be released on February 26th. Powered by the isiMotor engine developed by Image Space Incorporated, Automobilista serves as a stop-gap title between Stock Car Extreme and the yet-to-be-named late 2017 racing sim Reiza has yet to begin work on. While Reiza’s previous release, Stock Car Extreme, focused primarily on popular auto racing series within the South American Content, Automobilista aims to provide a more all-encompassing experience to compete with larger sims such as Project CARS and Assetto Corsa. Multiple disciplines of auto racing from all over the globe will be available for the incredibly low price of $30, and sim racers currently taking part in the closed beta program are already falling in love with the highly-detailed Stadium Super Trucks – a first for any racing sim.
Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Automobilista will take after the many modern racing sims before it, and initially be released at a discounted price through Steam’s Early Access platform. The controversial Steam feature allows smaller developers like Reiza to generate revenue early on in the project and receive feedback from customers on an extremely large scale, but traditionally, racing sims using the Early Access platform have suffered. No less than five recent titles have used the Early Access program as a crutch, and instead of helping to improve the game, the ability to communicate with prominent figures from each developer team have spawned legions of fanboys trying to accumulate brownie points with the various personalities, and aggressive viral marketing campaigns glossing over genuine errors found by unbiased users. With games like Wreckfest, Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, and DiRT Rally all gaining notoriety for the incredibly hostile message board environment prior to release, and three of the four aforementioned titles still in varying states of disarray, it’s understandable that some sim racers are skeptical of yet another title showing up in the Early Access program.
However, Reiza intends to use the Early Access program for last-minute bug fixing and large-scale stress testing for certain online racing features and leaderboard integration. Renato Simioni of Reiza Studios notes that Automobilista is “90% done”, and estimates that the Early Access phase of the title will be “relatively short”, lasting anywhere from 30 to 60 days. Unlike Bugbear’s Wreckfest, which has been listed on Steam’s Early Access page since January of 2014 with no completion date in sight, Reiza has a clear vision of what they intend to use this brief period of open beta time for. It’s nice to finally see a developer understand that Early Access is not just an unregulated way to take people’s money with the minimal amount of work possible.
Those who purchased Stock Car Extreme prior to January 6th will receive this title free of charge in their library, though it remains to be seen how many took advantage of this special promotion. The entire point of Automobilista was to help Reiza Studios reach a larger audience not comfortable diving into a racing sim primarily centered around South American content, so whether Reiza benefits from this release financially is a question that will be answered over the coming days. Regardless, any serious road racer will make Automobilista a day-one purchase, and I look forward to spending my weekend exploring what the game has to offer.