Rather than cautiously help navigate the elephant in the room to a much safer place outside the confines of PRC.net, we’ve instead built him a cozy and comfortable bed. A quick 250-word entry written and published from my phone during a rather slow shift at work ignited a massive firestorm, one which landed us on the front page of VirtualR.net for the very first time. With no links, screenshots, or even names to give us an ounce of credibility, we went live with the information that Turn 10 Studios – the team behind the Forza Motorsport franchise – were looking to purchase Kunos Simulazioni.
The goal of the acquisition on paper is quite simple: Turn 10 has confirmed Forza Motorsport 7 will be coming to Windows 10 at some point in the future, and Microsoft wants to ensure the title will meet the demands of sim racing elitists. By absorbing the individuals which make up the Kunos Simulazioni crew, Turn 10 essentially will gain an entire new division of employees that can push Forza Motorsport 7 much farther than any previous title in the series. Every sim racer – regardless of their allegiance to any sole developer – has always wanted two or more developers to join forces and push out a truly genre-defining product, if only to see the results of this fictional love child. In a plot twist nobody saw coming, we might be getting just that.
In my opinion, this is a truly fantastic situation for literally everybody involved. For starters, Assetto Corsa is objectively an unfinished racing simulator, graduating from Steam’s Early Access program far too quickly. The lack of depth in the product is undoubtedly the result of a lack of time and manpower, understandable given the size of the Kunos team. However, some elements of Assetto Corsa are quite good, even if they have been changed over time to behave in ways we personally don’t enjoy. The tire model, at one point, was phenomenal and gave many unbiased sim racers hope for the future. The game’s force feedback effects, despite going through several revisions, are still near the top of the genre. There is a tangible level of potential in what Kunos have created – some of us merely feel more let down than others over the final product.
Turn 10 would essentially offer Kunos a completely finished game for the crew to polish up, rather than build completely from scratch as they’ve done with Assetto Corsa. Part of the sting that comes with Assetto Corsa, is that while many of us were waiting for pit stop functionality in single player mode, the developers were busy fine-tuning the tire physics in certain cars. In this situation, Kunos would have free reign to obsess over the minute details they’ve dedicated themselves to perfecting, while others completed the main components. I mean, just think about it – Forza Motorsport 6 with sublime steering wheel support, adjustable cockpit view, exceptional force feedback, and a refined tire model? That sounds pretty dope. I’m in.
This move would also allow them to hand off public relations duties to a specialized professional. I’m sorry, but Stefano just can’t figure out how to maintain a presence on social media without blowing up at someone. The lot of them can’t be making forum posts saying “have fun or get out” – you can tell they’re not ready for the spotlight. Meanwhile, Turn 10 speaks primarily through a guy named Brian Ekberg. The stress of dealing with the sim community would be completely lifted off their backs. No more calling customers “retarded monkeys” on Twitter.
Lastly, fans will welcome the acquisition with open arms. Tons of people love Forza, and tons of people love Assetto Corsa. Some got into Assetto Corsa primarily looking for a Forza-like experience on the PC. Those people will not be unhappy when you tell them that the companies behind each title are joining forces to create a combination of the two. I mean, it’s difficult to impress me, but when even I’m on board for something, it’s probably a step in the right direction. We can obviously speculate until our fingers are sore from typing, yet Forza Corsa sure looks enticing just going off of the basic premise.
But of course, this deal has been officially denied by the staff at Kunos.
Obviously, the defensive comments came fast and furious once we hit the publish button, and our rumor arrived on VirtualR.net much quicker than anybody anticipated. Better yet, Marco Massarutto of Kunos Simulazioni officially denied the business deal in a quick Facebook post, which also found its way to VirtualR a few short hours later. Avid readers of mainstream sim racing blogs jumped in to blast us for running such a story, including Assetto Corsa beta member Mike Hornbuckle questioning why the site would ever use us as a source, and VirtualR’s editor himself Rob Prange claimed the whole thing “has helped spread the word that PRC is a terrible source of news more than anything else could have.”
And of course, the thread about the subject on RaceDepartment was promptly locked as well, but not before moderators allowed Hornbuckle to again claim how terrible we are. Apparently, “creating controversy” at RaceDepartment is against the site’s Terms of Service. Eyes forward, citizen! We’re in a golden age of sim racing!
I could sit here all day and take screenshots of countless other replies from around the sim racing community on the topic at hand, but instead I will direct you to the official Assetto Corsa forums. Stefano Casillo himself managed to put his own two cents into the Turn 10 acquisition rumor, labeling us as special needs children that have managed to out-do our previous efforts.
For those of you who have been around PRC.net for the long haul, and understand how we operate this shitty little tabloid focusing on the chaotic world of sim racing, you know that the images above have been documented for dramatic effect. We’re obviously sitting on something big, and we’re slowly building up to the article’s eventual climax. It takes a particularly large set of balls to just come out one day and post a rumor about one company purchasing another company – and yes – there is literally a folder on my PC called “sensitive info” where screenshots of news leaks are placed. No, this rumor was not made up on the spot to generate site traffic. I have something tangible to back it up.
I’m not going to lie and say it was an act of good faith, but I’m able to place myself in the shoes of Kunos staff members, and realize that it’s going to be pretty difficult to undo all of this denial if the business deal with Turn 10 is eventually completed. To many, Kunos are considered to be the nice guys of the sim racing world – especially after the mess that was Project CARS, and the ridiculous stuff iRacing routinely tries to pull. It would be a PR nightmare if they had spent all this time sitting on message boards openly referring to us at PRC.net as mentally ill, only for us to be proven correct.
So I fired our boy Stefano an Email this morning, and basically told him he still hasn’t figured out who our informant is. I offered to supply him with the info I was sitting on in exchange for us sitting down together to try and navigate through the PR end of the deal successfully. Again, as you can see in the captures above, Kunos essentially came out and said “PRC are mentally ill nut jobs who should get a life.” If anything we’ve posted ends up being true, it makes Kunos look extremely fucking retarded in the long haul. Not to mention, I actually support the merger between Turn 10 and Assetto Corsa, so I wouldn’t mind contributing in little ways here and there.
The alternative, of course, is we go live with our info on PRC. That’s probably the worst option in this situation. If we present anything at all to our readers, things get very interesting in a hurry.
The response I received was “seek professional help, you are sick in the head.” If your reading comprehension is a bit lacking – it’s Monday after all – this means Stefano picked the first option listed in the Email above. What we’ve got is going up on PRC.net.
We know him as Vinay, but the Assetto Corsa community is familiar with his online alias Brownninja97. An extremely talented independent modder, Vinay was eventually picked up by Virtua Simulazioni to work on the physics side of things once gurus David Dominguez and Edward Mallorqui left the operation. We received our first Reader Submission from Vinay back in October of 2015 according to the email logs above, but we’ve been slowly conversing with him throughout the past eight months or so. He’s a great guy, and a special thanks goes out to him for helping proofread Black Flag: A Crash Course in Sim Racing, which we put up for sale earlier this month.
Thanks to his position with Virtua Simulazioni, a third party modding team for Assetto Corsa occasionally tasked with building portions of each premium DLC pack to cut down the work load Kunos is routinely faced with, Vinay was invited into the closed community beta. To prove he was a part of the beta, and the info he had been supplying us with was genuine, he passed along the screenshot of the internal forums we’ve crudely pasted to our banner.
Now obviously with this post, we’re throwing our boy under the bus and basically screwing ourselves out of any future information. This has nothing to do with Vinay himself, as he’s been a stand-up, respectful guy throughout the entire process. We are instead leaking these pictures due to the words of Kunos Simulazioni staff members, who have repeatedly claimed we’re “mentally ill” and “fabricating stories” as you can see above. Look, I know Kunos is pissed that PRC.net is operating on a level they never imagined, but a simple “we do not comment on rumors or speculation from unverified sources” would have sufficed. I mean, if they want to become the next Ian Bell, I can’t exactly stop them, but keep in mind there are people who don’t even play racing games that know Mr. Bell is kind of an asshole. Why you’d want to acquire this reputation for your own company is beyond me.
So anyways, our boy supplies us with the following info on what I believe to be a Wednesday night:
“Hornbuckle told me Turn 10 is looking to purchase Kunos.”
A predictable shitstorm ensues when we run the story, and the following discussion takes place on Steam between myself and Vinay about a day or two after the article went live.
Vinay starts by claiming “the gestapo want heads to roll,” obviously indicating there is a much bigger problem than Kunos wants to admit to the sim racing media outlets attentively covering the story. I ask the guy if Kunos figured out it was him who leaked the info, and he responds with:
“I lucked the fuck out that Hornbuckle told some other guys.”
As I note in the chat log, this isn’t abnormal. Much like our own Teamspeak channel, the Assetto Corsa closed beta group operates as a Skype clique, with those who are able to spend long hours on the voice communication service uninterrupted eventually making genuine friendships with one another, and becoming privy to insider info. Are non-disclosure agreements involved? Of course, but it becomes hard to police these given the rather unfamiliar territory with this kind of program. And given our own prior experiences with Hornbuckle, he liberally leaks sensitive info to other users in an effort to feel like an important member of the Assetto Corsa community.
Elaborating further, Vinay states that Kunos knew information about the Turn 10 acquisition would end up on PRC.net sooner rather than later, and used it as an opportunity to pinpoint who the secret informant for us was – a tactic Vinay describes as a honey pot. The public response from Kunos to the situation would be to label us as mentally ill nut jobs – which isn’t exactly difficult given our overall reputation within the community. However, it’s a bit of an admittedly stupid idea – you’ve spent how long calling us mentally ill now? What happens if we end up being right?
However, there were a few key aspects which made the entire plan go horribly awry, and this isn’t really the fault of Kunos, as they’re game developers first and foremost. Hornbuckle ended up telling too many people about the Turn 10 deal behind the scenes, making it impossible for Kunos to track down the exact source of the leak in the first place. Second, Kunos isn’t aware that I’m lazy as fuck and don’t delete my emails, meaning I can actually dig through my archives and prove we’ve been conversing with this guy on amicable terms, to the point where he’s comfortable supplying sensitive info to us.
And third, as you can see in the final part of the saved Steam Chat window, we put on a bit of a show for the other forum personalities – allowing our boy to become fast friends with known info-leaker Hornbuckle via their “mutual” dislike for PRC. Kunos, and eventually Hornbuckle, never once clued in to the fact that the guy shit-talking us at every opportunity was actually our informant. Oops.
Forza Corsa. It’s got a nice ring to it, and the marketing department has the option of pitching it as a slightly different, more hardcore version of Forza Motorsport. The inevitable Kunos Simulazioni goodbye press release will read something like “we are moving on to greener pastures for the overall benefit of our loyal fans, who have supported us from our humble beginnings on Steam’s Early Access platform in late 2013.” Reviewers will surely swoon at a magnificent title that is one-part Forza, complete with the lengthy career mode and deep customization features, and another part unforgiving racing simulator intended to punish those who do not put in the effort to remain competitive, week after week.
A long, long time ago, sim racers could only dream of the day a deep and rewarding journey like Forza would be combined with the technical rigidity of a hardcore racing simulator. An endless stream of topics dedicated to your ideal racing game would see hundreds of posts, most of which merely asked for the best of both worlds to be slammed together on one disc. It now appears that despite an extremely bumpy road, the Golden Age of Sim Racing many speak of is on the horizon.