After two weeks of immense speculation on behalf of practically the entire sim racing community, Kunos Simulazioni have pulled the covers off an extremely shocking announcement – Porsche will be coming to Assetto Corsa, supposedly marking the return of the iconic German automobile manufacturer in video games not published by Electronic Arts.
For those who maybe aren’t well-versed on the world of auto racing video games, and need a brief refresher as to why this is important, the story is quite a simple one: as Electronic Arts have done with the National Football League, a deal of exclusivity was signed with Porsche all the way back in 2007, ensuring that only Electronic Arts products would be allowed to create titles featuring legendary sports cars built by Ferdinand Porsche’s successful car company. As a result, basically every driving game over the past decade features a noticeable gap in the car roster, with developers sometimes using aftermarket Ruf products as semi-fictional replacements, and it’s all thanks to the greedy bastards at Electronic Arts. The acquisition of the Porsche license by Kunos Simulazioni effectively brings this era intrusive business deals to a close – if Porsche is willing to work with a small team like Kunos, the possibilities for the future are endless.
Due to the very real legal terms of the contract, we won’t see either of the two planned Porsche DLC packs for Assetto Corsa until August 2016 at the earliest, but regardless, fans of both Assetto Corsa and rival games are extremely excited at what this new future for sim racing holds – a future where exclusivity deals have been placed firmly into the history of sim racing, never to be repeated.
But is this news as big as people are making it out to be?
The short answer, unfortunately, is no. I’m going to be that guy raining on people’s parades, but allow me to explain myself before you all show up and tear me a new asshole.
Yes, Porsche signed a deal of exclusivity with Electronic Arts all the way back in 2007, which really shook up the sim racing landscape considering the Porsche brand is one of the most successful line of automobiles in the history of auto racing, and their omission would obviously be noticed by even the most casual of fans. However, that didn’t exactly stop Porsche products appearing in video games not published by Electronic Arts. For an “exclusive” deal, it wasn’t all that exclusive – in fact, Kunos is actually the third team to strike up a deal with the brand and jump around the roadblocks created by Electronic Arts.
The most prominent example of this, would be the numerous Porsche expansion packs for Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport series. Beginning with either Forza 3 or Forza 4 – someone may have to look this up for me – Porsche products were not included with the default roster of content, and this eventually applied to the Horizon series as well. Only when the fall releases of both Forza and Need for Speed began to both drop in price, were Turn 10 developers allowed to push out a mammoth Porsche expansion pack for whatever game of theirs was newest at the time, adding in all of the Porsche vehicles that were included from the start in older titles. Turn 10 was able to make a deal with Porsche and Electronic Arts to feature their cars in their game, despite Turn 10 being a direct competitor of Electronic Arts, fighting over the same audience on the same game console. By comparison, Assetto Corsa is a relatively niche PC racing simulator that cannot make any sort of dent in the sales of Need for Speed, since the target audience is almost entirely different.
Second, and this is a title some of you may have forgotten about due to its age, is the Automaniax Online Porsche Racing Simulator, partially constructed by Slightly Mad Studios back in early 2012. The Automaniax development team was around the same size as the Kunos Simulazioni organization, and appeared to have direct support from Porsche based on a few articles discussing the title by VirtualR. Legal issues prevented this title from ever seeing the light of day, but according to a quote from Ian Bell during the first half of 2012, he appears to be quite unhappy with how Porsche representatives operate, and again the fact that Porsche is willing to give their license to a completely random group of sim racers speaks volumes about this so-called “exclusive” deal with Electronic Arts.
With the “exclusive” deal set to expire at some point during the 2016 calendar year, and Electronic Arts recently announcing no new Need for Speed title will arrive on shelves until the fall of 2017, it’s understandable that Porsche has immediately began looking for alternative ways to promote their brand through the use of modern video games. And judging by the previous two examples, it appears acquiring the Porsche license under the watchful eye of Electronic Arts isn’t an accomplishment of mythical status – two companies have managed to work around the obvious restrictions and get the thumbs up from Porsche, with one of them literally being some rag-tag group of modders that allegedly tried to screw over Slightly Mad Studios – disappearing from the scene almost as quickly as they showed up.
Porsche appearing in Assetto Corsa simply means the sales of the PC version have been strong enough to finance a deal with the German automobile manufacturer – and coupled with the funding already received from 505 Games, an educated user could make the prediction that Kunos have a few more surprises up their sleeves. I will take this time to praise Kunos for a job well done, however, as the acquisition of Porsche is a genuinely worthwhile addition to the roster of cars available within Assetto Corsa; complimenting the numerous Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren automobiles already available. Yes, the La Ferrari and the McLaren P1 are phenomenal cars in their own right, but the Porsche 918 makes things that much sweeter for Assetto Corsa fans. I’ve heard rumblings of Honda and Initial D licenses on the horizon, and admittedly those cars will only appeal to a fraction of the user base, but Porsche is pretty much the best addition to the game the diehard AC fanatics could ask for.
The only criticism I can make of this whole announcement, is that now we’ve essentially been given the real reason as to why the official Assetto Corsa modding forums have been shut down. It’s very disappointing to see that a resource many members of the AC community used on a daily basis – for several years – has effectively been shut down to make way for two premium downloadable content packs. These cars better be good enough to justify the closure of a community many loved, and not ship with strange inaccuracies, such as the Mazda RX-7 in the recent Japanese pack featuring rear wheel steering.