Before Slightly Mad Studios were slated to dive deep into work on a mammoth endeavor the world now knows as Project CARS during the spring of 2012, the team in London fronted by Ian Bell had set their sights on a much different task – aiding a group in temporarily wrestling the Porsche license away from the grasp of Electronic Arts, and bringing the legendary cars to a platform that could truly appreciate the iconic German brand to its fullest extent. Automaniax was intended to be an online-only racing simulator centering around race-spec Porsche sports cars, but the project fizzled out almost as quickly as it entered the market. What happened to this game, and more importantly, why is the website still up? Today’s Reader Submission here at PRC.net from Paul T. would like some answers.
Good afternoon, PRC.
Given all the stories about Automaniax from some time ago – the legal troubles and whatnot – I’d like to know why their website is still online with the tagline “Coming Soon.” Is this game actually on hold despite what others in the sim racing scene say? Is it worth poking around to find out more information? I can’t beef this submission up with anything else to add, but I find it odd that after this whole thing was shot down quite quickly by Slightly Mad Studios, it’s still just sort of sitting there with zero additional information.
I sort of have a few answers from you, and these come from sources who would prefer to remain anonymous. I’m hoping Mr. Bell himself will show up and maybe add some additional information, so chances are I’ll fire him an Email once this goes up and tell him to chime in.
To summarize what happened with this game, it’s actually a fairly simple chain of events. The financial backers behind Automaniax – whoever they were – managed to obtain the highly lucrative Porsche license for use in a modern racing simulator. Yep, these guys got in good with Porsche well before even Forza was forced to package up the cars and release them at a later date. However, the clauses in the contract, obviously due to the partnership with Electronic Arts at the time, stated that the cars could only be used in a free-to-play online racing environment, and the title had to remain exclusive to the PC platform, and this is something I assume was done to ensure no matter how successful this title was, it wouldn’t eat away from the deal with Need for Speed. Essentially, there were a lot of loopholes and asterisks to sort out, but these guys indeed wrangled the Porsche license away from Electronic Arts for a PC racing sim.
The Automaniax team, which wasn’t exactly a “team” if my sources are to be believed, but rather a group of guys with a vision and the Porsche license, shopped around for a developer to make this all a reality, and were turned down by at least one other “main” sim developer before partnering up with Slightly Mad Studios. This lead to the creation of Automaniax as many remember it from the news articles back in the spring of 2012 – a free-to-play, online-only racing simulator built on the foundation of Shift 2: Unleashed.
Once the regular sim racing publications began to circulate both detailed stories and footage of this new title en masse, Ian Bell and Slightly Mad Studios were shocked. Behind the scenes, Slightly Mad Studios hadn’t actually been paid for their work on the Automaniax project, and from what’s written on VirtualR, legal action was taken almost immediately – hence why the videos inserted into the articles I’ve linked above no longer exist. Some sim racers reported seeing the group resurface at certain auto racing events using software powered by the isiMotor engine rather than the SMS “Madness” engine, but the group left the scene almost as quickly as they entered.
Now, as to why the website is still online, once again I think it’s a simple answer – though don’t take it as an official explanation. My theory is that the guys behind the Automaniax brand were wealthy individuals and paid up front for the website to remain active for the game’s estimated lifespan. Considering the game was to be powered by the same technology as Project CARS, their ownership of the webpage probably won’t expire until 2017 or 2018 at the earliest – a testament to the kind of product these guys were hoping to create if it all went according to plan. And the explanation for why the website hasn’t been updated is pretty obvious: sheer embarrassment. For all of the empty lawsuit threats in the sim racing community occurring over frivolous matters, these guys were one of the few entities to get their shit utterly stomped in a hurry, their reputation destroyed on all major sim racing publications, and had virtually no community interest in the title once the chaotic summer of 2012 ended. There wasn’t much of a point to announce that the game wasn’t going to materialize.
That’s everything I know personally, maybe someone else can take it from here in the comments section.