A controversial topic around these parts for blatantly obvious reasons, Slightly Mad Studios and Bandai-Namco have taken the wraps off an extensive array of pre-order goodies for their upcoming racing simulator Project CARS 2, and it’s an incredibly tough pill to swallow for even the most financially blessed members of our community. Venturing far beyond a simple car pack or two – turning a piece of software into some kind of pseudo collector’s item – gamers will have the option of forking over up to $460 USD for a copy of Project CARS 2 and various Easter baskets of gifts, including die-cast cars, hats, stickers, magazines for the Ultra Edition, which has been limited to 1000 copies.
No, you’re absolutely not forced to buy the most expensive bundle for access to every last bit of in-game content Slightly Mad Studios will produce for Project CARS 2 – so the completionists need not worry – but it’s the principle behind it that understandably has a lot of people up in arms. Excessive does not even begin to describe what Bandai-Namco have concocted, especially given the status of the Project CARS franchise; I feel this kind of gimmick is inappropriate, and represents the kind of pie-in-the-sky thinking infecting other portions of the sim racing landscape. This isn’t what people wanted to see, especially with no formal release date announced as of yet.
Sure, you can make the argument that this practice of outlandish pre-order bonuses is nothing new and there’s no reason to be frustrated as a gamer over this announcement; the guys at Forza Motorsport go out and do something similar for each release, and I can remember quite vividly Forza Motorsport 5 offered a similar Collector’s Edition with all sorts of oddities that weren’t really essential to the software at hand, whereas Codemasters had the cojones to list a one-off, $190,000 custom BAC Mono for sale alongside Grid 2, and Gran Turismo had a package nearly identical to what’s been revealed for Project CARS 2.
However, in at least two of the three examples I’ve provided above, the excessive material goods are reasonable given the external circumstances. Both Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport had well-established fanbases that justified some sort of fancy Easter basket; Forza is the definitive racing game on Microsoft’s home gaming console, while people who grew up playing Gran Turismo as teenagers in the 90’s now have children, wives, a mortgage, or in some cases professional racing careers. There’s sentimental value in the goodies that come with said special editions of either car collecting game.
Project CARS, on the other hand, is just one simulator that came out a few years ago, and aside from generally positive reviews written by mainstream publications who admitted in their writings they didn’t quite understand the game’s nuances, received a very mixed reception from the community it was primarily built for. So for a developer or a publisher to go out and push various special editions as if their first release was a smash hit and people are chomping at the bit to play the next game, when in reality the hardcore users their game was built for are openly shit talking the title on major sim racing websites, it makes it look like there’s a major disconnect between how the publisher thinks their game has been received, versus how their game is actually received. And that kind of disconnect has the potential to create even larger problems with the product itself – just look at Ubi-Soft’s Watch Dogs.
The silver lining is that to attain all of the in-game content Slightly Mad Studios will produce for Project CARS 2, you won’t have to shell out for any of these inappropriate special edition packages; in fact the prices of purchasing all post-release content is much cheaper than what you’d expect from Assetto Corsa or the Forza franchise – one positive in a literal sea of negatives.
However, as someone who was in high school during the Call of Duty craze, and whom had to carefully manage their Microsoft Points balance because not all of us had jobs at sixteen, I’m still disgusted by modern downloadable content practices – teenage me would be overwhelmed by the current climate. Though I’m open to hearing how post-release content guarantees job security for a studio, as they can continue to work and make money after a game lands on store shelves, from a customer standpoint, it’s bloody intrusive, and history has clearly displayed it isn’t necessary to the success of a game. The original Forza Motorsport, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, and GTR 2 didn’t require monthly bite-sized expansion packs to keep the developers afloat and occupied; in fact Need for Speed once gave away cars that didn’t make it into the full game for free.
When you can vividly remember these times, season passes are frustrating; it feels like developers are feeding us propaganda every time they try to explain the reasoning behind them. You can’t tell me Oceania was always at war with Eastasia, when I was old enough to comprehend eight years ago that Eastasia were are allies, in the same manner that you can’t tell me boatloads of DLC is necessary to stay afloat in the market when the market in 1999 was a fraction of what it is today, and teams seemed to do alright back then.
In some instances, you’re paying almost as much as you did for the game itself, just for an extra platter of content that really should have been in the software since the start, as seen in the notorious Driveclub (which is actually a very good game once you buy the other fucking half in little tiny pieces).
Maybe I’m old school and have fond memories of titles such as Project Gotham Racing, in which Bizarre Creations jammed so much into the vanilla experience that most hadn’t even seen everything the game had to offer by the time the lone piece of DLC was released for PGR 4, but teenage me would be overwhelmed by current DLC practices, and many gamers are still as financially stable as teenage me – so I sympathize with them. I want a return to how things used to be; load the software up with as much shit as possible, then ship the product. Make my $60 go somewhere, not merely be a ticket to spend an additional $40.
Unlike most mass-market racers, Project CARS 2 is a hardcore simulator. These games aren’t really built for children who have been allowed to run wild with mommy’s credit card; we’re sort of in that weird “adult hobby” area, though with the enjoyment of racing simulators being primarily reliant on skill means the occasional whiz kids can show up and validate their spot in the community (or just be annoying little shit cunts).
Take a journey through YouTube, and the people playing the original Project CARS, as well as a diverse roster of competing simulators such as iRacing, DiRT Rally, or Assetto Corsa, and it’s easy to discover triple monitor setups, dedicated racing rigs, expensive aftermarket pedals, $800 graphics cards, and $1,600 USD steering wheels as being par for the course. This is before the $12 per car cost of iRacing, Assetto Corsa’s constant stream of DLC, or the funny money conversion required to purchase items in RaceRoom Racing Experience’s in-game shop.
So for these people to turn around and suddenly complain that a season pass is too much is kind of hilarious.
But is the criticism surrounding these multiple pre-order packages justified? I believe it is. I think we all knew a season pass was coming, it’s just the way gaming happens to be in 2017, and no matter how much I – or we – cry about it, we’ll be thrown endless metrics and propaganda-like reasoning as to how it’s a necessary evil. If you’re a sim racer and really invested into the hobby, you’re already spending thousands on gear and content for other games, so at some point you have to realize there’s a certain irony in having a meltdown over just another game announcing some kind of post-release DLC plan.
However, I will say the exponentially pricier packages are where I too, like many, draw the line, and I think a lot of the outrage at places like RaceDepartment is 100% justified in this regard. I don’t really care that they’re optional; it’s the principle behind them. Project CARS is a brand new franchise where collector’s goodies don’t really have the kind of weight or sentimental value that a similar Gran Turismo or Forza package would – which is why people buy them in the first place. Bandai-Namco pushing these elaborate gift bags gives off the impression that there’s a disconnect between how they think the title was received, versus how it was actually received, and that can be a bit frightening if that mentality is allowed to blossom in the future.