According to Turn 10 Studios, the future of sim racing features no racing at all. Since the Ultimate Edition of Forza Motorsport 7 landed in the hands of the general public a few short weeks ago, the prize crate controversy has caused a substantial mutiny among longtime fans of the franchise. While the introduction of virtual gambling elements has at least given those plowing through career mode an alternative avenue in which to spend their in-game currency, Forza 7’s over-reliance on the feature adds nothing but frustration to the overall package, as players are essentially forced to perpetuate a needless cycle of money just to continue progressing through what Forza 7 has to offer. For six iterations and three spin-off titles spanning over a decade, Forza as a series managed just fine without an in-game slot machine, becoming Microsoft’s biggest racing game and a genuine system seller, so fans are understandably choked that a favorite game of theirs has been built from the ground up to capitalize on micro-transactions and the addictive nature in human beings.
Yet fourteen thousand people beg to differ, and that number is only set to climb. Eclipsing the number of people who tuned in live to Formula E’s VISA Vegas eRace earlier this year, not to mention exponentially blowing out the live audience count of any iRacing world championship broadcast over the past five years, would be YouTube personality SlapTrain opening fifteen different prize crates within Forza Motorsport 7 – valued at around three million in-game credits. Clocking in at just under fifteen minutes, the video features zero driving or setup tuning whatsoever (in contrast to his other uploads), but instead remains solely in Forza 7’s front end repeatedly completing a remedial task – opening boxes.
This article isn’t to rip on SlapTrain; instead I’m merely pointing out how he is now one of several YouTube accounts to begin uploading lengthy prize crate videos that essentially glorify virtual gambling in Forza Motorsport 7. Despite launching just over a week ago for those that did not pre-order the Ultimate Edition, searching “Forza 7 Prize Crates” on YouTube now generates 2,500 results of people just sitting at the menu, opening countless boxes that in most cases don’t add anything useful to the actual core game. These people are obsessing over collecting fire suits they’ll rarely see on the track, or acquiring optional profile badges – little icons that appear next to your name in certain screens.
In other words, not playing the game.
Turn 10 have now succeed in conditioning the average player to believe the on-track experience is secondary in Forza Motorsport 7, instead encouraging them to sit around in a menu blowing their in-game currency on largely meaningless transactions. The allure of buying a Forza Motorsport title and hoping to receive a somewhat robust automotive sandbox that you can mess around in at your leisure has been replaced by a meta-game that just barely skirts the line of what many people will deem to be gambling. Driving, racing, and exploring the history of auto racing as a mad-scientist in a virtual environment is no longer the primary motivation for those who play Forza Motorsport as a franchise; it’s instead just a means to an end – a way to acquire money so you can keep buying more prize crates to open on your shitty YouTube channel.
Short-term, there will still be a handful of people who dig past the atrocious gambling elements and swear up and down that beyond the shady surface, there’s a decent racing game with a lot to offer. But at the moment we’re at a period in the history of auto racing where attendance and overall support of the world’s biggest racing championships are collectively at an all-time low. The future generation of auto racing fans, who would otherwise discover series like IMSA, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, the World Endurance Championship, or Formula One through Forza, will now be given an incentive to skip or dismiss everything Forza is trying to teach them. Enjoying the diverse world of auto racing has taken a back seat to blasting through career mode, trying to amass credits as quickly as possible for just one more prize crate.
Just as it was in Madden, FIFA, and NHL, these prize crate videos will become monetized and expand into their own little ecosystem. Turn 10 will provide prominent personalities with complimentary prize crates to open as a way to artificially train their userbase to value not playing the game; zombies of a virtual casino. Other developers within our genre will begin wanting their piece of the pie and promptly implement them into their own games, no matter how inappropriate their inclusion may be.
Somewhere in the madness, the actual joys of ripping around a track will be lost. And it will come sooner, rather than later.