When NASCAR 21: Ignition When it was released late last year, it was immediately clear that something was wrong. This was NASCAR’s first video game built from the ground up by Motorsport Games, the up-and-coming publisher dissolved in tears in recent years to snag a variety of exclusive licenses – from the pinnacle of stock car racing to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, IndyCar and the British Touring Car Championship. To be honest, the product was sub-par. And now, according to an industry insider, NASCAR is reportedly trying to outrun motorsport.
Motorsport Games started by acquiring NASCAR heat Publisher 704Games in 2018. This series was developed by Monster Games, the iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations was acquired in January. With NASCAR 21: Ignitionmoved the series to a new one rFactor 2-based engine with erroneous results.
The sport is reportedly unhappy with the game, as are many players – The PS4 version currently sits at 53 on Metacritic. That, in addition to the financial struggles at the publisher, has reportedly convinced NASCAR that it must terminate its current agreement as soon as possible. When Michael Straw of Sports Gamers Online writes:
Multiple sources have told SGO that NASCAR is actively exploring ways to exit its current agreement with Motorsport Games. The sources say NASCAR plans to move its license to a different publisher and developer within the next few years.
“NASCAR is not happy,” the source said. “There’s a reason they don’t even promote their own game on any show. That’s because they don’t want to be associated with a game as broken as NASCAR 21.”
If you want to better understand how “broken” NASCAR 21st is – or at least was at launch – think a streamer was held hostage during a looping pit stop nine and a half hours, after being randomly transported from the track to the pits. The game also launched without support for stages, a key requirement for any modern NASCAR title. That has since been patched into a Post release updatebut still made a bad first impression on the players.
Straw writes that it won’t be easy to break free as NASCAR’s exclusive deal with Motorsport Games has only just begun and will expire “later in the decade”.
While NASCAR may want to get out of the agreement, it won’t be that easy. It’s not about one side just canceling and moving on. NASCAR must — and has been working on it — build a case to justify an early termination.
While Motorsport Games will simply point to the existing agreement, which expires at the end of the decade, and make arguments like moving to a brand new game engine for the NASCAR 21: Ignition issues, NASCAR itself has more to present than that.
2021 has not been a brilliant year for Motorsport Games, which is part of the broader Motorsport Network media empire, which also includes Motor1 and Motorsport.com. The gambling department lost $33.7 million and admitted last financial report two weeks ago that it did not “believe that cash on hand would be sufficient to fund its operations for at least the next 12 months.”
This should and will affect companies like IndyCar and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, both of which have recently entered into partnerships with Motorsport Games. That future IndyCar game is aiming for a 2023 release, as is the title at Le Mans. All of these games are also the first iterations of the annual franchises, meaning it will be a major effort to get them out in a short amount of time and in polished form NASCAR 21st illustrated. Jalopnik has asked NASCAR for insight – However, since this is a report, we wouldn’t hold our breath for confirmation.
Update Apr 15, 2022 2:34pm ET: NASCAR responded to Jalopnik’s request with the following comment:
“NASCAR and Motorsport Games have a longstanding relationship and the status of our partnership remains good.”