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If NASCAR Leaves Motorsport Games, What Does That Mean?

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With reports coming out about the future of Motorsport Games, many are beginning to wonder about the future of NASCAR console gaming. However, Motorsport Games potentially losing the NASCAR license may not mean exactly what some may think.

Will NASCAR Keep Their Gaming License Exclusive?

If Motorsport Games loses the exclusive license, then NASCAR really has two options. They can either open up the license to anyone who wants to create a NASCAR video game or find another company to exclusively develop NASCAR console video games. What do both of these options look like?

If NASCAR were to open up the license, that would mean that multiple different companies could make NASCAR console video games. This has happened before, as in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were three distinct NASCAR video game franchises. There were the PC simulations made by Papyrus with games like NASCAR Racing and NR-2003, the EA Sports “NASCAR Thunder” Series, and the NASCAR Heat Series which produced games like NASCAR Dirt to Daytona.

Many people herald this as the “Golden Age” of NASCAR console gaming, and they feel that opening up the license could force publishers and developers to innovate and try new things. Seems perfect right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, and the major wrinkle is the benefit of an exclusive license.

The exclusive license means only one company is allowed to publish/develop video games for NASCAR. Ever since 2004, every NASCAR video game released has been based on an exclusive license, and there is a good reason why NASCAR and other sports continue to license their games in this way. The business reasoning, quite frankly, is as simple as how much money they can make.

If the license is not exclusive, NASCAR cannot charge as much to individual companies to create officially licensed video games. This is simply because the market is crowded, and the return on investment for game publishers is therefore less. Some people will prefer one game over the other.

If the license is exclusive, NASCAR can charge significantly more to one game company to make these games every year. NASCAR gets more money upfront from the license, and they can have better control over the product. Exclusive licenses also tend to work as is evidenced by the Madden NFL series.

EA Sports has been the exclusive developer of NFL simulation video games since 2005. While it is criticized by many, the game still sells. Madden NFL 23 was the third best-selling video game of 2022.

Fans also want to play that sports game with the actual teams and players. 2K Sports lost out on the exclusive NFL license in 2005, so they created a new football video game, All-Pro Football 2K8, with generic teams. The game did not get a sequel despite it being praised by critics for its’ gameplay.

Long story short, exclusive licenses work, and they make business sense to both game companies and those who sell the licenses. All this to say that it is incredibly likely that NASCAR will go back to an exclusive license at some point. Now, with that in mind, what does it mean for the next game specifically?

What it Means for the Next NASCAR Game

In short, this means that it’s going to be a while before the next NASCAR game is released. As we said in the news article about Motorsport Games potentially losing the license, it takes about three years for a Triple-A publisher to make a game from the ground up. If Motorsport Games loses the license, another company will have to create a game from the ground up.

This long wait between games is evidenced by recent NASCAR gaming history. EA Sports’ last NASCAR video game was NASCAR 09 released in 2008, and the next game, NASCAR The Game: 2011 developed by Eutechnyx, was released in 2011.

Eutechnyx’s last true NASCAR game, NASCAR ’14 was released in February 2014. 704Games and Monster Games came in to take over the license, and they released NASCAR Heat: Evolution in 2016 with a copy-and-paste NASCAR ’15 in between. It was the same cycle between Monster Games and Motorsport games with NASCAR Heat 4 (2019 release), a copy and paste NASCAR Heat 5 (2020 release), and NASCAR 21: Ignition (2021 release).

There is also no guarantee that this game is going to be good right off the bat. Generally speaking, what people consider to be some of the worst NASCAR games in history fall under one or two descriptions: 1) a new developer/publisher or 2) a new console. Here is a look at some games that were panned by audiences.

  • NASCAR 08 – First game on 7th console generation
  • NASCAR The Game 2011 – First Game for Eutechnyx
  • NASCAR Heat: Evolution – First Game for 704 Games/Monster Games and first game on 8th console generation
  • NASCAR 21: Ignition – First game for Motorsport Games

Regardless of whether or not the game is exclusive, it will have these two factors working against it. It will be the first NASCAR game for a new developer, and it will be the first NASCAR game for the 9th generation of consoles.

That does not mean the next game will be bad inherently, but, it’s essential to know that it probably will be a bit rocky in spots. It’s possible the game could somehow be amazing, but history says to temper expectations.

In conclusion, Motorsport Games not having the exclusive license would just be the beginning of a long, long road for NASCAR console gaming. It would be a big first step, but, at the end of the day, it is only a step.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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