When NASCAR 21: Ignition released late last year, it was immediately clear that there was something wrong with it. This was NASCAR’s first video game developed from scratch by Motorsport Games, the emerging publisher that is gone on a tear in recent years to grab a host of exclusive licenses – from top stock car racing to 24 Hours of Le Mans, IndyCar and the British Touring Car Championship. The product was, quite frankly, suboptimal. And now NASCAR is reportedly trying to run from Motorsport, according to an industry insider.
Motorsport Games began its acquisition of NASCAR Heat releases 704Games in 2018. The series was developed by Monster Games, which iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations acquired in January. With NASCAR 21: Ignitionthe series moved to a new one rFactor 2-based engine, with glitchy results.
The sport is reportedly unhappy with the game, as were many players – The PS4 version is currently at 53 on Metacritic. That, in addition to financial struggles at the publisher, has reportedly convinced NASCAR that it needs to leave its current deal as soon as possible. As It writes Sports Gamers Online’s Michael Straw:
Several sources have told SGO that NASCAR is actively looking for ways to get out of its current agreement with Motorsport Games. Sources say NASCAR would like to bring its license to another publisher and developer within the next few years.
“NASCAR is not happy,” the source said. “There’s a reason they do not even promote their own game on any broadcasts. It’s because they do not want to be associated with a game that is as ruined as NASCAR 21 is.”
If you want a better understanding of how “broken” NASCAR 21 is – or was at least at launch – believes a streamer was held hostage in a looping pitstop for nine and a half hours, after being transported from the track to the pit at random. The game was also launched without the support of stages, an important necessity for any modern NASCAR title. It has since been patched into one update after releasebut it nevertheless left a rotten first impression on the players.
Straw writes that since NASCAR’s exclusivity agreement with Motorsport Games barely started and expires “late in the decade”, it will not be easy to get rid of it.
While NASCAR may want to get out of the deal, it will not be that easy. This is not a case where one side just decides to cancel and move on. NASCAR will have to – and has been working on – building a case to be filed to justify early termination.
While Motorsport Games will simply point to the existing deal that expires late in the decade and use reasoning like the transition to a brand new game engine for the issues with NASCAR 21: Ignition, NASCAR itself will have to present more than that.
2021 was not a bright year for Motorsport Games, which belongs to the broader Motorsport Network media empire, which includes Motor1 and Motorsport.com. The gaming division lost $ 33.7 million and admitted in its latest financial report two weeks ago that it did not “believe that the existing cash on hand would be sufficient to finance its operations for at least the next 12 months.”
This should and will concern people like IndyCar and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which operates 24 Hours of Le Mans, both of which have recently partnered with Motorsport Games. That upcoming IndyCar games aims for a release in 2023, just like the Le Mans title. All of these games are also the first iterations of annual franchises, which means it will be a big effort to get them out the door in no time and in polished form, as NASCAR 21 has illustrated. Jalopnik has approached NASCAR for insight – but as this is a report, we would not hold our breath to get confirmed.
Update April 15, 2022 at 14.34 ET: NASCAR responded to Jalopnik’s request with the following comment:
“NASCAR and Motorsport Games have a long-standing relationship in place, and the status of our partnership remains in good standing.”