The Forza Racing Championship returns in 2018 on Forza
Motorsport 7, but when you look back at the work developer Turn 10 Studios has
done on Forza Motorsport 6 with multiple competitive-inspired title updates and its
recent six-year, multi-project partnership with German automaker Porsche, it’s
clear that eSports is a very important aspect of the franchise moving forward.
Forza Motorsport 7 may not have launched with eSports
features, and more than 3 months after release, is still lacking a dedicated
spectate mode, manual grid ordering, and grid preview – all features that were
either added or improved in Forza Motorsport 6 with post-launch updates.
However, that doesn’t mean Forza Motorsport 7 isn’t receiving these features.
Instead, developer Turn 10 has opted to hold back eSports functionality until
it’s ready for primetime. That means ensuring it can be the best it can
possibly be before releasing it.
Before the return of the Forza Racing Championship this year,
Turn 10 will release an eSports update to Forza Motorsport 7, but before it
does that, it’s clear that wiping out the disconnection issues to the best of
its ability is a priority. The more features Turn 10 adds to the Forza
Motorsport 7 codebase, the harder it is to fix these online issues. Having the
developer take its time with the eSports update and improve the online
experience will benefit fans far more in the long run.
Whilst the release date of this update remains a mystery as
of writing, it shouldn’t be too far off. Turn 10 said in December that the
update will add “brand new eSports, online racing, and spectating features in
the game that have been designed [to take] competitive play to the next level,”
and this will be accompanied by the return of the Forza Racing Championship –
which I’ve heard will be back in March 2018 with an invitational-style event,
similar to the New York one in April 2016 that celebrated Microsoft’s new multi-year,
multi-project arrangement with Porsche.
That deal with Porsche is crucial to all of this. It was the
centrepiece of the New York Invitational and ForzaRC Season 3. It led to a car
being debuted and announced at E3 2017 with Forza Motorsport 7. It has seen
promotional events at Goodwood and Silverstone. The Porsche deal allows
Microsoft and Turn 10 to tell stories that expand beyond the game, and of
course, eSports is an important area here. It means even bigger events, more
racers on iconic podiums like Le Mans, and even larger prize pools and budget spending.
This all benefits both competitive players and fans alike, and Turn 10 has
shown its commitment to eSports with numerous events and opportunities in 2016
Go back to the start of the Forza Racing Championship in
2016. Season 1. It was the developer’s first take on hosting an eSports tournament,
and it did so in partnership with the folks over at ESL. Sure, there was a
Formula E event beforehand, but this was Microsoft and Turn 10’s first real
attempt at racing eSports. The prizes included Xbox One S consoles, Logitech G
gear, and even a brand-new 2017 Ford Focus RS! There was also in-game unicorn
car prizes to be won as well, and even DLC codes for Forza Motorsport 6 itself
by reaching a certain percentile on the relevant leaderboards.
Turn 10 pitched the Forza Racing Championship as “a place
where players of all skill levels can participate and have a great time
competing for awesome prizes.” Season 1 saw some of “the best virtual racers in
the world” competing for the 2017 Ford Focus RS, a 350-horsepower hot-hatch
that was won by former TX3 racer, Laige. There was weekly qualifying events,
livestreamed semi-finals, and a final showdown, and all of it was done over
Xbox Live. Whilst Season 1 focused on the American manufacturer that is Ford
and was sponsored by its Ford Performance division, the following season was presented
by Michelin, and allowed players to compete for cash and prizes worth more than
Audi was the manufacturer in the spotlight for this season,
which took place just before the end of 2016. It saw players competing for
prizes on Forza Motorsport 6 and the just-released Forza Horizon 3, and
featured a similar structure to the first season. It saw four winners from
Season 1 invited straight into the finals with Laige, Shadest, BAM ASIX 13, and JSR
Rayzer JDM. Events were held on a weekly basis and concluded with a
finals event – which was still hosted on Xbox Live, despite a fancy studio used
in Los Angeles for the casters from ESL and the interviews featuring Turn 10
staff and rally legend Tanner Foust. It wouldn’t be until later events where an
actual offline final would be held.
The ForzaRC then went on a hiatus until April 2017, but in
the meantime, Turn 10 had released two eSports Updates for Forza Motorsport 6.
The first added an enhanced Spectator HUD with numerous new features and
enhancements, including a broadcast ticker with player positions, info panels
and racer statistics. This made the broadcasts look far more professional and
informational in ForzaRC and other eSports events, and overall, resulted in a
far superior viewing experience.
Whilst this update dropped just before the Season 2 finals in
November, the second didn’t come until February. This one introduced some highly-requested
features, including Manual Grid Ordering and Grid Preview, allowing the host of
the lobby to reorder players on the grid to their desire, whilst also walking
through each driver in their car on the grid before the start of a race event.
It also added some more spectating features, including new ways to access additional
in-race info, and even offered the ability for the host of an online lobby to
These updates added eSports features and functionality to
Forza Motorsport 6 at no cost to players, and were done by Turn 10 after the
game’s post-launch content cycle had concluded. Whilst the developer could’ve waited
until Forza Motorsport 7 before adding these features, it showed its commitment
to eSports players and the Forza Racing Championship by releasing these free
content updates as they were ready.
April 2017 was a big one for Forza fans. The Forza Racing
Championship made a massive comeback, and this time, it had the backing of a
new partnership with one of the most legendary manufacturers of our time –
Porsche. After being added to Forza for so many years from paid expansions and
other premium downloadable content done through sublicensing deals with EA, the
famed German automaker had finally returned to Forza for good, and this time with
a new six-year, multi-project partnership with Microsoft.
It all accumulated in New York at the flagship Microsoft
Store on 5th Avenue for an offline invitational event with 18
hand-picked competitors who represented some of the most elite Forza racing
talent globally. These included BAM ASIX13, JSR Craviator, F4H Diablo, JSR
Rossi, BAM Seven, Raceboy 77, and others. It also featured drifting with two of
the top drifters in the Forza Motorsport community from ESDA – The eSports
Drifting Association. The New York Invitational also had the highest production values of any Forza event yet.
This wasn’t only a showcase of the most competitive racing
to be had in Forza. It was a showcase of the entire Forza Motorsport community,
with racers, drifters, painters, and influencers all represented. It will go
down as one of the most iconic moments in Forza history, and something which
Turn 10 will likely try to recreate later this year with the return of the
Forza Racing Championship. The competitors in New York were competing for a
chance to win $25,000 in cash prizes, but after winning the inaugural first two
seasons, Laige had to pass on the winner’s torch to a new champion – Taylor
Stomski, also known as CAR Lightning.
The New York Invitational was followed by another season of
the Forza Racing Championship: The Porsche Cup. Racers would be competing using
vehicles from the German manufacturer in both Forza Motorsport 6 and Forza
Horizon 3, with the finals culminating at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June where
winners took home $100,000 in cash prizes. Season 3 was both a hit and miss for
Turn 10 in many ways, and it’s safe to say the developers came out of it with a
lot of lessons learned – especially when you considered how long we’ve been
waiting for a ‘Season 4.’
Season 3 was the first to be operated by the folks at
Gfinity, a switch from ESL, who handled the first two seasons. The change was
unexpected, and it did lead to format issues in the new series. From how players
qualified to the finals and the overall season structure, there was multiple
issues that plagued this season of the Forza Racing Championship. It saw
Gfinity postpone the entirety of Week 1 racing as it went back the drawing
board, offering a new format that felt more in line with what ESL did for the
first two seasons. Once it was implemented, there was still issues – but things
started to pick up towards the end of the season.
Season 3 of ForzaRC was casted by YMTV’s Alie Tacq and
eSports caster Scott Cole, with TX3 Mellish, another caster from YMTV, sometimes
filling in. For those who aren’t aware, YMTV promote racing eSports through livestreams
featuring various events from independent racing league organizers like TORA and
ORL with their own commentary. Having their insight and knowledge for Season 3 definitely
helped Gfinity, but they didn’t stop there, as they also hired Forza fan-favourite
Raceboy77 as the ForzaRC Project Manager. If this doesn’t show commitment to
eSports from Turn 10 and Gfinity, I’m not sure what does.
The finals for Season 3 in June were obviously the main
highlight here. More than 50 of the fastest racers in the world converged in
France at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to battle for a spot on the podium. As
drivers tested the limits of their endurance on the real track, the ForzaRC
drivers pushed themselves to exhaustion in the tent where the Season 3 Grand
Finals were held with hours and hours of racing action being unfolded.
AMS RoadRunner claimed the crown and stole the spotlight from ForzaRC favourites, earning the right to step upon the top step at the Le Mans podium as the Season 3 champion. It was another historic Forza moment, as drivers from the community stood where
typically only motorsport legends would stand. This was a celebration for the
entire Forza community, and one that will never be forgotten.
Not only has the Porsche deal resulted in remarkable Forza
eSports experiences for players and fans alike, but it also led to other
opportunities to tell stories. From the debut of the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS with
the reveal of Forza Motorsport 7 at E3 2017, to both the car and game’s
European debut at the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed, and even a special
Porsche Experience for press and influencers at Silverstone Circuit, this
multi-year, multi-project partnership with Porsche has already resulted in several
unique opportunities and experiences – and that was all within year one. April will mark the first anniversary for this deal, and we’re
likely to see it show up even more in future ForzaRC events, and of course, the
inevitable reveal of the next highly-anticipated entry in the Forza franchise
at E3 2018.
Towards the end of Season 3, Microsoft and Gfinity launched a dedicated website for the Forza Racing Championship, and in the weeks that followed, they even hosted a regional event at ChinaJoy 2017 with Chevrolet. With the combination of the Forza Racing Championship and its new hires to the multi-year agreement with Porsche, developer Turn 10 has more
than shown its commitment to eSports. Whether it’s inviting the top drivers to
New York for a unique invitational event with Porsche to having the best racers
battling it ours for hours for their place on the podium of the 24 Hours of Le
Mans in Forza Motorsport 6, there’s no doubt in sight that suggests Turn 10 wants to move
away from competitive eSports racing.
If anything, it’s just getting started,
and with the return of the Forza Racing Championship only a short while away,
and the feature-rich eSports Update for Forza Motorsport 7 on the horizon,
there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes down to Forza and eSports in
Alan is the co-founder and co-owner of FullThrottle Media. As someone who enjoys spending all his free time playing video games, he delivers the latest in news stories, reviews, and feature articles to the website, as well as videos on his YouTube channel and livestreams over on Mixer.