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 and 2017.
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 $150,000.
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 spectate.
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 2018.
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.