The Forza Racing Championship is Microsoft’s premier racing esports series played on Forza Motorsport 7, the company’s flagship racing simulator developed by Turn 10 Studios. Ahead of last week’s Series 1 Playoffs – the second big offline-hosted event for the ForzaRC this year, Microsoft doubled down on their commitment to the racing esports program and teased how we can expect it to evolve in the future.
At an E3 Coliseum discussion panel hosted by Xbox Live’s Graeme Boyd in Los Angeles earlier this month, the Creative Director of Turn 10 Studios, Dan Greenawalt was joined by Playground Games Creative Director Ralph Fulton and Forza Community Manager Brian Ekberg to discuss how games are shaping the future of automotive entertainment and driving innovation towards the business thanks to the rise of streaming, esports and the overall gaming industry.
Whilst the panel mostly focused on the newly-announced Forza Horizon 4, it also touched on the Forza Racing Championship. Turn 10’s Community Manager Brian Ekberg shared some insight into the overall growth and development of the esports program so far and how we can expect it to expand and evolve in the future. He also offered a nice overview of the ForzaRC for newcomers to Microsoft’s esports racing series.
“I kind of think of it as we’ve got Motorsport, we’ve got Horizon, and we have the Forza Racing Championship,” Ekberg says. “It’s very much a central part of what we do at Turn 10 and with the Forza franchise. You know, we’re entering our – we’re right in the middle of our current season in 2018, our Series 1 Playoffs are this weekend, and what we’ve seen is the best drivers coming from around the world and really getting involved and getting invested in Forza Motorsport 7, and really growing a world-class esports program.”
“You see the picture behind us, this is our winner from last year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – shared the podium with the same drivers who won the race across all classes,” he continued. “That was an iconic moment for the Forza Racing Championship, and it was hard for – I know the team was feeling the same way I was, when we were seeing those guys up on stage, it was inspiring, it was incredible to see these guys that worked, you know, just as hard – they raced all night, we put these guys through the ringer, just like the real race drivers were doing it all night, these guys were racing all night in our tent – in our ForzaRC tent at Le Mans for the Porsche Cup, and it was fantastic to see the relief and the joy on these guys face – and to be able to be elevated to that same level as a real race driver who shared the podium at Le Mans was fantastic.”
Alien Motorsport driver Michael Thomas Coyne, or ‘RoadRunner’ as he’s known in the Forza community, went on to stand atop of the Le Mans podium last year after being crowned the victor of Season 3 of the Forza Racing Championship, which was officially dubbed ‘The Porsche Cup’ to celebrate Microsoft’s unique six-year, multi-project agreement with the famed German automaker, Porsche.
The 2018 season of the Forza Racing Championship is the first to be played on Forza Motorsport 7. Built for the latest and greatest hardware with the Xbox One X console in-mind, the newest entry into Turn 10’s award-winning franchise offers native 4K HDR racing at 60FPS with over 700 Forzavista cars to choose from that can be raced across 32 distinct track locations. Ekberg says this year’s ForzaRC season takes full advantage of Forza Motorsport 7, and its diverse car line-up allows for interesting and unique race combinations you typically wouldn’t expect on the track.
“So, in the new season, you know, we’re really taking advantage of the power of a game like Forza Motorsport 7, where you have 700 plus cars that you can put together in really interesting combinations,” Ekberg explains. “And just this past week, we did sort of an interim show before we hit our playoffs that are this weekend and we did all sorts of interesting sort of demo races of the kinds of things you could have, where we had Mercedes-Benz race truck going against an Aston Martin DB1 and a rally car – all on the same track, and as I was watching this happen in real-time, I was like this is something that was not going to happen in the real-world – this is the power of Forza, and if you love racing, you can see these kinds of interesting combinations coming to life in the game.”
Turn 10 Studios has a history of working with various automotive brands for the Forza Motorsport franchise, and this naturally applies to the Forza Racing Championship. From Porsche in Season 3 to IMSA for this year’s Pre-Season Invitational in Seattle, WA. Verizon IndyCar have also supported the 2018 season, whilst Ford, Chevrolet and Audi have sponsored past Forza Racing Championship tournaments on Forza Motorsport 6.
Additionally, the ForzaRC has garnered interest from real-world automotive personalities and drivers. With serious money on the line in the competition, teams are forming around the best racers on Forza Motorsport 7. One example noted by Ekberg includes the involvement of McLaren F1 driver Fernando Alonso with G2 Esports – a professional sim-racing team sponsored by Logitech G. One of their drivers is none other than Aurélien ‘Laige’ Mallet, the winner of Seasons 1 and 2 of the Forza Racing Championship and someone who’s often noted as the number one competitor on the Forza Motorsport franchise.
“It’s all over the map, like we said with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that was sort of a Porsche-themed event, it was The Porsche Cup, we’ve had IMSA get involved – a race series get involved, and we see just as you say, teams are forming around the world where they’re getting serious about,” Ekberg says. “We have serious money on the line, and teams are forming around the best drivers in the world. We have Fernando Alonso, who’s racing at Le Mans this weekend. He’s got an esports team, where our number one driver – everybody knows him as Laige, he’ll be competing this weekend.”
“And you get tweets from Fernando Alonso cheering on his Forza driver that’s on his team, so it’s fantastic to see this evolve, like I still think we’re relatively early in the stage of maturity for esports, particularly esports teams within Forza,” he adds. “I think that’s something that’s gonna continue to grow overtime, we’re gonna see as the money gets bigger, as the promotions get bigger – we’re gonna see more teams forming, but yes, eventually, we’re gonna see some really high-powered teams with the best drivers in the world – it’s going to be fantastic.”
As Ekberg mentions, the Forza Racing Championship will continue to grow and evolve as the prize pools increase, the marketing and promotion expands, and more professional organizations begin to get involved. Forza esports is still in an early stage – as we noted in our video featurette on racing esports, but it’s growing and the ForzaRC is evolving with it, as is Forza Motorsport 7, which the development team at Turn 10 Studios remains focused on. The developer is committed to updating the game with new features and enhancements based on fan-feedback with the goal of making it the ultimate esports racing experience.
Recently, the Noble esports organization announced their expansion into the Forza Racing Championship with their hire of Robin ‘bbbb0x’ Betka, who went on to win the Series 1 Playoffs in Seattle earlier this month – taking home the grand prize of $15,000. He was followed by Season 3 Champion AMS RoadRunner in second place with ForzaRC newcomer Gary ‘Mitch’ Mitchell of Japspeed Racing behind him in third. One of the most enticing and addictive aspects of racing esports is its unpredictability as anything could happen out on the track, and that was certainly showcased at this latest ForzaRC event.
The Forza Racing Championship may still be in its early days – with the competition only starting in Summer 2016. There’s been a lot of changes and improvements since its inaugural outing, and Microsoft is working with Gfinity to bring it up to par with other competitive esports series. Recently, the ForzaRC grabbed the attention of Call of Duty World Champion Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow of OpTic Gaming, who tweeted about the racing esports series during one of its Wednesday Showdown broadcasts last month.
The 2018 season of the Forza Racing Championship continues in July with Series 2 as the first Rivals Qualifier begins in Forza Motorsport 7 on July 9th followed by its associated Wednesday Showdown on July 18th. Competitors will be racing towards their spot at the Series 2 Playoffs being hosted in Mexico City this September as they continue to earn Forza Points and climb the 2018 ForzaRC Global Leaderboard.
For more on the ForzaRC, don’t miss our feature story on the Series 1 Playoffs and the Pre-Season Invitational experience. There’s also the ForzaRC Pro-Am in Forza Motorsport 7, which invites the drivers of the Forza Racing Championship to team-up with the entire Forza community, as well as the 2018 ForzaRC Le Mans Challenge, which sees players take on ‘The Voice of Le Mans’ himself, John Hindhaugh, who is another automotive personality that has been incredibly supportive of the Forza Racing Championship and passionate for its intense level of competition.
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.