Yesterday Microsoft surprised almost no one with the announcement of Forza Motorsport 6 for Xbox One. What definitely did not surprise is the reaction from certain areas of the gaming fanbase to the announcement. Many were full of spite and hostility, which is an attitude that mirrors quite closely what you see from the other side whenever there’s talk about Driveclub.
What many don’t realize is that the mutual influence between the two games has the potential to be very beneficial for the fans of both.
While the Forza franchise had another entry last year with Forza Horizon 2, it’s a quite different game from Driveclub, and the competition between the two is rather indirect. On the other hand, a new Forza Motorsport lands directly in Driveclub‘s backyard, and will battle it tooth and nail for the hearts of the fan of quasi-simulation track racing on consoles.
The folks at Sony know that. They also know that they don’t have another racing game to pull out of the proverbial hat this Holiday season (when Forza 6 is likely to hit the shelves) to pitch against the Xbox One exclusive rival. Gran Turismo 7 is most likely going to be released later in 2016, and it’s too far in the future to be a contestant this year.
This means that Sony will have to bet all-in on Driveclub to keep at least part of the console racing fanbase playing actively on PS4 on Christmas.
Driveclub currently has a DLC plan only until June, including paid and free content. I’m sure I’m not the only one that noticed that the final month matches the E3 period. We have no way to know if that’s a deliberate decision in preparation of an E3 announcement to counter a strong showing of Forza 6, or simply a convenient coincidence, but I really won’t be surprised if Sony will announce a “Part 2” DLC plan spanning from July through the Holiday season into early 2016, probably with a new season pass attached.
While DLC aren’t as effective as a brand new game, Sony doesn’t seem to have other racing cards in its hand for the moment, and they’re definitely much better than nothing, especially considering that well supported racing games (and Driveclub is better supported than many, considering the additions we saw lately, like weather and photo mode) are some of the most longevous titles in the gaming landscape.
If what we’ve seen so far is any indication, we can expect new features, new cars, tracks, and probably new locations. For example, during a presentation at Gamescom, it was mentioned that the engine is fully capable to simulate off-road racing, so that could be a possibility. There are many directions in which Evolution could expand Driveclub in order to help Sony hold the fort against the Forza tide.
If that will happen, and I definitely believe the possibility is real, Driveclub fans might have to thank, at least in part, the direct competition coming from Forza 6.
Of course the beneficial effects of competition go both ways. Driveclub set the bar very high for racing game visuals on consoles. Turn 10 can’t ignore that, and will definitely have to pull all the proverbial stops to make Forza Motorsport 6 look its best on Xbox One. I’m pretty sure no one will be surprised to see a gazillion articles with screenshots and video comparison between the two games plastered all over the net.
Microsoft knows that. Forza Horizon 2 was an open world game, with entirely different hardware needs and graphical pipeline, so it was normal for it not to look as excruciatingly pretty as Driveclub does (even if it does a very good job despite the disadvantage).
Forza Motorsport 6 doesn’t have that excuse. It’s playing on exactly the same field as Driveclub, and I’m positive that Microsoft is well aware that releasing the game with an evident visual gap compared to the rival would be like openly admitting the hardware superiority of the PS4 over the Xbox One.
That’s why we can expect Turn 10 to squeeze every drop of power possible from the Xbox One to achieve some of the prettiest graphics ever seen on the console. They’ll iterate every single pixel over and over until it shines like a diamond. The jury is obviously still out on whether they’ll manage to match the visual fidelity of Evolution’s game, but you can be sure as hell that they’re going to try very, very hard.
In addition to that, Driveclub proved beyond any reasonable doubt that track racing with dynamic day/night cycle and full weather simulation can be done on consoles while maintaining outstanding visual fidelity both for the cars and for the tracks.
That, again, leaves no excuse for Forza 6. Microsoft’s game will have to have both as well. The lack of night racing and weather would be a striking difference between the two games, and fans would definitely take notice.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed that Forza Motorsport 6‘s box art is evidently set at night, and it’s probably a hint to the inclusion of night racing. I won’t be at all surprised to see Dan Greenawalt appear on stage at E3 and show off a gameplay trailer which will include both darkness and weather. Mark my words.
And this is, again, part of the beneficial effect of having a direct competitor. Of course studios will still strive for the best result on their own, but when there’s a rival doing something very similar across the street, it’s normal to be pushed above and beyond the call of duty. And that’s a very tangible benefit to the fans of both games and consoles.
Of course, there is another, much simpler effect coming from the release of Forza Motorsport 6 and the possible extension of Sony’s support to Driveclub, and that’s that we might have two really awesome track racing games to play this year on consoles (actually three, counting Project Cars).
And two is definitely better than one.