How it feels to log into live racing games.

Playing to a Deadline

Rob Zacny

My dog got sick right around the time Forza Motorsport came out, and a month passed in a sad, scary blur. I’ve talked about this elsewhere, and the fate of Mina (the Cord 810 Phaeton of dogs) is not really the point here. What I do want to talk about is that when I went on an unexpected hiatus from Turn 10’s new racing flagship for Xbox and Windows, the game had a decent but slightly underwhelming set of races in its career mode, but with more “featured series” arriving each week along with new cars. When I came back over the Thanksgiving break, all those new races had a tag on them: “Expires in 4D.” There was a new set of series already taking their place, but all the ones that had come out between launch and the holidays? Destined for the graveyard… or at least some kind of content vault.

The backlash against the “live game” or “games as a service” (GaaS) model is near a crescendo right now, though perhaps briefly quieted by Helldivers 2’s launch, where it’s been characterized by players’ desperate desire to log in rather than argue about its Fortnite-style battle pass. From looking like the savior of big budget video games a few years ago, the proliferation of live service has shown the limits of the model and players’ patience for it. Suicide Squad might be the game that’s caught the most flak lately for it, but that is probably a mark of the game’s underlying appeal because so many live service games get shut down or cancelled before anyone cares enough to get angry at them.

A Forza menu screen showing the dates new content will come out for the game, all of it time-limited.
The rollout of Forza's Italian-themed car tour.

I’ve mostly been able to ignore the encroachment of GaaS on my favorite games since I’ve never been much of a multiplayer gamer. It’s not that I don’t notice all the single-player games I play that have news about their latest “season” on their main menu or are pushing time-limited events and challenges, but for the most part, those things live only tangentially to the experiences I’m having. It’s why I was startled to return to Forza so soon after launch to find Turn 10 was already cycling content out of their rather threadbare single-player offering. Naturally, I refused to be manipulated by the promise of a special gift car for completing the limited-time event and remained bound to the mast of my own intentions.

OK here’s what actually happened: I planted myself on the couch and raced like hell. 

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