NASCAR 21: Ignition
NASCAR 21: Ignition - What Went Wrong?
If you’re anything like me, the racing genre is unmatched in the world of video games. Sure, racing fans have seen a lot and dealt with even more, from the highest of highs to the soul-crushing lowest of lows with specific titles over the years. Regardless, once racing is in your blood, it is almost impossible to leave the sport behind. Although we are blessed right now with an extremely healthy catalog of amazing titles right now, there is still room for improvement, and that brings me to one of last year’s biggest disappointments: NASCAR 21: Ignition.
I had such high hopes for the initial release of this series, knowing the type of development talent that had been assembled under one roof at Motorsport Games. It was (and is) enough talent and experience to get me excited that maybe, finally, this was our time. The time that NASCAR fans could feel like their favorite sport was going to be handled with the precision and care that it deserved. And yet, here we are again licking our wounds and wondering when, or better yet, if it will ever be “our time” when it comes to NASCAR racing on consoles.
What Went Wrong
It has been over nine months since the release of NASCAR 21: Ignition, and although there have been multiple updates, the game lacks several essential features that were once thought to be the standard for racing titles. Options include a visible gas gauge, lap counter, and rearview mirror, lest we forget to mention the lack of a deep career mode and the ability to host private races with a combination of AI and humans (or an online league option).
This is a lot to take, but NASCAR fans have been forced to deal with lackluster racing titles for over a decade. They have had to cling to what was decent about a particular game while hoping the rest would be corrected or improved through patches or newer versions of the game.
Staying with that mindset, Motorsport Games recently released a next-gen upgrade for NASCAR 21: Ignition. Although the visual fidelity of the title has been improved, the patch failed to deliver many of the options that were missing from the original launch.
Motorsport Games has stated that in September they plan to release a seasonal update with a new UI front-end, consistent tire wear, fuel usage, and mirror. The update will include the new car model(s), tracks, seasonal calendar, and drivers list.
While the improvements sound good in theory, it also feels like the attempt to save face is a bit too late, at least for the current edition of the game. The bottom line is that a lot went wrong, but whether fans want to believe it or not, it wasn’t all because of Motorsport Games. Issues that forced them to change direction during development didn’t help, and while the details or sparse on what happened, it had an impact in some form.
The arrival of the next generation of consoles didn’t help the situation, and the rumor is that the original plan was to release only on the next-gen consoles, which changed during mid-development. Considering that NASCAR video game fans have had to endure such disappointment for so long, it was the perfect storm of indecisive execution.
Is All Hope Lost?
This feels like a question NASCAR video game fans have been asking for over a decade, and for many, even longer. The answer, at least for me, is an unequivocal no. The development company has gone on record stating that the next full release of NASCAR: Ignition will not be forced to pay for the struggles of the company’s initial release, and all focus and resources will be at the disposal of the developers to deliver a quality game.
While that is excellent news, there is still a massive hill for the developers to climb to regain the NASCAR video game community’s confidence.
Another issue is that the racing genre is currently loaded with excellent titles, and the options for racing fans to turn to are everywhere. Many fans have returned, or never left, NASCAR 2003 by Papyrus. Although that company lost the license, the game is still alive today on PC with mods that deliver a current-to-date experience and some of the best AI racing available.
I can always mention the excellent series by Codemasters with F1, and now Turn 10 from Microsoft is set to deliver an all-new experience with Forza 8 in Spring 2023. Fans also have turned to the Assetto Corsa series, iRacing, and of course, rFactor 2, another PC-based series, ironically now owned by Motorsport Games since its acquisition of Studio 397.
Even with all the competition on the market today, Motorsport Games should consider itself very lucky as there is still a void on gaming consoles for NASCAR, and it still needs to be filled. Yes, that void is because of the failure of NASCAR 21: Ignition, but it’s still a void, and they still hold the license.
What Does The Future Offer?
For those doubting the talent and leadership at Motorsport Games, it’s understandable, but I would be hesitant to do so. The vision the company had for its first release struggled to manifest itself in the form of NASCAR 21: Ignition, but that doesn’t mean the fans are lost forever.
That same group of fans is just tired of feeling manipulated, being lied to, and feeling cast aside. That said, the NASCAR fans are also extremely loyal and love the sport of racing.
It’s a big if, but if Motorsport Games can deliver on the promise of bringing an all-new and improved experience in 2023, NASCAR fans will return in droves. They love their sport and their racing, and all they ask is that they are treated the same way in return.
While the idea of the seasonal update is exciting, it feels like a lot more is on the line for Motorsport Games when it comes to NASCAR 23: Ignition. Why? Well, for starters, they have a fantastic opportunity to deliver a racing game that corrects issues and is improved in so many ways.
Also, Motorsport Games has signed a licensing agreement with IndyCar and has a title set to launch in the same year. If the developers can deliver an improved experience with NASCAR 23: Ignition and a solid effort out of the gate with IndyCar ’23, that would go a long way towards mitigating a lot of the damage that has been caused so far.
A lot of work and effort is required from Motorsport Games, but the talent is there to accomplish such a feat. Motorsport Games can help themselves tremendously by delivering a solid seasonal update to NASCAR 21: Ignition in September and being extremely transparent about the NASCAR and IndyCar titles set to release in 2023.
We will have a full review of the seasonal update from Motorsport Games in September here on OS.