If there’s one thing the Forza series has become known for over the years, aside from being a pretty stellar racing game series, it’s the “End of Life” process that all the older games in the series have gone through. Recently, it was announced that Forza Motorsport 7 would be next to go through the process, and while it’s certainly not the first, boy I hope it’s the last.
For the uninitiated, End of Life is a term that the Forza developers use to describe a game and all its associated DLC being delisted from sale. To Forza’s credit, the game going through the End of Life process always goes on sale for a pretty big discount for a month or so before being removed, and with Forza Motorsport 7 being removed while still an active part of Xbox Game Pass, the developers have announced that anyone who’s purchased DLC will get a token for the game. Anyone who owns the game will still be able to play without restrictions after the delisting date on September 15th.
Delisting is a pretty common thing for a lot of annual release sports games, particularly anything from EA, but Forza’s seem a little bit more egregious than most, particularly right now. Forza Motorsport 7 has only been available for four years, but is being removed without a suitable replacement to fill that vacuum. Forza Horizon 3 was the last game in the Forza series to be delisted, which took place last year, but Forza Horizon 4 had already been out for two years at that point, meaning that a significant portion of the player base would have moved across to the newer game. Removing a game like Forza Motorsport 7 when the sequel’s release date is still TBD seems like shooting yourself in the foot.
According to Turn 10 themselves, the reason why Forza games go through the “End of Life” process is because of licensing issues, confirming the issue with a fan on Twitter: “Forza games have to go unlisted after several years because the third party licenses that we use to feature real-world cars, tracks and other elements will begin to expire.”
I believe that’s true, as licensing issues have caused the delisting of a variety of games over the years, including those aforementioned EA Sports titles, but it still confuses me. For a game like FIFA, where licenses to teams and players can change as a football team changes rosters and sponsorships, it creates a tangled mess of rights issues. How teams are presented in one FIFA game can go out of date by the time the next season rolls around.
However, at least as far as I see it, the racing space is a bit more immutable, especially when it’s not based on an actual racing league like F1, Nascar or WRC (though 2015’s WRC 5 and F1 2015 are still available to buy so that’s even more baffling). A track might change its name or layout, but once a car is released, that model of said car is forever and won’t change, so why are car manufacturers being so stingy with their licensing? Is it greed?
Then again, perhaps the real question is: why do Turn 10 negotiate licensing deals on a shorter term basis like this? It’s clear from other racing games that this isn’t a universal problem. One of Forza Motorsport’s biggest comparisons would likely be Project Cars from Slightly Mad Studios, and even though it’s now on its third iteration, the first game launched in 2015 and is still available to buy. If it’s purely licensing that’s the issue, why is Forza getting delisted but other games aren’t? What’s going wrong with negotiations surrounding Forza that’s leading to this issue occurring so regularly?
What’s perhaps the real kicker for Forza Motorsport 7 though is, again, the fact that it resides on Xbox Game Pass. When a big exclusive game for Xbox is removed from sale in this way, it sends a bit of a dangerous message about how Microsoft views their games. If they’re this willing to remove a first-party game from sale, despite pledging to continue supporting eSports events for FM7 going forward, why would they preserve anything else? Phil Spencer has spoken in the past about preserving gaming history, but this seems to be completely the opposite of that.
It’s a complicated issue, and it’s not like Turn 10 or Microsoft are completely at fault for what’s happening, but wherever the blame lies, the consumer is the one left with the short end of the stick. There is the chance that, now that Game Pass has taken off, any rights negotiations in the future will be more long-term focused in order to support player retention, but the point is, I don’t want to be here next year lamenting the removal of Forza Horizon 4, because that’s the way this is going. That game is simply too good to just be unceremoniously shuffled off to the scrap heap.
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