Microsoft’s Forza Series Is Now The World’s Biggest Racing IP

by Robert Workman


At one point in time, many might have considered Gran Turismo to be the biggest racing franchise on the planet – but it appears that this is no longer the case.

GamesIndustry International has posted a piece where it talks to several people behind the Forza Motorsport franchise, which has managed to overtake both Turismo and Need For Speed as the biggest racing IP in the world. That’s a bold statement, considering that the Xbox One doesn’t even have much of a foothold in the Japanese gaming market.

That said, there’s no denying that the franchise has come a long way over the past few years, thanks to traditional entries in the Forza Motorsport series, as well as one of last year’s most enjoyable racing games, Forza Horizon 3, which has become a tremendous sales leader for Microsoft.

Turn 10 Studios, the original team behind the franchise (and the one still handling Motorsport games) first discussed how Playground Games, the developer of the Forza Horizon series, came in and helped “mix things up” for the series. Said Alan Hartman, studio head for Turn 10, “We met these gentlemen from the Uk that started pitching us on some ideas for a racing game. That has just been a huge moment in the franchise; when you think of the success across our history, that was the point - with Forza 4 coming out around that time - when we were really hitting our stride. Playground came in and this generation has just been fantastic."

Forza Horizon 3 would become a huge seller for the series, pushing it into the $1 billion club across 9 games over 11 years. Of course, consistently good review scores certainly help, as every game from Forza Motorsport 5 (the debut for the franchise on XB1) rated in the high 80’s or low 90’s.

Part of this success comes from the fact that fans keep returning to see what’s new with the series. "I've heard that kind of chatter in the industry around 'the demise of the racing genre'," Hartman says. "I just don't buy into it. When you look at the history of the genre, Gran Turismo - the grandfather of racing sims - it came in and did huge numbers. It was the No.1 selling franchise. Then there was the rise of Need for Speed, especially during the last generation and the generation before. You can look at those two franchises and where they are right now and say: 'Well, we've had a decline in the racing genre'. But at the same time, we've done great in the last 15 years. We've been growing the franchise, growing the business."

Turn 10 creative director Dan Greenawalt added: "At the launch of Xbox One and with Forza Motorsport 5, we really tried to hit the reset button on how we thought about building our games, and who we thought our customers were. [We] and Playground [looked at] how we talk to our players and why they're playing. We do that more than look at the competition. The mantra we had was 'shaping the future of automotive entertainment'. We care deeply about cars and car culture, and we care about games and the genre. So rather than thinking about it as a competitive set, we really started to think about where we wanted this to be in four or five years, and what steps do we take creatively to come up with new features like Rewind, Green Line, ForzaVista, Forzathon, Blueprint... there's great technology coming in both games. There's innovation across the boards that both games benefit from. That ideation is coming from a different place than what people expect.

"I get asked a lot about competitors and the genre and what have you. [For us] there's hardly any inspiration coming from that space - it's all coming from our longer term vision."

Of course, the competition is a lot more fierce in the racing division this year, with Gran Turismo Sport on the way, along with secondary titles like DiRT 4, Project CARS 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. But it appears that Forza Motorsport 7, still yet unconfirmed, could be making the rounds this fall to keep things competitive.

"We will be probably sitting here in a year from now and talking about the perceived resurgence of the racing genre, because of the number of sales that we have seen across all these titles," Hartman noted. "Great games will find great big audiences. It maybe tough occasionally for small titles to get attention, but as part of being first party and part of the Xbox platform, I welcome them in. I want them. I love the Assetto Corsa team, I love what they're doing and the perspective they are bringing in and I'm excited for what they do next. I would rather be having this conversation about a load of great racing games coming out this year, than you saying that there doesn't seem to be any."

We’ll see how the competition goes this fall as Gran Turismo Sport and others hit the market. You can check out more of the interview here.

By Robert Workman

Robert Workman has spent years working in the video game industry, for sites like Shacknews, AOL GameDaily and Marooners Rock. He's also very skilled in contributing to podcasts and video broadcasts, and can pretty much out-game you under the table. Oh, and just go ahead and ask him about glorious craft beers. Go on, ask him.