When a new IP both sells well and meets with critical success, it’s normally only a matter of time before it gets a sequel. Everybody knew Dishonored 2 was coming since the original’s release, and lo-and-behold Bethesda has obliged. It’s of little surprise then that Project CARS is getting a sequel, having reviewed well and sat at the top of the charts for a time. But while Arkane waited two and a half years to announce their follow-up, Project CARS has been on store shelves 44 days.
The initial reaction of many was shock and even a little anger, with fans questioning the announcement of a more ambitious game, boasting new Rallycross and Hillclimb events alongside an expanded car list of over 200, while the original still had several issues. So much so was the backlash that the official Project CARS Twitter account quickly tweeted: “Project CARS will continue to see massive updates, features, and content throughout 2015 & beyond. Project CARS 2 will happen simultaneously.”
That expanded car list is what really grates, with one of the few criticisms of the first being a smaller choice of racers than typical sims. A mixture of paid and free DLC is making that back up, but a set of 200+ cars from the off clearly overshadows things.
Looking a little deeper though, no one should be surprised that Slightly Mad has moved onto its next project. Game development is a lengthy process after all, with most sequels easily three years away at best. And while announcing a follow up so soon would normally be strange, given that the developer relies entirely on crowdfunding for its games means that they quite simply had to announce – they need the money to roll in straight away. Were they publisher backed, development would doubtless have commenced at the same time, we just wouldn’t know about it – no one complains that Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed developments overlap.
What is strange is that Slightly Mad has stuck with this funding model. On the one hand it did lead to the creation of a brilliant racing sim, with the players deciding exactly what they would like to see in the game. On the other though, it’s surprising that they couldn’t have managed to fund a few months’ development from the excellent sales of the first game, and then announced it in six months time. Then there’s the partnership with Bandai Namco for the physical distribution; again given its high sales it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t have offered to fund development, at least partially, enough to keep it undercover for a few valuable months.
The reality of all of this could come back to bite Slightly Mad Studios. They’ve put themselves out at the mercy of fans, many of whom are looking at this announcement sourly. Project CARS was so popular because it was a different way of doing things, as well as being the promise of a proper sim on consoles. Now it’s out, the incentive of both is gone, and with development now taking devs past the point of release with DLC and patches, consumers expect longer post-release support.
Interestingly, what Slightly Mad has done is treat their backers as they should: as investors. Many gamers – and some developers – see Kickstarter as a pre-order system of sorts. With Project CARS 2 though, the developer has turned to their community and said: “We want to get cracking on our next project, and we need money to make that happen.” It’s exactly how game development works, but it’s a realisation that may be hard to sell to their fans.