Here Is What Happened To The BTCC Game

Here Is What Happened To The BTCC Game RD.jpg
The BTCC game is no more. For now, at least. We spoke to Motorsport Games recently to break down what happened.

In 2020, embryonic video game developers and sim racing competition organisers Motorsport Games announced that it had signed a deal to create a video game for the British Touring Car Championship.

Since 2011 in some capacity, the series has run the ‘NGTC’ formula, with packed grids all running similar (but not identical) machinery. The front-wheel or rear-wheel drive cars are mixed with Britain’s best circuits and a short, sprint racing, format.

It should be the ideal template to base a driving game on, especially if you factor in the support series and potential for legacy content – arguably the competition’s zenith was in the 1990s.

However, the promised game never saw the light of day and due to the recent cancellation of the agreement between BARC (TOCA) and Motorsport Games, is unlikely ever to.

The 26-Year Hope​

Over the years, several BTCC cars have appeared in different titles. The recent Forza Motorsport releases, even the contemporary platform, include a handful from recent seasons (although not titled ‘BTCC’).

There was an Andy Priaulx Crowne Plaza DLC pack for Race 07 that included a BTCC Vauxhall Vectra. rFactor 2 has an available 2013-season Honda Civic.

Forza Motorsport BTCC Subaru Levorg.jpg

BTCC Subaru Levorg in the current Forza Motorsport as part of the Race Day Car Pack DLC. Image taken by RaceDepartment

While 2002’s TOCA Race Driver included the 2001 BTCC grid, you must go back to 1998’s TOCA 2 Touring Cars by Codemasters on PC and the original PlayStation for the most recent dedicated game.

“I negotiated the deal with the British Touring Car Championship very early on, because growing up playing racing video games I still had the rose-tinted view on what touring cars could be and I wanted to bring that licence in-house,” relays current Motorsport Games CEO Stephen Hood to RaceDepartment during our interview.

“Alan Gow, who is behind the BTCC and the organising company, and I connected very early on in the lifecycle of Motorsport Games.

“He did not want to be a piece of somebody else’s game like a DLC pack, and I can understand that.

“[At the same time] I was interested in showcasing to people that touring cars could be an amazing franchise. It just needed to be done correctly and there was a lot of positive community sentiment around that.”


That now-26-year wait is set to continue interminably for BTCC fans, with zero guarantees that another publisher or developer will swoop in following the cessation of the rights agreement.

NASCAR 21: Ignition’s Failure Impacted The BTCC Project​

“The BTCC has a rich history in video games and its renaissance in the virtual world will begin with the development of a new dedicated game, scheduled for 2022,” reads the initial announcement about the project, which was to hit console, PC and mobile devices.

However, the beleaguered Miami-headquartered and Nasdaq-listed company was never able to complete the project, thanks in part to the disastrous NASCAR 21: Ignition project.

“I think if we would have landed NASCAR 21: Ignition in a more appropriate fashion, and it would have cooked for longer, we would not have been in this position,” Hood tells us.

“At the time, I recall saying, if we don’t get this one right, it’s going to be very tricky for us to continue in future.”

NASCAR 21 Ignition. Image, Motorsport Games.jpg

NASCAR 21: Ignition did not go to plan. Image: Motorsport Games

It didn’t get it right. Ignition was a mess, and even if you leave a confused launch and bugs out of the equation, it just didn’t drive that well.

Eventually, a decision to ditch the Ignition platform, which merged elements of the original rFactor physics engine with Unreal Engine graphics, was made.

The trouble was, that basis was meant to underpin all future releases, such as the next NASCAR game, BTCC and IndyCar.

“The 2023 NASCAR game will not inherit the tech debt of NASCAR 21: Ignition as its base, but instead will be capitalising on the phenomenal work done by the teams that brought you KartKraft and rFactor 2 while still utilising the Unreal Engine,” confirmed Motorsport Games in April 2022.

“This will unify the development of the NASCAR 23 product with our current and future product portfolio to create the best opportunity for success.”

KartKraft. Image, Motorsport Games.jpg

KartKraft, was the proposed basis for future projects until it wasn’t. Image: Motorsport Games

The Australian team behind KartKraft‘s first task was to create a new IndyCar game. With that expected within 2023, a BTCC game delay until 2024 was announced, in theory providing enough room to get the new projects and technology up and running.

“While we understand that our fans are eager to get their hands on the BTCC game, I can assure them that the expanded development efforts that Motorsport Games is pursuing through the game’s 2024 launch will make it well worth the wait,” said the BTCC’s Alan Gow at the time.

Then, the IndyCar Game’s Failure Impacted The BTCC Project​

However, the IndyCar project, having been announced in 2021, did not get completed.

As early as March 2023, it was announced that the project had been pushed into a 2024 release window. In October 2023, the future of the project was placed under review, and by November 2023 the team was seemingly dismissed.

All the while, little to no progress was being made on the BTCC title.

“There was always a plan, originally it was going to be [released] ahead of Le Mans Ultimate,” recounts Hood.

“The intent was to build a game and in actual fact, at one point in time, it was up and running and playable. I remember driving around Brands Hatch in touring cars.”

One of the few official IndyCar game images published by Motorsport Games.jpg

One of the few official IndyCar game images published by Motorsport Games

I too remember driving around Brands Hatch in what was presumably a prototype for the BTCC game, but not in a touring car.

Instead, I was driving a kart, as accidentally the circuit was very briefly included within media review codes for the version 1.0 release of KartKraft in January 2022. It was hastily removed before the public version was launched.

“And then I was on enforced leave for a while and things changed,” explains Hood, whose position of President was ‘eliminated’ (the wording used in the SEC filing) in early 2022, before returning as CEO in April 2023 to replace Dmitry Kozko.

rFactor 2 substitute​

When the IndyCar game was believed to be motoring along and Hood was working in-between Motorsport Games stints with David Perel at The SimGrid, Studio 397 was tasked with creating official BTCC content for its lionised simulator.

The first of these arrived in April 2022 in the form of Brands Hatch, Donington Park, the Laser Tools Infiniti Q50 and Toyota Corolla from the 2021 season.

BTCC cars and Thruxton within rFactor 2.jpg

BTCC cars and Thruxton within rFactor 2. Image taken by RaceDepartment

It was followed bit-by-bit by the rest of the grid, ‘22 and ‘23 season livery updates and laser-scanned Thruxton and Croft Circuits. The final element of BTCC was the Team HARD Cupra León in May 2023.

By then, the development team had implemented the championship’s hybrid system too – a first for the platform. It had internal combustion-only cars, obviously, and pure-EV vehicles, but the BTCC project forced the creation of hybrid functionality, something it turns out would be useful with Le Mans Ultimate further down the road.

Yet, while the BTCC rFactor 2 content was satisfying a PC userbase and the BTCC used it for real-world events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, it was not the dedicated game that was required.

Four-time BTCC champion Ash Sutton plays rFactor 2 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2023.jpg
Four-time BTCC champion Ash Sutton plays rFactor 2 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2023. Image by RaceDepartment

“When I came back to Motorsport Games last year, [the BTCC game] was not as advanced as one would hope,” Hood regretfully explains.

“I had to make the painful decision to close these things down and focus elsewhere.”

The news of the project’s end arrived in November last year via the BTCC:

“TOCA is aware that this news will come as a huge disappointment to our hundreds of thousands of fans, many of whom were eagerly anticipating the release of a new BTCC game… and we very much share that frustration, due to Motorsport Games being unable to fulfil its contractual commitments.”

The Focus Is Now On Le Mans Ultimate​

Hood remains pragmatic about the recent upheavals, and now without having to spin several plates – including the BTCC – has all its attention on the early access Le Mans Ultimate project:

“Nothing has been a surprise to me or the team at Motorsport Games”

“Like when the stories were breaking around, ‘NASCAR wanting to terminate their deal with motorsport games’. Actually, it was us who approached iRacing and said ‘Would you be interested in the NASCAR licence?’

“My view, when I returned to the company, was that we can’t keep repeating the same mistake, which was trying to compete and develop on several different fronts simultaneously. We just didn’t have the capacity for it.

Le Mans Ultimate Ferraris.jpg

Le Mans Ultimate released in early access earlier this month, will now be the company’s sole focus

“We thought we were doing the right thing. One can argue now, in hindsight, that we got ahead of ourselves, and we paid the price.

“One of the things I proposed doing was to scale down the focus. It doesn’t matter if we’re not making seven games anymore, we just need to produce one good title to get the wheels spinning.

“That has been the focus and ultimately, is why we’ve reduced our projects down to, today, just Le Mans Ultimate.”

Would a BTCC game based on NASCAR 21: Ignition have met expectations? That is highly doubtful. The project then seemingly got lost in the maelstrom of delayed projects, financial missteps and calamitous decisions.

While it was not a stand-alone game, at least the rFactor 2 BTCC DLC showcased what could have been.

Were you looking forward to a BTCC game? Are you enjoying Le Mans Ultimate? Let us know in the comments below.
About author
Thomas Harrison-Lord
A sim racing, motorsport and automotive journalist. Credits include Autosport Magazine, Motorsport.com, RaceDepartment, Overtake, Traxion and TheSixthAxis.

Comments

As rough a road as it's been for MG, I find LMU to be a massively engaging sim already, mainly due to its laser focus on a single category and and almost indefinable immersion factor. I've thrown about a dozen hours into it since Tuesday, which may not seem a lot to some, but is a huge amount of time with my personal schedule. I simply can't wait to be on it again today and fully expect to throw another half a dozen hours at it before the weekend is over.

Maybe MG's initial mistake was to take on too many projects. Force majeure has led them to the point where LMU is the only horse they have left in town, but in a strange way that could be their saving grace, if they can fulfill the title's amazing potential in the coming months.

I say that Early Access is off to a really good start and no one is more surprised to hear me say that than I am.
 
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Thank you very much for the interview with Stephen Hood. Clears up some of the misconceptions and guesswork that have been thrown around the internet ever since the various Motorsport Games messes started appearing. I hope people take the time to read what he has to say. Quite informative.

Past mistakes aside, today with Le Mans Ultimate, it sounds like they're taking it extra seriously and trying to make as good of a game as possible. And that's backed up by what I've seen of the game so far. While it remains an early access title with performance issues, bugs, and missing features, there are already enjoyable experiences to be had, and there's clear potential for a great video game in there if MSG keeping doing the hard work.

I do hope we might eventually be shown the full text of the interview, or a video of the interview (whether partial or complete). Would allow us to form our own judgments, instead of relying on the article writer to pick out what they think is interesting. If it's not possible, then perhaps keep it in mind as something to consider for the next time RD/Overtake does an interview.
 
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This interview confirms what to me is 50% of the history behind Motorsports Games formation: They saw all the "good press" and reviews for the rFactor games, saw how "moddable" the engine is and with this in mind, planned to do a entire roster of low-effort games wich are in few word: "rfactor stand alone mods" (as LMU is, depiste people here trying to painting it as something different) and call the day.

But they missed the part where the rFactor engine is full garbage for oval racing..... (Maybe if they asked the right people about it :roflmao::roflmao::roflmao:) and Nascar Ignition happened. If BTCC was the first game in line, MSG would not be in the position where they are.

For the other 50% left RD will need to interview the "fun guy who cracks jokes left and right": "DK".
 
Just started playing LMU and there is a problem with the seat position distance from the dash being very limited. Has anyone figured out how to move the seat forward ? It is honestly not playable like this.
20240225174847_1.jpg


Otherwise it seems like a really good game. Sad how the Nascar 21 fiasco ended with arguably the WORST racing game ever to be released. Literally Heat Evolution was batter.
 
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Just started playing LMU and there is a problem with the seat position distance from the dash being very limited. Has anyone figured out how to move the seat forward ? It is honestly not playable like this.
View attachment 733107

Otherwise it seems like a really good game. Sad how the Nascar 21 fiasco ended with arguably the WORST racing game ever to be released. Literally Heat Evolution was batter.
You can configure seat position in the "controls" settings screen. Go to "settings", then "controls", then "camera". You'll see the usual options "adjust seat forward", "adjust seat backwards", etc. You can assign them to your keyboard.
 
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“We thought we were doing the right thing. One can argue now, in hindsight, that we got ahead of ourselves, and we paid the price." - Stephen Hood

Yes and we, the fans, are the ones who lost out to yours & Dmitrys over zealous ambitions that were never going to see the light of day. You got our hopes up about a new BTCC game for decades, one created by a dedicated and talented team, but one that ultimately became vapourware because of your greed to try and create anything & everything whilst buying up any studio that breathed.

You've created a very bad reputation for yourselves amongst the fan base which ultimately you've hurt, whilst most of us want LMU to succeed there are some of us who still question your ability to run a successful sim racing company and we fear that if LMU flops then that'll be curtains for Studio397.

You may of paid the price personally, but the ones who really lost out are all those talented developers you gobbled up and eventually let go, meanwhile the fans can't really lose in something we never had, but we had the dream and you've taken that away.
 
MSG has a long way to go to redeem any level of credibility. But focusing on doing one project properly is certainly a good start.
 
LMU is great and I am sure they can improve it more, has some issues though(loading, keybinding ecc) but its fun still as Early Access ...a BTCC game release would have been awesome to have, even in early stages and improve further... I am more of the idea that some teams like Studio 397 deserve al the best, they work hard and we shouldn't discourage them with negative reviews early in release, this only makes things worse, but I agree on we should let them know what to fix ...we live in another era where programmers come and go like socks and panties, and I'm not satisfied, its all business's fault, but we can see who cares and who not, let's not discourage the good guys in the industry ...

Maybe this MSG wanted to chew more that it could eat, or wanted to assure immediate income as short as possible, who knows ...I don't blame them, but those lessons must be learned and they should work in assuring the best programmers they can have, paying them right, motivating them, obviously when they do their work ...thinking outside the box, making it in your way would be a thing ...the only way to get it right is to do it right ("the only way to have a friend is to be a friend" cit.)...hope LMU will grow and exceed the expectations!
 
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“We thought we were doing the right thing. One can argue now, in hindsight, that we got ahead of ourselves, and we paid the price." - Stephen Hood

Yes and we, the fans, are the ones who lost out to yours & Dmitrys over zealous ambitions that were never going to see the light of day. You got our hopes up about a new BTCC game for decades, one created by a dedicated and talented team, but one that ultimately became vapourware because of your greed to try and create anything & everything whilst buying up any studio that breathed.

You've created a very bad reputation for yourselves amongst the fan base which ultimately you've hurt, whilst most of us want LMU to succeed there are some of us who still question your ability to run a successful sim racing company and we fear that if LMU flops then that'll be curtains for Studio397.

You may of paid the price personally, but the ones who really lost out are all those talented developers you gobbled up and eventually let go, meanwhile the fans can't really lose in something we never had, but we had the dream and you've taken that away.
Marc aren't you overdramatizing a bit here an d leaving out a few important details? Like KartKraft barely being released and being called vaporware before it was even released and MSG was in charge? We actually lost nothing. The saddest thing is people loosing there jobs but that's not the first time this happened. S3 was founded from the ashes of Simbin. It's business at the end and it happens as sad as it is. It's all down to how people set their expecations - they all too often have hope for something that is far down the road. People allready rave how great AC2 will be and we haven't seen a single screenshot of that title.

If you want to race BTCC get the stuff on rF2 and it's the most complete BTCC experience you will get - and a pretty good one at that. Sometimes the glass is half full and not half empty. Sure they made mistakes but I guess it's time to move on. For the fact that MSG is allways labeled as a company that releases nothing but crap, LMU seems to be doing fairly well.
 
This confirms to me rFactor 2 is on hiatus and if LMU has stronger numbers this may be the last of rF2 updates we see.
Also Hood says to many projects didnt have team big enough to ambitious, right now they are not big enough to run 2 sims, so yes rf2 will only get what they want to give to it from LMU or test 1st like the race control. its a pity great sim rf2 with so much potential still to develop it much further.
 
I did but this picture shows the maximum, cannot move it any further to the dash. Needs fixing.
The seat position works with a limited range but first, you need to establish the appropriate FOV for your setup. I have triple 32" monitors (32-35 degree FOV). Once set, there's not much - if any seat adjustment needed.
 
There is enough content in AC to recreate the golden years of BTCC I've found...
TOCA.jpeg


And, bear with me on this.... if you can stomach the oddities in Grid (not sure which of the identical versions TBH), there's some not-bad similar racing to be had with their TOCA-type cars - I think the game lends itself to that sort of racing in fact.
 
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It's a shame, if I was BTCC I'd have used and promoted rFactor2 whilst waiting for the dedicated game, it's a shame it's gone to the wilderness again.

Isn't part of the issue that it's complex to license, you have to license the teams, cars, tracks and series separately? Hence the cars and (some) tracks still being available in rFactor 2?

Another interesting article, as I plan to do a video on all the places (multiplatform) where you can drive BTCC content, some 23 (or so) games, with a few surprises amongst them.
 
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Premium
Among the many disappointments catalogued by this article, the unheralded and unceremonious end of rF2 development strikes me as the saddest part of the tale. It's "All In" for Studio 397, Motorsport Games & Le Mans Ultimate. Cue "Flight of Icarus" by Iron Maiden, fire up the 499P ... and turn both to 11.
 
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