News of the Le Mans Ultimate 20 February release being demoted to Early Access state may be shocking to most. But in reality, I think this is both great news for fans and a fantastic sign for the title’s development. Do you agree?
Earlier today, Motorsport Games and Studio 397 announced that Le Mans Ultimate will indeed release on 20 February as planned, albeit with one twist. The title will now initially hit markets in an early access state.
Missing out a few features, possibly presenting issues at launch and with development very much ongoing, one’s initial reaction is no doubt that of sorrow. Anticipation for the game was high given sportscar racing’s current golden era.
However, perhaps this announcement is more positive than the words suggest. Perhaps, this is the best course of action for the official FIA World Endurance Championship game.
Early Access: A Common Route
In today’s era of internet-facilitated gaming, early access releases are not uncommon. Modern platforms such as the PlayStation Store and Steam allow for over-the-air updates to drop instantaneously. As a result, bugs and glitches are far less troublesome to correct than in the old days of discs and physical stores.
With that in mind, launching in early access allows developers to provide players with a trial of their progress, all whilst using tests as a beta period. Ironing out kinks as well as introducing new features and content are achieved at the drop of a hat.
The Kunos Formula
Even in the world of sim racing, early access releases are not rare. Two of the most popular racing games currently on the market were initially released in early access. The Kunos Simulazioni formula saw both Assetto Corsa and its Competizione spin-off emerge as popular titles from rather humble beginnings.
AC featured minimal features when first appearing on Steam. Time Trial modes and a handful of car-track combinations were on offer in the game’s first iteration. ACC witnessed a very similar process. By working with the community on integrating features, perfecting the feeling and adding content, these are now some of the most-played games each month.
What is rather less frequent is games going from a full release announcement to finally launching as an early access title. That is nonetheless the path Le Mans Ultimate is taking to its release.
LMU Benefitting from Early Access
Accompanying the announcement, Studio 397 has compiled a long list of questions and answers surrounding the Le Mans Ultimate early access launch. The page goes into details of what the team hopes to get out of this test period. Furthermore, it helps explain the reasons behind an early access release rather than a full-on launch.
As one would expect, it seems the main reason for a modest release is a lack of polish to the title in its current state, just three weeks from D-day. Features seem to be present as the early access will feature all the expected content and game modes – bar one.
Looking back at previous Motorsport Games releases, the slow and steady approach really does sound like a positive step. NASCAR 21: Ignition is possibly one of the most disappointing launches in recent sim racing memory. Glitches and bugs plagued the game making it almost unplayable for many. So if LMU can avoid such a disaster thanks to an early access release, one can only be positive about the move.
Elsewhere, the inclusion of the public earlier on in the game’s development allows Studio 397 to build upon community comments.
“To deliver on this commitment, we need opinion, input and activity to take the next step on this journey, with our players,” the team states.
In addition, it goes on to claim that ideas from the community ranging from feel to even new features may well find themselves in the game thanks to the process.
By releasing Le Mans Ultimate in early access, Studio 397 can benefit from feedback from the community. However, it also gives Motorsport Games a stream of income in a desperate time for the organisation. The company will be hoping that the money coming in from this early release will help keep it afloat during development. One might even call this a mature decision.
Great for Racing Fans
For the same reasons, this announcement is the best possible scenario for fans looking to buy Le Mans Ultimate. Sure, the asynchronous online mode and VR will be missing initially. But this early access means us, the fans, can get our hands on an official WEC game before the new season starts.
Fancy testing out the wingless Peugeot Hypercar as it embarks on its last race in Qatar? We now know that will be possible with the official version in LMU. Despite being in early access state, the game will feature AI racing, online competition, day-night and weather alongside all cars and tracks from the 2023 season.
Better yet, the game will initially release at a reduced price. Costing just under €30, fans will be in for a bargain. Just think back to those that got AC and ACC for next-to-nothing. If the game does turn out to be bad, at least fans will not have spent the typical €50-odd of most new titles.
There is no doubt that the endurance racing fan writing this may be reading the announcement with rose-tinted glasses. But at a bargain price for an official game and clear communication from the developers that improvements will come, this is surely a win-win.
What do you think about Le Mans Ultimate launching as early access on 20 February? Would you rather have a full release? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!