To publish a game, the developers of the Forza franchise must reach an agreement with car manufacturers, and that involves a large amount of money. Obviously, it’s quite a time-consuming process. Otherwise, manufacturers would have the right to sue for copyright striking which could, potentially, lead to a great financial loss for Forza, and probably loss in reputation and trust. Therefore, every video game developer that wishes to use real-world brands must ask for permission. A contract that normally expires within a decade. But why are Forza titles forced to delist after less than five years?
Licensing and costs
The recent announcement of Forza Motorsport 7 being delisted clearly did surprise some players considering its age. The game received its final update less than two years ago, which isn’t actually too long ago. More surprising, Motorsport 7 is Turn 10’s only title available in the Xbox store at the moment. Regardless of the circumstances, Turn 10 is forced to delete Motorsport 7 from the Xbox store due to limited licensing time.
Not dumb at all! 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.
— Forza Motorsport (@ForzaMotorsport) July 29, 2021
When acquiring a license from a manufacturer, they usually negotiate fees, what the developers are allowed to do with vehicles and so on. Sadly, these contracts do expire after a time that Turn 10 and the manufacturers have agreed upon. Turn 10 have chosen to acquire only a 4-year license for Forza Motorsport 7. It’s more beneficial for the studio as the number of downloads will gradually decrease over the years. At some point, the number of downloads won’t provide the money that is necessary to support the game. It’s all about cutting costs because an extended contract would cost more.
There are exceptions where Turn 10/Playground Games aren’t required to pay any fees and these are the close partnerships Forza has with certain car manufacturers. Ford, McLaren and Porsche have been close to Turn 10 in recent years and provided plenty of vehicles from their enormous collection of vehicles. Some manufacturers pay Turn 10 to have their vehicles in the game as, what I would presume, advertisement.
Consequences of renewing licenses
Of course, there are titles we regret never downloading and, unfortunately, are no longer available. To bring these titles back to life, the studio must acquire a license from each manufacturer featured in the game. That includes every single producer from the automotive industry, racing circuit, and even sponsor decals that may be spotted in the paint shop and across the map (such as Brembo and Pirelli). As you can tell, with hundreds of unique brands, it’s a job requiring months of work. The studio must be willing to pay, and vice versa.
All in all, it should reach a break-even, which is, without a doubt, going to be challenging with games older than five years. Especially with a majority of the fan base already owning a copy. At the end of the entire process, the people who did all this work have to be paid monthly as well.
There are exceptions where developers create a remastered title, but the cases are rare. The Need For Speed franchise, however, have remastered titles, most likely due to its success and requests from fans. Other than that, neither Playground Games nor Turn 10 have been keen to remaster titles as it’s quite a large project and not a very efficient way to earn money. But I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch. Who knows what the future will bring?