This review is not going to be what you expect. We have a format on SmashPad that we usually follow. For this game though, we decided to run with an idea I had. Many reviews and pundits talk about the bad practices in the gaming industry in a cut-and-dry way, ignoring the fact that on the other end of the screen is a real person. I decided to approach this review from that angle, and just write a letter to Forza. Hopefully this will help people realize that bad practices do have an effect on people. If nothing else, it should be an entertaining read.
It’s been twelve years since we’ve been together, and I can say that it’s been a real treat to know you for the most part. So it’s hard for me to sit here and write this, but really, this needs to be said. Over the past few years I’ve seen a rather distressing bit of behaviour from you. It started off when you helped prop up the floundering Xbox One during its disaster of a launch. I didn’t think too much of it at the time–I chalked it up to being a relic of the past regime’s terrible management. I mean, why else would you make it so difficult to earn credits unless I bought boosts for XP and credit earnings? Over time this got a little better, but then came Horizon 2.
I thoroughly enjoyed driving around Europe, finding cars, challenges, and events in the most unusual places. What I didn’t enjoy so much was having microtransactions added in after you’d been out for a while. They called it “choice” and I did have the option to turn them off, but you know what? The fact that they’re there at all is still a problem. It means that I’m starting to be seen as just a continuous source of income for you and not as a real, living, breathing person.
Then came Forza 6, and the same thing happened. Initially you came out with no microtransactions and then you added them in after the fact, while spouting the exact same reason. I also got a sneak peak at a system that would turn out to be the worst thing you’ve ever done; Mods.
The idea isn’t all that bad. I could apply a Mod card and gain some benefit for making the game more challenging, or simply use a card that gave me a boost to credits or XP. It didn’t get in the way, and never felt like I was being pestered to use them. After all, I could just change the difficulty settings and assist levels and get rewarded for challenging myself.
So, two years later, you can imagine my disappointment when I can no longer get any benefit from turning off assists. Instead, if I want to earn more credits, well I’ve got to use the Mod cards. Some will argue that Mods are still optional, but they’re really not. If you want to earn credits at any decent rate, you’ve got to use them. And where do Mods come from? Prize Crates. Your own naming scheme for the now reviled Loot Crate gambling system. So let me get this straight: I have to spend credits on Mods, so that I can use those mods to gain more credits, so that I can then spend those credits on more crates, to then get more and better mods, to earn more credits… I could keep going on and on, around in circles like this forever, which is precisely what they want me to do. I should continue to spend my Credits on crates, thus making it harder for me to save up enough of them to get the cars I want to get.
Right now, your Prize Crates are bought with your in-game Credits. Soon though, I’ll have the “option” to spend my real money on them. Lucky me! Then we’ve got the fact that you’ve turned level rewards into another method of separating me from my credits. There’s always a car available as a choice when I reach the next driver level. It used to be that you’d just give me the cars, all wrapped up like a sweet gift. Now though, sometimes you do, and sometimes you want me to pony up credits for them.
Finally, we’ve got the fact you’ve turned the joy of collecting cars into a compulsive activity. You give me this nice little grid, showing me the cars I’ve collected and yup, I can buy ones I don’t have through here, too. I can also see many I can’t buy, and have to get through crates or through luck of the draw at the Specialty Dealer. It’s all very insidious and manipulative, and nobody likes to be manipulated.
I’ve gone through a good 600 words so far and I’ve not gotten to acknowledge the good things you’ve done with this latest phase of your life. That’s a bit unfair, but it’s best to just get the bad things out of the way. I’m not thrilled with how greedy this makes you look. I’m certainly not thrilled at at you looking at me as “revenue” or a “conversion,” but it certainly feel like that’s exactly how I’m seen.
So to be fair to you, I love that we can go to Dubai now, and we’ve got 32 circuits to race on. I love the fact that you’ve got more than 700 cars in your repertoire. I’m not too sure why you and Toyota had a break-up, but they’re not bringing their production cars to the party anymore. Still, Porsche is a great name to have on the guest list, so I can’t be too mad, but I do hope you and Toyota can patch things up eventually. I also love that you work with Play Anywhere. I can play on my Xbox One in the living room, or at my PC in the office. My progress syncs between the two. It’s a nice touch!
I guess the most frustrating thing about this whole situation is that when we get onto the track, when dusk turns to night, or when the rain starts coming down in the middle of a race, it’s just magic. You’ve always been great at that, capturing that feeling of driving, the speed, the weight of the car, the way the tires and suspension react to the changes in surface. It’s better than it ever was. So when I’m out there completely failing to take the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca properly, or getting a little over-ambitious at the Nurburgring, I forget about crates, mods, and conversions. When the race ends though, it’s back to the grind.
We’re at a crossroads here, Forza. You can keep going down that road of “monetization” with those bad influences for a short-term bump to profits, or you can back away, tell Phil, Bobby, Andrew, and Kevin you’re turning over a new leaf. I know that I’d prefer you did the latter. To just make yourself into the best version of yourself you can be. If you don’t want to though, well, I guess we’ll just have to part ways on good terms. I can understand why you’d be tempted by what they have to say. More money is good, right? That doesn’t mean that I, or many others like, me will be coming along for the ride.
Think about it Forza. Think about it really seriously. Is it really worth throwing away a 12-year relationship for a few extra million?
All the best,