Friday, September 16, 2022

Car Licensing In Racing Games is Bonkers

If you want to design a racing games that use "real" cars then you'll need to pay for a license to use said cars. The most common licenses are for 5 years meaning that after five years the game company either needs to renew the license for the game or stop selling it. If you have purchased the game during that time then you usually are able to still play it however it's no longer possible to buy new copies and it usually signals the end of the online as well.

The problem with licenses is that you have some amazing games stuck somewhere making it difficult for players to play. The Need For Speed series, for example, have a handful of games stuck in the PS3/Xbox 360 consoles as the license agreements are such that they can't be played anywhere else or purchased.

How do you get around this?

There are three things that could help get around these licensing issues:
  • Don't use licensed material - If there's anything that we can learn from the Burnout/Wreckfest/TrackMania series is that it's possible to create great racing without relying on licensed cars.
  • Let the players include the licensed stuff via mods - TrackMania is a great example of this has earlier entries allowed players to add their own vehicle assets to the game which usually resulted in a few real world cars making their way into the game.
    • One thing to note here is the rights-holder may request to have the mod removed from the game but most will turn a blind eye to this has nobody is profiting from it. Removing a mod also doesn't negatively impact the base game.

Obviously, the above strategy likely wouldn't work in all instances as players come to expect licensed material from some of their games. Would you play, for example, a Gran Turismo game without licensed vehicles or tracks? Perhaps some of the changes need to come from the licensing agreement itself. 

My hope is that the future will be better in this regard as the current situation is pretty annoying...

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