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The Future of IndyCar’s Postponed New Racing Game Sounds Bleak

The series' deal with Motorsport Games was supposed to deliver a flagship virtual experience. Instead, it's seen more yellow flags than the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Back in July of 2021, IndyCar announced it would launch its own video game. In December 2022, it let its contract with iRacing expire and granted Motorsport Games an exclusive license to develop a new title. The series effectively turned its back on the years of online community-building that iRacing had achieved. However, there’s still no video game and no clear path toward one with the developer now claiming the launch is delayed well into 2024.

A report from the IndyStar published Monday dives into Motorsport Games’ financial turmoil, highlighting the studio’s bleak financials that have led to repeated delays, loss of staff, multiple changes in its board, and even a new CEO. Last week, Stephen Hood took over the role of chairman from Dmitry Kozko after the game developer saw negative cash flows of nearly $20 million in 2022. As the report points out, in the first week of February 2023 alone Kozko had raised up to $11.32 million to support its many commitments with various racing series, yet six weeks later the company only had $7 million in cash to support daily operations.

During a call to discuss 2022 Q4 earnings, Kozko told investors that Motorsport Games had experienced losses of more than $70 million over the last two years. More worryingly, Kozko said that he did not believe the company had “sufficient cash on hand to fund our operations for the remainder of 2023.”

So where does this leave IndyCar’s first video game in decades? It’s unclear. In the same IndyStar report, IndyCar president and CEO Mark Miles appears to be confident that a game is coming. When? He’s not sure.

“My comment (in Thermal to IndyStar regarding the release of IndyCar’s first video game in nearly 20 years) was based on what they [Motorsport Games] were telling us at the time,” Miles told the outlet in Long Beach. “And as they worked through their situation, how much capital they have, how much has been raised, and how much burn is there, they came to the conclusion they had to have a delay.

“I know for a fact that they’ve scanned every track [and drivers]. I don’t know if it’s just fine-tuning left or if there’s more to flesh out, but I do know a lot of work has been done. From what I’ve seen, it looks incredibly realistic. They want it to be what a track looks like, down to the signage and the surroundings, and that’s really important to us,” Miles added.

If those comments don’t give you much hope, you’re not alone. Scanning tracks and drivers, while time-consuming and extremely expensive, are merely the beginning of a long journey. As I learned during my visit to Honda’s own racing simulator, the real work is in correlating the act of driving a race car in real life to the various driving models found in a video game.

Miles is optimistic that despite a lengthy delay, the IndyCar game will hit shelves next year and all will be well. Except for the iRacing folks, of course, who were snubbed in favor of an exclusive deal that’s had more yellow flags than the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I’m aware of ongoing [financial] conversations that, if successful, would lead to ensuring that Motorsport Games is on solid financial ground and able to honor their deals,” Miles added. “I think the company has meaningful resources and assets, primarily in the form of some of their (video game) contracts, so they’ll find a way for that to attract capital.”

Let’s circle back on this in about nine months or so and see where things stand.

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