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F1 2021

Why do F1 games release so late through the competitive season?

Despite being a series about high-speed racing, Codemasters' F1 games always show up late.

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Boy do I love Formula One. This motorsport has grown and grown on me over the years, and this season has been the most exciting in a while. Two elite drivers from opposing constructors, locked in a tight competition with a conclusion likely to be decided at the final chequered flag of the year. There's a lot to love. This year, Codemasters also delivered a doozy of a game, one of the best iterations of the series, which combines refined gameplay with a new narrative experience, for a total package that even played better than ever thanks to development taking into account the power of the latest consoles. If you like F1 or simply simulation racing, there's really not a lot to love about F1 2021 either.

But you might be thinking, why exactly are you bringing this up four and half months after F1 2021 launched? Well, the game recently featured its final free circuit update, bringing the street track of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to the game, to coincide with the actual competitive scene also heading to the same location for the penultimate race of the season (a Grand Prix that will be taking place in a couple of weeks). While it's great that Codemasters has dropped this extra bit of content on us, it's led me to question why exactly does the game release halfway through a competitive season?

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As you can probably tell, I absolutely adore F1 2021. It's a game that I've sunk many hours into, chasing for that perfect lap across a range of global circuits in the Career Mode, the Multiplayer, and in Braking Point. This title is one I even enjoy playing as close to simulation-level as possible, because it can take it. Assists are at a minimum, difficulty is cranked up, and I use a Logitech G920 steering wheel, fitted with paddles and accompanied with pedals, for the most authentic experience I can generate in a room that is already too cramped in the first place. But, this works for me.

Even almost 20 weeks after release, I still find myself infatuated by the same experience the game offers: completing lap after lap after lap as I work toward that next Driver's World Championship. You could argue that I'm semi-addicted to the process. But this level of engagement is a product of cross-media support. For me, the game isn't the same without having the professional scene to also gawk over during the weekend, which is why I'm worried and a little bit terrified of what will happen come December 12, when that final black and white flag is waved and a champion is crowned.

Granted, the offseason isn't all that long for Formula One, and just as a season comes to a sudden stop, another races onto the scene in mid-March the following year. But almost four months of no race weekends, of zero on-track drama, of competition being locked in a stalled limbo, means my interest in F1 2021 will falter, and I know that for a fact as the same thing happened during the Summer Shutdown in August, when we didn't have a race weekend between August 1-27. And that was only a few weeks after launch, so you can just imagine what it'll be like five months later and for a four-month duration.

F1 2021

So, what's the point of this rant you ask? That's simple. F1 games should launch around the start/shortly before a new season, like pretty much every other sports game on the market. For some reason, this series has always aimed for a Summer launch, and the reason why eludes me to this day. Of course the argument of ensuring the correct car models are all locked-in is a fair point of conversation, as the new cars are usually announced in February, shortly before the new season, but that seems to be the only part that isn't usually communicated or in the public eye well ahead of time.

There are a lot of moving parts in the works, but if 2K can manage it with NBA games, and EA Sports can do it with FIFA and Madden titles, then surely we can expect the same from the F1 series as well. At the very least a launch in April or May is significantly more fitting than July, August, or September as we've seen in the past.

As you can probably tell, I've done a lot of thinking on this matter, and I've come to the conclusion that it must be to do with the publishing schedule for Codemasters and now EA, but even that doesn't really make all that much sense. Whether it's a new Dirt or a new Grid game competing with the F1 series on Codemasters' slate, neither quite have the sense of urgency that F1 should have, in getting the title out before half of the latest competitive season has passed. So what is really going on?

F1 2021F1 2021

A degree of leniency can be given for the last couple of years as the pandemic has caused countless issues in companies being able to produce games at the rate they usually work to. But the world is showing more and more signs of a complete return to normality each new day, and 2022 could be the perfect time to get this ship on the right course.

Not only does 2022 mark the beginning of a new season of Formula One with revamped cars and regulations (the sort of massive update we usually see every decade or so), but 2022 currently sees Codemasters with only one other game on its slate: Grid Legends, and this doesn't currently have an exact release date. So, why don't we have a bit of a reset. F1 2021 is already fantastic, if there's no plan to move away from this annual release schedule, let's take F1 2021, tidy it up and refine it for the new season, and reset the launch timings for this series, reset it to align it with a new season, in the way that it should've always been. Or alternatively, why not the opposite. Take a year out. Codemasters could release a big 2022 expansion for F1 2021, bringing all the new goodies necessary to enjoy the latest season, with the intention of making a significant update to the core gameplay experience in 2023 with F1 2023 (or whatever that will eventually be called).

Either way, the late release of this title currently makes very little sense in my eyes, and a quick fix to the launch date would be beneficial to the future of this series in so many different ways, and all of this is coming from someone who wants nothing more than this series to succeed in the long run.

F1 2021
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