What better place to announce the next version of a famed racing simulator than at a car show?
Microsoft and Ford have teamed up to announce Forza Motorsport 6 this evening at the North American International Auto Show, which will feature the new Ford GT as its “cover car.” (Forza Horizon 2, the last game in the series, featured the Lamborghini Huracán;Forza Motorsport 5, a launch title for the Xbox One, featured the McLaren P1 hypercar.) The new F-150 Raptor and Mustang-based GT350R, which debuted at the show today alongside the GT, will also appear in the game.
“This is our ten-year anniversary of Forza,” says Alan Hartman, studio manager at Turn 10, which has been responsible for the franchise since day one. “When we first were doing these, it would be kind of like, ‘Hey please, can we have that new car you showed in Detroit?’ That’s where we were back ten years ago. But over the last three or four years, the involvement with the manufacturers has really changed. They have really come to recognize that this is a very important venue for them,” he says. Basically, car companies — Ford included — want to be featured in a game with Forza’s level brand power and name recognition. He notes that the last-generation Ford Raptor, an over-the-top off-roading pickup truck, has the highest download count of any Forza DLC in history.
“When we started working on the GT, probably a year ago, we were already thinking along these lines,” adds Ford’s Raj Nair, who leads the company’s global product development. “I think that’s a reflection of how important Forza‘s become to the automotive industry, an exposure to so many customers — often, their first exposure to the brand or their first exposure to a specific vehicle is actually through Forza. So early on, we know this would be a part of the plan.”
The GT’s specs and capabilities are still fluid, though, so even as the game is in development, Hartman and Nair say that they’re regularly on the phone hashing out the latest numbers. “Usually, we’re not exposed as to what the capability of the car is targeted to be,” Nair laughs. “But this is going to set some big hurdles for us, right? That we will have the Forza car out there, and we’ll have to make sure that the physical car can deliver.”
Beyond the partnership, though, Turn 10 isn’t revealing much about the game, although it’s confirmed to be an Xbox One exclusive (no surprise there). As good as Forza 5 was for a console launch title in 2013, it felt barren — everything from the music selection to the catalog of available tracks was on the light side, so there’s plenty of room to improve. But when is it launching? “We have a regular cadence of releases going, so we’ll leave it up to your imagination,” Hartman teases. Would he like to sell it this year, at least? “I’d love to,” he exclaims.