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Forza Motorsport 7 shows how 'Games as a Service' can hurt a beloved franchise

Late last week, Forza Motorsport 7's "Ultimate Edition" hit store shelves on Xbox One and Windows 10, ahead of the game's wider release. This $100 package (opens in new tab) not only provided access to the game four full days prior to other editions – it also granted a range of additional digital bonus content through VIP and Car passes.

In terms of its core racing mechanics, Forza Motorsport 7 still shows Microsoft's ability to consistently release expansive and robust racing games on a yearly basis. The game still feels great to play, looks stunning on standard Xbox One hardware and encompasses a wide range of racing experiences all under a single price tag. But at the same time, this year's Forza release has been met with a wave of controversy – in terms of raw gameplay Forza might feel great to play, but underlying systems have brought some unwelcome changes for its most dedicated players.

Rolling the dice

Since initial impressions of Forza Motorsport 7 have surfaced, one of the most frequent complaints has revolved around changes to the game's ecosystem. Although somewhat common in the industry today, Forza Motorsport 7 has been criticised for ushering a heavier focus on "loot boxes," which reward players with randomized drops of cars, "Mod cards," and cosmetic driver gear. This isn't the first instance of randomized drops being implemented in a Forza game (far from it), but this time around, they play a much heavier role in progression.

I'm no stranger to loot box reward systems – if you've played any triple-A game in the past few years, you'll have likely encountered them too. By redeeming "CR," which is primarily used for purchasing cars and upgrades, players can also secure one of these crates from the in-game store. Various tiers of crate pricing are offered, with the more you pay guaranteeing a higher chance for better rewards. This has become the standard for loot box implementation throughout the industry and Forza Motorsport 7 embraces a similar approach.

While cars and cosmetic gear might be the main draw of prize crates, the most frequent rewards at lower tiers are Mod cards – consumable items which can be applied to races for increased CR earnings. Whether posing a challenge to complete or changing race conditions, these cards provide access to additional bonus CR for straying away from your usual playstyle.

Nevertheless, in previous Forza games, these assists and their CR rewards were simply settings to enable before a race. Now, Turn 10 is clearly pushing to gamify these rewards, by requiring players to earn the right to even benefit from them. This makes for a vicious cycle of grinding for the opportunity to grind, that can fundamentally change the gameplay loop for some players. With CR essentially defining the game's ecosystem through cars and upgrades, placing high rewards for those who invest prize crates make these only the more tempting.

Not-so Very Important Persons

One of the main bonuses of the Forza Motorsport 7 Ultimate Edition is the "VIP" pass – a membership that grants access to an exclusive set of cars and cosmetic driver gear, while also speeding up progression. This pass has been a standard add-on across Forza releases for some time now and generally intended for regular players.

One of the most appealing benefits of VIP has been a CR multiplier, which permanently doubles earnings throughout your time with the game. This made investing into VIP a long-term investment, which significantly helps those grinding for specific high-end vehicles.

With the reintroduction of Mod cards in Forza Motorsport 7, Turn 10 has taken this as an opportunity to drastically change the contents of VIP passes in the process. This time around, the $19.99 purchase provides access to five consumable mod cards that double player CR earnings, despite not advertising this in the store listing. Furthermore, these cards can only be used five times, meaning only 25 races can benefit from these bonuses in total. And where will regular players go after these bonuses expire? You guessed it – loot boxes.

As of publication, neither Microsoft or Turn 10 have shared a statement following the backlash. However, they have quietly amended the VIP listing on the Microsoft Store to outline the consumable nature of CR benefits. Despite DLC not being covered by the Microsoft Store's self-service refunds, some frustrated players have managed to secure refunds, though results have been mixed.

The road ahead for Forza Motorsport 7

In terms of core mechanics, a lot of racing franchises can learn from Forza Motorsport 7 and it's worthy of much of the praise its received so far. But with changes to its ecosystem with prize crates in mind, it pushes the limit of what's currently accepted from a full-price triple-A title. While some of what Forza Motorsport attempts might not be new in the industry, the changes it makes beyond its predecessor are neither beneficial to the player or necessary to iterate on the franchise. Instead, its implementation only harms long-term progression and adds needless complexity to otherwise standard features.

What's worrying about Forza Motorsport 7's ecosystem is its potential to expand in the future, opening up a clear route for monetization. In interviews prior to launch, Turn 10 has even explicitly expressed plans to re-implement a "Token" system fuelled by real-world currency, assumedly based on the sales of the prize crates.

This leads toward uncertain territory, seen with many franchises, in an attempt to explore new monetization methods around pre-established content. Microsoft, like many games publishers, has continued to push franchises into a "Games as a Service" model, where regular content updates, expansions, and other purchases all build onto a single base package. Halo 5: Guardians and Gears of War 4 are both examples of games offering content updates and randomized loot boxes, and Forza Motorsport 7 is the latest to jump on the trend.

What lies ahead for Forza Motorsport 7 is still uncertain, although following recent events, Turn 10 should maybe reconsider how these systems are developed going forward. If anything, this hopefully sends a clear message to other triple-A publishers, in an industry where these models continue to harm long-standing franchises.

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Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Games Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

  • Extremely disappointed with their VIP d*ck move. Ruined Ultimate Edition for me.
  • Honestly I never really saw a benefit of the Ultimate Edition in Forza, yeah, you got the car pack and VIP, both items normally go on sale all the time though, but as far as the DLCs it's a separate price, so the fact that you're dishing out $100 for the full package doesn't get you the full package.
  • The benefit was the extra credits... which is exactly what they have taken away, thus making VIP nearly worthless.
  • So return ultimate version and buy the normal version, buy and build a mx5 with the mental rotary out of the 787B, go in free play win as much CR as you want in a few minutes buy a few mod packs then play your proper races. It's a good way of warming up as everything after will seem to have real easy to manage throttle response
  • The VIP bonus is roughly 4 million credits and few cars that make more money in racing. Certainly better than Forza 5 VIP.
  • After months login issue on windows central app finally fixed
  • 🎉
  • Yes! Finally!
  • If both Halo 5 and GoW are doing this, it gives the impresion this change is not coming from Turn 10, but Microsoft itself... way to alianate your userbase, most people that have an Xbox doesn't have it because it's "better" than the Play Station, but because of the few exclusives it has.
  • Well, Halo and GoW did it in a very nice way, no one can complain about that: in Halo 5 it RAINS boosters (without paying) and in Gears they're practically cosmetic-only (plus they're the only shooters not splitting their user base based on access to DLC maps). Forza went probably a step too far, but the devil will be in the implementation: do I get enough prize boxes to sustain a healthy progression without paying, or by just paying the +20 I would have paid otherwise for the deluxe edition? If yes, it's fine (I like opening boxes). If not, ouch.
  • I paid for Ultimate to get VIP and the other packs. I assumed VIP meant what it has meant on every Forza game as long as I can remember. The store page made no mention of it being a consumable perk. Yes, they edited the page after everyone got mad, but that doesn't make it right. I wont change my 1 star rating until they fix VIP.
  • Fully agree.
  • I like the new VIP system a lot more than previous one. 25 times 100% is almost 3 milion credits and you get that in the beginning. Removes days of grind.
  • Will never buy a game with such systens in place. All of the micro transactions and loot box systems will be the end of gaming, I want to pay for the whole game not additional pieces to progress.
    It's bad enough with all the pre-order exclusives.
  • We'll all probably go back to pay Mario, at least you got the full game out of your initial purchase.  the Nintendo will rull the world once again
  • I am only fine with the loot box system in Overwatch as this is purely cosmetic and does not limit the player's ability to use every hero. Here it is influencing the actual gameplay and that makes it so bad. Sad.
  • I guess the industry will need to start charging a game for $90.
    Dev fee going up but retail price capped @ $60.
  • Well not all devs and company have the 'Games as a Service' strategy. That's Spencer/MS's strategy. Not every AAA or indie studio are doing this. If we don't complain about it, it'll become a industry standard. And that for me is the worst thing that could happen to this industry...
  • Look how much support Halo 5 has and how much *that* year's Call of Duty has. Which one do you prefer? Games as a service is the only way forward for multiplayer games (but not necessarily Forza), but they should not replace fun for grind.
  • Really? How are microtransactions, pay to win, baby-gambling with loot box, F2P model like phone games for a full price game, 100 bucks for incomplete version, "Pay money or you'll get the game late"....good for gaming and how is this the "only way forward" for us consumers?
  • For me the biggest problem is the fact that now you cannot get extra Cr if you rank up the difficulty. Since the first Forza you get rewarded for your driving skills. The same thing is happening with Halo 5. They ruined the franchise for me (I'm a big Halo fan) If this the future of gaming and "connected world" BS, I'm out!
  • This is crap. Granted, it's the crap that's getting more and more common in the industry. They've undeservingly stoned good games to death from things like this (Evolve anyone?). And yet bigger games take on these despicable industry practices. Street Fighter V suffered from this too, and it's already a franchise that releases a game every couple years, so they don't need it, one would say. Personally I'm tired of the fact that nowadays you can't just buy a game and play it without having to grind the rest of your life at it. Or keep paying for it with DLC.
  • Glad I waited rather than pre-ordering.  I was VIP on other Forza games, but I'll skip this one entirely.  I won't accept this sort of profiteering in full price games.  Pay To Win is bullcrap.  Maybe they will be less greedy with Forza 8.  
  • Honestly I have no idea what the fuss is all about regarding these loot crates. You don't need them to play the game at all. They simply make progressing in the game a bit faster. It may seem kind of silly that you can pay to get through the game faster, but for f's sake, you don't have to! Nothing about the game puts up a wall where you have to pay to make progress. You may have to choose where to spend in game credits, but that's part of a video game experience. People moaned and complained about the loot crates in battlefield 1, and they made zero difference in my playing experience.  If you want to talk about a REAL problem with the game, let's address the still tedious and awful drivatar ai that makes this less of a racing game and more of a test drive and quick lap time simulator.
  • Actually this is a very serious issue and is (for me) more important than problem with awful ai of this game.  To understand what the problem you have to look at gaming history and see how things have evolved over the years.  In the past, devs were only focus in making a good game for gamers to enjoy. Now with this "games as a service" it's more like trying to get players to hooked and trying to get as much money from them as possible. All the development time going into making these bs is time that isn't put into making the game better.  This game has so many negatives it's crazy. I really don't want the industry to be moving towards 60-100 bucks games with mobile games like F2P and/or pay to win elements. I don't want the "get the game late if you don't pay money" bs, don't want companies to sell DLC even before the game is released, I don't want the gaming to be company taking advantage of the addictive effect of gambling-like bs like loot boxes.... I don't want the industry to move in that direction. People defending these practices just say "I don't mind", or "just don't buy it". They NEVER talk of what good does it do to gaming. If you can tell me how this makes gaming great please do tell me, I'm curious...
  • I don't think money should be used AT ALL for CR or upgrades. The whole monetization of things sucks. You should upgrade the old fashioned way, by simply playing and leveling up. If the game was free, then sure i could see the monetization, buy money on top of money spent for the game sucks.
  • Play your game cr-only, the usual way. Why bother what currency other people use to open their crates. I've never cared about DLC or IAP tbh...
    Hot Wheels expansion is my 1st DLC in my 30+ years gaming history.
  • Matt, sorry to be that guy, but the word "ecosystem" doesn't mean what you think it does. The term stems from the word "ecology" (not "economy"), meaning a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. It's sometimes appropriated by the tech industry to refer to the entirety of a platform (such as Windows or Android) and its related apps, services, and development community, but in neither case does it describe a game economy. 
  • And is Groove Music integration still coming? Don't reply it's dead Groove will still be available they way I use it (free) with my own MP3 files stored in OneDrive.
  • Dick move. Enjoyed Forza Horizon 3. Not touching this title.
  • Yep, this practice has ruined Gears 4. I paid for the ultimate edition as well. The game just feels like a grind for credits now. Sorry to hear Forza is now being used to gouge it's fans.
  • they should have quietly given everyone who preordered the unlimited that they initially advertised.
  • Generally speaking the loot crates don't really change anything. Every Forza game has been a grind. It takes hundreds of hours to grind through any Career and complete all championships across any Forza. You will still by the time you finish every race in the game have likely collected everything when all is said done here Forza 7. All the loot crates actually do is keep you more engaged in what could in the past become mundane by the time you finish all the championships. If it was down to monetization Turn 10 would have made the boxes cost resiculous in game and offer real money paid fast tracking. But the truth is I have earned so much money just by racing I already have millions. Now just having the AI set o Highly Skilled gives +40% CR bonus per Championship. Which is a large haul extra.