Whatever your thoughts on the franchise, it’s going to be sad times for a lot of sim racers as EA ends the Project CARS series.
The news was confirmed by GameIndustry.biz, who revealed that Electronic Arts apparently evaluated the series are acquiring Codemasters, and came to the decision it was unlikely to be successful or fit with the other games being produced by EA.
In a statement, an EA spokesperson said they would stop investment in the franchise, and focus on their strengths, particularly licensed IP and open-world experiences, along with expanding games to be “more socially-led with long-term live services that will engage global communities.” They went on to say they were working with everyone impacted to place them into suitable roles across EA Sports and their racing portfolio, as well as other parts of EA.
That means there will be no follow-up to the poorly-received Project CARS 3, released in August 2020 to a decidedly mixed response. The move to more arcade-style handling and gameplay disappointed fans who were used to the simulation approach of the first two games from Slightly Mad Studios.
Not onlly that, but both Project CARS and Project CARS 2 were recently delisted from digital stores due to expiring car and track licenses. How long Project CARS 3 will remain on sale is unknown, at which point the legacy of Slightly Mad Studios will be reduced to physical editions of the three games.
Project CARS was originally released in 2015, with some of the funding coming from the community. It included 74 cars and 110 courses at launch, giving rise to Project CARS 2 in 2017, which expanded the cars, locations and manufacturers in the game. All three Project CARS titles were published by Bandai Namco, before Slightly Mad Studios were acquired by Codemasters in 2019, who were then picked up by Electronic Arts in 2021. Since the accquisitions, Project CARS Go came and went as a free-to-play mobile title released in March 2021, and shutdown by November of the same year.
As recently as early 2022, Project CARS 4 was apparently still in development as a return to the sim racing roots of the series, although it was never officially announced by Codemasters or EA.
So it’s the end of Project CARS and Slightly Mad Studios. The most important thing is that hopefully all of the staff impacted will be able to quickly find roles within EA or elsewhere. But it’s also a slightly sad end for a franchise which suggested the potential to challenge games like Gran Turismo and Forza, even if it didn’t quite manage it. Certainly a lot of sim racers enjoyed the series, especially on consoles. And it deserved better than the mixed results of Project CARS 3 and the ill-fated decision to create an arcade driving game under a title known for offering a simulation experience.
In related news, it’s also being reported that Codemasters will be dropping the DIRT series name for 2023-onwards, as they begin releasing titles with the official WRC licence (held by Nacon and developed by Kylotonn from 2015 to 2022). And former Slightly Mad Studios CEO Ian Bell, who left the studio in October 2021, has tweeted that he’s been contacting the old Project CARS 2 team as his new comapny, Mildy Annoyed Games, are apparently developing GTR Revival, which will apparently bring back the GTR series originally developed by SimBin.
Bell has publicly criticised EA in the past, when Slightly Mad Studios had worked on Need for Speed Shift and Shift 2, before a third title was cancelled.
If you want to enjoy the Project CARS series, you can find physical copies of the first and second titles via various sites, including eBay and Amazon. And you can still buy Project CARS 3 for the PC via Steam, the Xbox One via the Microsoft Store, and the PS4 via the PlayStation Store. Physical copies of Project CARS 3 can be found at Game or Amazon.
Ironically, the Madness Engine which powered the Project CARS series does live on in sim racing, as it provides the basis for Automobilista 2, developed by Reiza Studios. And there’s no reason to think that the cancellation of Project CARS will have any impact on AMS 2 in the future.