In 2020, the interest in racing games, partly due to the lack of real action earlier this year, is greater than ever before. On the day of the F1 2020 release, we will dive into the history of gaming and Formula 1.
The advance of Formula 1 games went quickly, but in 2020 we can conclude that people have come a long way, now that virtual races have been organized in recent months with real Grand Prix drivers at the start. Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, George Russell and Alexander Albon, among others, competed in F1 2019, after the corona virus had to end the first part of the Formula 1 season. Now that a new game has become available with F1 2020, we look back at how the Formula 1 game has developed over the years.
How the first F1 games came about
The first (arcade) F1 games started in the 1970s. Japanese publisher Namco was quite successful with the F-1, released in 1976. Six years later, the same company produced the game Pole Position. That title grew into one of the most popular arcade games in the world. With the addition of a qualifying round and computer controlled opponents, this game was way ahead of its time. The game was even named the most influential racing game of all time in 2015.
While the games became more advanced in the 1980s and having a console gained popularity, Formula 1 took a new step. Super Monaco GP (1989) was a hit on the Sega Megadrive. The version released in 1992 even had a certain Ayrton Senna. That same year, Grand Prix also appeared, and that game went more in the direction of the simulations.
The first really successful F1 simulation game was Grand Prix 2 (1996), produced for the PC by renowned publisher Geoff Crammond. Based on the 1994 Formula 1 season, that game had a full grid of teams and drivers for the first time. It included a championship mode and complete Grand Prix weekends could be completed. The real fanatics could adjust the tuning of the car, in addition, technical problems were simulated in this game. Grand Prix 3 (2000) and Grand Prix 4 (2002) were later released. The latter was very popular in the Formula 1 community for a long time.
After the breakthrough of the first PlayStation in 1995, the game Formula 1 (1996) became extremely popular. The game included a full championship mode and legendary F1 commentator Murray Walker commented. There was even a surprise mode in the game where a circuit in the form of a Formula 1 car could be driven. Formula 1 97 (1997) was also such a great success, even though a conflict over rights meant that Jacques Villeneuve’s name should not be included in the game and displayed as “Williams Numberone”. The acquisition of another developer caused the title to not be well received in 1998 and 1999, ending a golden era for F1 on PS1.
The Formula 1 license was shared between 2000 and 2003 by Electronic Arts, which released a new edition every year, and Sony. With that, the bridge to the PlayStation 2 was also established. EA also produced some other Formula 1 games, such as F1 Manager, in which gamers took on the role of team boss. From 2003 Sony managed to acquire the exclusive rights, so that the games could only be played on the PlayStation consoles. Significant progress was made in the graphics and operation of the game, and all of these games also had full career mode.
Codemasters takes over rights for F1 games
At the same time, the call for a multiplayer function grew. It was introduced in the first Formula 1 game made for the PlayStation 3: F1 Championship Edition (2007). That coincided with the end of the exclusive deal that Sony had, Codemasters entered the playing field and made sure that the Formula 1 games could be played on multiple platforms again.
Codemasters’ first attempt was F1 2009, which appeared on the Ninteno Wii. This ended three years without F1 games. F1 2009 never really became popular. This was partly due to the inadequate graphics in the game. The developer took over a year later by releasing F1 2010, the game that first appeared on PS3 and Xbox 360. Over the years, more and more things were added to make the game more realistic. The introduction of the safety car was such a milestone, but in career mode the possibilities are now so far that a gamer can imitate a complete career.
With the arrival of F1 2017, another milestone was reached: the creation of an official esports championship. The F1 Esports Series is fanatically supported by Liberty Media, the sport’s owner. The American group sees above all an opportunity to bind the younger target group to Formula 1. After a series of online qualifications, twenty sim racers were selected and invited to the grand final in Abu Dhabi. Brendon Leigh crowned himself as the first virtual F1 champion.
The season’s success was built on a season later. Nine out of ten Formula 1 teams formed an esports team and competed for the virtual world title. The prize pool was rich and Leigh, who had been captured by Mercedes, became champion again. Last year, Ferrari joined the F1 Esports Series as the tenth and final team and dethroned David Tonizza Leigh as champion.
Even before details about the new season could be announced, the esports world received a large gift. Because where real racing was completely compromised by the corona virus, sim racing flourished. A large number of fans see virtual racing as a good entertainment to get through the period without races. Not long after the cancellation of the first Formula 1 races, a championship was founded by Veloce Esports, in partnership with Motorsport Games. The #NotTheGP series was held with a mix of professional drivers such as Lando Norris, Nicholas Latifi and Stoffel Vandoorne, and world stars from other sports. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, for example, already joined and professional golfer Ian Poulter started. The events got even more cachet when drivers like Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Alexander Albon and Antonio Giovinazzi joined the grid.