Merely four years after release, Forza Horizon 2, will be pulled from the Microsoft Store. If you’ve already bought the game and all its add-ons, you can still play it. However, new players won’t be able to purchase the game and add-on content come the .
For those who may be unfamiliar with the title: Forza Horizon 2 is an Xbox One and Xbox 360 exclusive game featuring a large open-world driving experience set in Southern Europe. The game is centered around the Horizon Festival; a music and car event for the ages. The game isn’t a driving simulator by any chance, but instead focuses of the feeling of freedom of roaming about the countryside in a fast car of your choice listening to fitting music. The atmosphere of the game is just great.
Forza Horizon 2 isn’t an outdated game and it runs on current-generation game consoles. It’s still awesome to play in the true sense of the word. It still feels stunning to watch, listen, play, and experience all of it. There’s no doubt about it: Forza Horizon 2 is a masterpiece.
The in-game festival setting isn’t just a game gimmick either. Type in “forza horizon festival” into Google Search, and you’ll see auto-complete come up with things like “ticket prices” and “passes”, “when-” and “where’s it next”, and only at the very bottom of the list people are asking “is it real”. The in-game festival feels like a good thing and people clearly want to take part in it.
Yet after just four years of shelf life, Microsoft Studios will no longer be selling the game. It’s being pulled from Microsoft/Xbox Store by the .
I can’t even speculate on the development costs and the number of man hours involved in making this game. I do feel for everyone of the people who worked on the game, though. The game represents so much creative work and culture that it’s nothing short of a tragedy that it’s being pulled from market.
Players who’ve already purchased the game can continue playing it, and even re-download it from the Microsoft Store. New players and future generations won’t be able to experience the full game. You’ll likely find retail boxed copies of the game on online market places for years to come. However, there are almost a hundred add-on cars available that don’t come in the box, as well as a large extra area to the open world: Storm Island. Storm Island focuses more on off-road driving and bad weather conditions and offers a quite different game experience from the main game/festival area.
The thing that irks me is that the game is primarily distributed digitally at no cost. The “shelf space” cost for Microsoft is virtually nothing. As long as some people purchase the game, they’d earn more money off it than if it’s just de-listed and made unavailable for purchase. I highly doubt that online-multiplayer server maintenance costs are to blame for the situation. That could also be patched out at little cost by adding a few dialogs to the game’s menus. So why did they decide to stop selling it?
The game features fantastic music from well-known artists which suit the fast-paced car and music festival excellently. It’s the music you’d expect to hear at a big festival. The game also features well known cars and car brands. All of these assets needs to be licensed, and it would seem that the publisher was only able to secure licensing of these assets for up to four years from publishing.
Re-licensing these assets would probably be a huge and costly undertaking. It would seem that licensing deals have given the game a short lease on life, even as a digitally distributed title.
Games like Grand Theft Auto will sometimes push patches that strip out music from their games after the licenses have expired. This might not sound all that feasible for a game staged around a music festival, but it was apparently on the table at one time. Robert John Gorham, the DJ responsible for the music selection in Forza Horizon 2 told IGN in 2014 that
“We have talked about having a lot more versatile stations, maybe replacing tracks with updates in real time.” The same article also discusses the game’s focus on [cheaper] indie music.
If you’ve bought the original Forza Horizon for the 360, you can play it through backwards compatibility on the Xbox One, but you can no longer purchase it anywhere. Like Forza Horizon 2, the original was de-listed from the Microsoft/Xbox Store four years after its initial release. I’d normally expect to see these games — music, cars, and all — remain available for digital purchase for at least a decade, or at least until the next generation game consoles rolls out. To me, it seems like a poor return on investment to build these fantastically complex and labor intensive games only to halt sales after just four years on the market.
There’s something wrong with society when huge creative efforts like Forza Horizon 2 are just locked away in a digital warehouse somewhere rather than being made available for people to play and enjoy. I can almost hear future digital archivists and game historians scream in agony over a game title being pulled from the market after only four years. It can’t possibly be more profitable for any of the parties involved in these licensing deals to stop earning money off the game either.
At this point it might surprise you to learn that I don’t care about either cars or music festivals. They are two things that don’t intersect with my life in any meaningful way. I don’t have a driver’s license and sort cars by color instead of by manufacturer and model. I don’t generally like racing games either. Yet, I’ve absolutely loved the original Forza Horizon for the Xbox 360, Forza Horizon 2 and 3 for the Xbox One, and no doubt the upcoming Forza Horizon 4 for Windows and Xbox One.
I hope no other game will experience the same fate as Forza Horizon 2. I’m sadden by its fate and that more players won’t be able to experience the game. You should definitely pick up a copy of the game before its set to disappear by . Forza Horizon 4 is due for release at the same time but that doesn’t in any way make up for the loss of an incredible game like Forza Horizon 2.