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Project CARS, and the benefit of crowdfunding without Kickstarter Exclusive

May 13, 2014 | By Mike Rose

Slightly Mad Studios is finally gearing up for the release of Project CARS, three years after the original launch of its crowdfunding platform -- an approach that appeared rather extraordinary in the pre- Kickstarter boom.

Since that Project CARS' crowdfunding launch, the game has raised over $5 million and has a community of over 85,000 players. It's interesting to ponder whether the game would have raised more or less money via a Kickstarter campaign, had the boom happened just that little bit earlier.

"Kickstarter is great, but it doesn't allow the same level of day-to-day interactivity and behind-the-scenes access to the development team that we chose to allow with the WMD Portal," notes Slightly Mad's Andy Tudor. "You’re usually reliant on irregular updates to get any kind of insight into progress on the project."

"If anything," he adds, "it shows that gamers were eager and looking for something like this regardless of 'crowdfunding' being in the populist lexicon at the time."

Project CARS is now due to release this November, a period that is notably filled with big triple-A racing releases like DriveClub and The Crew. For the Slightly Mad team, word of mouth is going to be the big deciding factor over whether or not CARS will rise above the competition.

cars.jpg"We've been making the game in full public view for three years now," Tudor reasons. "There are thousands of YouTube videos of people playing the game already - both from gamers and professional drivers - there are hundreds of thousands of screenshots out there, we've been covered by hundreds of magazines and websites, gamers are talking about us on forums and social media, we’re appearing at major exhibitions and conferences. And we haven't spent a single penny on marketing."

"Everything you've seen about Project CARS has come from either a fellow gamer that's played it or from the mouths of one of the development team," he adds. "There’s no middle management filtering what you see."

Of course, the team will also be looking to play on its collective heritage too. Slightly Mad is made up of veteran racing game designers who previously worked on GTR and GT Legends -- plus, this is the studio behind both Need for Speed: Shift 1 and Shift 2: Unleashed.

"Project CARS is a culmination of all our experience and skills as a team," Tudor notes. "We may not have the marketing weight or pot of gold like a large multi-national publisher, but we're British, so there's a history of rooting for the underdog!"

And Slightly Mad is hoping that the authenticity of the Project CARS simulation experience will set it apart too. The game features pit stops, driving strategies, deep car tuning, dynamic time of day, weather changes, and a career mode that lets you mimic the career of a real racing driver.

"Kickstarter is great, but it doesn't allow the same level of day-to-day interactivity and behind-the-scenes access to the development team."
You'd think preparing for a game launch later this year would be enough for the team, but as discovered a couple of months ago, Slightly Mad is also working on World of Speed, a free-to-play racing MMO. Tudor tells me that, while both games are being developed by different internal teams, both are helping each other out when it comes to tech and design.

"There are certainly times when those ideas pop up, and if it makes sense for it to be cross-title then it gets populated to both games," Tudor adds. "But ultimately they're very different. Project CARS is the game I’ll sit on the couch playing... World Of Speed is the game I play either in the study or on my laptop."

So what have previous racing MMOs done badly that Slightly Mad believes it can fix with World of Speed?

"From day one we've focused on letting players be able to get into a game within one or two clicks of the game loading, being able to easily make/chat/play with friends and your club, and the game being free," the Slightly Mad man adds. "None of these were 'bolted on' at the last minute, but in some cases it feels that way in prior titles."

"Does a market exist? Definitely!" he adds. "There’s nothing quite like World Of Speed out there, and we feel the team-based play is something that gives a very definite 1:1 comparison with other MMOs. Our races are 'raids' in effect, the loadout of your car is your sword and shield, if you collaborate to complete objectives (the equivalent of ‘quests’) then you win loot etc."

"So World Of Warcraft or League Of Legends players should recognize the similarities and be able to pick the game up quite easily, whereas newcomers will see a racing game that looks beautiful, is fun to play yet has depth, and has long-term appeal with a variety of unique and innovative features."

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