With Formula One racing having started its European leg in Barcelona on the 27th of April, gamers looking to play a digital Lewis Hamilton are going to be sorely disappointed. This year will be the first for over a decade that there will be no F1 videogame and with the license still up for grabs, an edition for next year is looking increasingly unlikely.
An annual videogame institution since 1996 when developer Bizarre Creations made Formula 1, one of the first 3D F1 games, Sony has held the exclusive rights to produce the F1 games since 2003. According to F1 industry bible Formula Money, Sony paid a whopping $15m per year for its five-year license making it one of the most expensive in gaming.
However, Sony sources say that the deal has yet to be renewed since F1's billionaire boss Bernie Ecclestone is “playing hardball” over the fee. In other words he seems to be looking for more money to fill his already-bulging wallet.
The most recent edition of the game appeared on the PS3 last year and was based on the 2006 F1 season. Sony's Studio Liverpool developed the game and its 45-man team took around 10 months to complete the task. The latest edition usually comes out around three months after the F1 season starts in March.
With no deal on the table and no work having begun on a new edition, Sony would struggle to meet its typical timeframe for a 2009 game if it gets the license. Our source says aspects of the code from WipEout HD could be included in it so perhaps this would accelerate production.
However, given Ecclestone's reputation as a dealmaker who doesn't give an inch, the cars could be running on rockets by the time that the next F1 videogame sees the light of day.