Project CARS 3 could have been called Project CARS Sideways

Slightly Mad Studios founder and former CEO Ian Bell has disclosed that the maligned Project CARS 3 could have had a different name, which could have more clearly signposted the game’s intent.
Project CARS 3 could have been called Project CARS Sideways

Following two popular simulation-type games, the third Project CARS instalment was teed up to be a hole-in-one.

When it arrived in August 2020, however, it was clear that Project CARS 3 was more akin to Driveclub than its serious predecessors. Bereft of authentic sensibilities, a tenet of its predecessors, in came a pumping soundtrack, XP grinds and a vibrant colour palette.

It felt like a spin-off, analogous to Dirt: Showdown being a rowdy side project instead of a true progeny.

Yet, the ‘three’ in the title insinuated a main series entry. It was met with derision at launch. Even a somewhat lacklustre 70 Metacritic score compared to 82 and 83 for the previous two didn’t paint the whole picture.

Project CARS 3 Porsche Taycan
Project CARS 3’s handling was more approachable and gamepad-centric.

Existing fans of the series, expecting to plug in their Logitech wheels, had their suspension knocked out of alignment. Meanwhile, those looking for an accessible gamepad racer were perhaps put off by the ‘Project CARS’ moniker previously representing gritty realism.

While it may not have resolved every complaint lobbed towards Slightly Mad Studios’ driving game, there could have been a different name which better signalled a clear intent.

“There was a time when Project CARS 3 had a different name and I lobbied for it,” explained Ian Bell, founder and then CEO of the development team to Traxion.

“It was called Project CARS Sideways.

“That would have evoked the notion that you’re going off on a tangent, that you’re not doing the same sort of game i.e. Forza Horizon [compared to Forza Motorsport].”

Project CARS 3 Mercedes garage
Car-specific XP and upgrades were part of what differentiated Project CARS 3 from prior titles.

Ultimately, it was decided to follow the existing nomenclature with a ‘3’, instead of the ‘Sideways’ suffix.

The game was released at a complicated time for the studio. During its gestation, the outfit was purchased by Codemasters.

The title was also published not by the Southam-based racing game team, but Bandai Namco Entertainment thanks to a pre-takeover agreement.

“I was overruled because the investors said we need a ‘Project CARS 3’,” continued Bell.

“They named it, against my wishes. The chaps who did it, they know who they are, I don’t blame them and we’re still good friends. But, they made a mistake.”

Bell was speaking during a track session in Northamptonshire, where it was also revealed that the sim racing magnate’s next racing platform, GTRevival, is set to be renamed in partnership with a new publisher. Further details are expected in July.

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