What we’d like to see in a ‘SBK 23’ game

With the first WorldSBK video game launching in a generation last year, here’s what we hope arrives next for the series.
What we’d like to see in a 'SBK 23' game

After waiting for a whole decade for a new SBK game, Milestone dropped SBK 22 late last year to a lukewarm reception.

Although we have seen a few mobile World Superbike games over the past few years; console and PC players haven’t seen anything since SBK Generations back in 2012.

Fans, myself included, were excited to see what the Milanese company could bring to the franchise with its experience with the MotoGP series. Yet, we were sadly left disappointed.

SBK 22 replay Donington

A lack of features, classes and game modes made this release feel more like a DLC expansion rather than a standalone title. Maybe Milestone was just testing the water to see what kind of reception SBK would receive before building upon it further in the future?

So today I am going to talk about some features I would love to see in SBK 23 should we see another release later this year.

Multiple classes

SBK 22 only contained one class from the championship, the Superbike class. And whilst this is the category most people are interested in, leaving the other classes out had a knock-on effect in the career mode and multiplayer.

Further classes would mean more bikes and different ways of playing. The motorcycles in the Superbike World Championship are all production based and are comprised of three categories which are:

World Supersport 300 (WorldSSP300)

Hugo De Cancellis, WorldSSP300 2022, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya - Motorsport Images
Hugo De Cancellis, WorldSSP300 2022, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – Motorsport Images

The junior class where young riders start their SBK campaign. Much like Moto3 in the MotoGP championship, WorldSSP300 is a very hectic championship with extremely close racing. The bikes may be slow but this helps create a good learning ground as riders try to extract the maximum out of their motorbikes. This then could be a good starting point for the career mode to help people understand how to play the game and learn circuits. Plus as a bonus, the racing should be frenetic with lots of overtaking.

World Supersport (WorldSSP)

Nicolo Bulega, World Supersport (WorldSSP), Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit 2022 - Motorsport Images
Nicolo Bulega, World Supersport (WorldSSP), Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit 2022 – Motorsport Images

This is the middle class where corner speed is key. Again this helps riders develop their riding skills whilst adapting to a bigger and faster bike when moving up from the WorldSSP300 class. Much like the previous class, races can be quite hectic and this category quickly became known as the “axe murderer” category when it first started as races often saw more contact than a boxing match.

Things calmed down over the years and it soon lost the somewhat brutal moniker. The regulations have recently changed as well, which has helped the class grow as more manufacturers enter bikes into the category. Adding this category to SBK 23 would help players develop what they had learnt in the WorldSSP300 category and learn new skills whilst getting used to faster bikes.

Superbike World Championship (SBK)

Toprak Razgatlioglu, WorldSBK, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2023
Toprak Razgatlioglu, WorldSBK, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2023 – Motorsport Images

The top class in the series, it’s the category superbike races want to race in, think of it as the top MotoGP class but for production-based bikes rather than prototypes. These bikes are fast and the racing can be close, especially between the top three. This was the only category included in SBK 22 and some people found it very difficult to be put straight on a Superbike without having the luxury of learning via the lower categories.

As previously mentioned, having all three categories would help flesh out the career mode as you have to try to work your way up to the SBK category and then try to win that championship, rather than being able to win the SBK championship straight away as in SBK 22.

We also think that online multiplayer would also become more popular with the different categories. Speaking of which…

Cross-platform multiplayer

Just a couple of weeks after the release of SBK 22, the online lobbies became a wasteland. Trying to find other people to race against was nearly impossible.

The title suffered a lack of cross-platform play and it didn’t even feature cross-generation play, which really didn’t help.

Yet, MotoGP 22 had cross-generation play from launch, but when numbers started to dwindle they introduced cross-platform play post-launch, which really helped boost the numbers online. The upcoming MotoGP 23 will also have this feature set.

MotoGP 22 cross-platform online multiplayer, PlayStation
Cross-platform online multiplayer within MotoGP 22

A new SBK 23 game would really benefit from both cross-generation and cross-platform play to help boost online player numbers, or at least grouping everyone into the same ecosystem helping to hopefully deliver fuller lobbies.

If the extra bike categories are also included, the online community should last a lot longer than SBK 22. You really don’t realise how important cross-platform play is until you’ve gone from having it in one game to not having it in another. As an Xbox player predominantly, I had great fun racing against people on PC and PlayStation in MotoGP 22, those of which I wouldn’t normally have the chance to race against.

Historic bikes, riders and circuits

More content which was present in stablemate MotoGP 22, but lacking in SBK 22, was historic bikes, riders and circuits.

Adding these to SBK 23 would be very much welcomed, again it would mean more bikes for us to blast around and race, plus more circuits as well.

But more than that, the older Milestone-developer SBK games have a strong lineage with historical content. The real-world WorldSBK championship has a long history, so choosing a select few would be difficult but not impossible.

Ben Spies, Donington Park 2009, WorldSBK - Motorsport Images
Ben Spies, Donington Park 2009, WorldSBK – Motorsport Images

Going back to the Carl Fogarty era would be great, or even back to the beginning. But then there’s the Edwards and Bayliss generation or the ‘rookie of the year sensation’ of Ben Spies back in 2009. There’s so much to choose from, so don’t leave it out!

If only one era is focused on for each yearly instalment of SBK (providing there is one), Milestone could focus on different defining moments in history with each game rather than having the same selection just with a couple of additions per release like the MotoGP games.

With each era, this would provide a few historic circuits, a lot of which they no longer visit. These are always a nostalgia trip when racing a certain circuit with a specific rider and bike from a particular year, reliving a race you may have seen on the TV or read about.

More detailed career mode with multiple seasons

To say SBK 22’s career mode was similar to that of MotoGP’s would be an understatement, it was a carbon copy.

SBK 23’s career mode should be able to move out of the shadow of MotoGP’s and be a separate experience, we hope. Sure, there are parts of it which fit well with both games but some tweaks would be best to deliver greater differentiation between the two series. At the very least, the UI should be different enough to be able to distinguish between them both – last year it was identical save for the colour.

SBK 22 game - career management and development
SBk 22’s career was identical to prior MotoGP games – minus support categories

2012’s SBK Generations got one thing spot on, which was the inclusion of multiple seasons: 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. This resulted in all bikes, riders and circuits from these respective seasons. You also got to see riders move up categories, change bike manufacturers and even leave the championship altogether.

This would be amazing to see in a new SBK 23 game, however, despite fans asking for rider transfers in both MotoGP and SBK games, Milestone states that its licencing deal doesn’t allow for such. This is understandable due to contract obligations with teams, riders and sponsors. I don’t think Kawasaki would be happy if they saw Jonathan Rea switch from them to BMW in the game, for example, when that hasn’t happened in reality.

SBK Generations, Milestone, 2012, WorldSBK game
SBK Generations from 2012, the last Milestone WorldSBK game

However, why not base the career mode over multiple seasons as seen in SBK Generations? A neat loophole, this way players get a much longer and more immersive career mode alongside historically accurate rider transfers. Also, players would see the calendar change over the seasons and visit some different circuits, keeping things fresh and exciting.

One last thing… Or two

The suspension model could do with tweaking, as in last year’s game it bottoms out too easily and too quickly, especially on the kerbs. Oh goodness, those kerbs, please fix those damn kerbs! And finally, a finished glitch-free release for SBK 23 would be amazing, surely that’s not too much to ask, is it?

Whilst SBK 22 was a disappointment, I’m glad it exists. It is a starting point for, hopefully, an annual gaming release for the championship, and while there are several aspects Milestone could improve upon (graphics, sound etc.), the points listed here are what we would like to see first and foremost should SBK 23 be produced later this year. Handlebars crossed that we do!

Images: Motorsport Images

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