One of the oddest licensing sagas in racing games looks like it could be at an end, as Playground Games has — somewhat overtly — teased the return of four Italian marques to Forza Horizon 5, opening the door to their return across the entire genre of racing games as it suggests Stellantis has moved back towards video game licensing in general.
Following the end of the Series 23 “Summer Party” preview in today’s Forza Monthly stream, FH5 community developer Giuseppe Dalicante made the surprise announcement that Abarth, Alfa Romeo, FIAT, and Lancia will be coming back to Horizon in the Italian Automotive Series 24, beginning August 17.
These four brands are among 16 marques that fall under the banner of Stellantis, a multinational conglomerate formed in January 2021 by the merger of two giant European manufacturers: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Peugeot’s PSA Group.
This is where, for racing game fans at least, the troubles began. No matter what your preferred racing title, it likely hasn’t escaped your attention that new games — including Forza Horizon 5 — either launched without many cars from among these brands or hasn’t added any since launch.
Of course there have been exceptions to this rule. The addition of the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm to Gran Turismo 7 was one, but notably it’s a 2020 model from before the merger. Some classic cars have also sneaked through the net, and the three brands that do not operate in Europe appear mostly unaffected.
It’s never been entirely clear what the particular issue here is, though Stellantis is unique among massive, multi-marque companies in having unified all of its brands’ press offices and public relations operations into a single entity.
That means motoring journalists will speak to entirely different teams for Audi, Bentley, Cupra, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda, and Volkswagen, but the same small group of people for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, DS, FIAT, Jeep, Lancia, Peugeot, and Vauxhall. Meanwhile Chrysler, Dodge, and RAM have no European presence and a US-centric PR operation.
With vehicle licensing being a PR-led activity, it seems likely that this consolidation has resulted in the situation we see today where no new licenses have been available — GT7’s Giulia clearly beating the merger buzzer — and only games with very long licensing agreements retain the French and Italian brands. Forza’s licenses are sufficiently short that there is no Forza Motorsport game on sale today due to licenses expiring.
We’ll need to wait and see exactly what cars the brands are bringing back to Forza Horizon 5, which will likely be revealed in the next Forza Monthly stream in early August. For now though, it’s a note of cautious optimism.