Good times never last, and F1 22 has seen Codemasters' run of success come to an end with the annual Formula 1 release.
This year's game has seemingly faded away far faster than in previous years, but why? F1 is bigger than ever with race tracks seeing record attendance and TV viewership, especially in the US, growing rapidly.
Even the F1 Esports audience is growing, but for some reason F1 22 has dropped off faster than any game since F1 2019 (Per Steam player counts).
So what has happened with F1 22? And what should Codemasters learn from it?
Same game blues
Annual sports titles are notorious for being the "same game every year", but the one title that avoided that tagline was the Formula 1 series.
Codemasters usually had something new each year in their arsenal. Be it a revised R&D tree, revamped interfaces, F2, My Team, or Braking Point, for the last several years there has always been something new in the F1 games.
For F1 22, at least in career & My Team modes there was nothing new. No new feature or any changes to development. There was the addition of sprint races and a few tweaks to practice, but that was it.
The disappointment from players was palpable. Thanks to Codemasters' & EA's enormous pre-release push we knew well ahead of time that there wasn't anything even minor changing in the way your rags-to-riches F1 journey would go.
Sure, the new cars were introduced with their different feel and there was a new track in Miami, but once the novelty of that wore off players were left with the same game as last year, and it really hurt overall interest in the game.
Content creators have bemoaned an overall lack of interest in F1 22, with Aarava taking to Twitter to discuss how disappointing F1 22 has been.
But F1 22 did have a big new feature. It had F1 Life.
F1 Life flops
F1 Life has been an enormous, and entirely predictable, flop.
The idea was to bring players into the lifestyle of Formula 1 drivers. You could create an avatar with a casual wardrobe as well as race gear. They had a flat to furnish and could buy supercars to run through Pirelli Hotlap challenges.
The problem was that none of that interested players. At all. People buy the F1 games to go racing in F1 cars, not to pick out carpets or buy Beats headphones for an avatar.
What was worse was that your F1 Life avatar was not your multiplayer avatar and you couldn't race the supercars against friends.
It all felt disjointed and detached from the actual experience people came for. It was made even worse that players were coming to F1 22 from Gran Turismo 7, which for all its failures actually delivers when it comes to driving and racing supercars which F1 Life absolutely did not.
Quite what the thinking behind F1 Life was we don't know, but it has been a huge miss for Codemasters and hopefully won't be returning.
What can be done?
The problems of F1 22 that we have detailed so far, along with the usual legacy problems that come from a game with a lot of spaghetti code after years on the same engine, won't be fixed easily.
Codemasters has two teams that work on alternating versions. So F1 23 is already well into its development. Its big feature is likely to be the next step in Braking Point, not a core upgrade for My Team or Career Mode.
The odd-year team is the one that introduced the Feeder Series story in F1 2019 and Braking Point in F1 2021, which is why we are assuming F1 23 will go down that line.
This is likely to receive a similarly glum reception as F1 Life, and if it doesn't come with My Team & Career Mode the backlash could be severe.
Like every annual sports game, there is a guaranteed player base for F1 regardless of feature & gameplay innovation, but if Codies & EA want it to grow in line with the overall growth of the sport they have to keep the overall discussion of the game positive. Which it isn't right now.
While things like an open livery design tool, non-championship tracks, and in-race commentary are never going to be a thing no matter how many Reddit threads are started, there is some innovation that could happen.
Opening up car design for My Team so players can pick their sidepods or front wing styles and adding in personnel hiring & firing would be great, though might step on the toes of the F1 Manager license. The R&D system would benefit from a complete overhaul too.
All that said, Codemasters have struck a great balance with their games between both simulation and accessibility and between pad and wheel. While the balance of the game has drifted more to wheel players recently, it is still possible to enjoy it and be fast on a pad.
That balance is key to enticing new players in and while it might disappoint those at the top of the league pyramids to not push the game more toward sim gameplay, what they have right now works. It's just starting to feel stale outside of that and it's a trend they must address.