NASCAR Heat Evolution, the first officially licensed, all-encompassing NASCAR video game for the current generation of consoles, is available today on the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Xbox One.
NASCAR Heat Evolution was built to serve and is now for sale across North America in time for the Chase for the Cup Playoff. Experienced gamers, new fans of the sport and kids interested in stock car auto racing as a profession will be amazed at the realism, fun and ability to play competitive multiplayer online using a gaming console, an industry first. Break out your PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system or Xbox One and get ready to play the first officially licensed NASCAR video game. The Sports Techie community blog had a chat yesterday with Matt Dusenberry, Director of Partnership Development, Dusenberry Martin Racing (DMR), about game features and their new adaptive artificial (AI) engine allowing for realistic head-to-head racing on the web for a POV experience like no other. I also chatted with Blake Davidson, NASCAR vice president of Licensing and Consumer Products, about NASCAR Team Properties (NTP) and NASCAR partnering with their exclusive simulation-style licensee to deliver the most advanced sports technology driven, authentic auto racing sim software to the gaming community in North America and fans worldwide. The game is loaded with 23 iconic NASCAR licensed tracks, 43 of the most talented drivers; online competitive racing with up to 40 player’s online, new career mode, new challenges, new setups and new paint schemes, all this is available to buy as rated E for everyone.
NASCAR Heat Evolution Launch Trailer
“NASCAR Heat Evolution will bring the excitement of NASCAR into the homes of gamers across the country, allowing players of all ages to engage with our sport in the most entertaining NASCAR game ever created,” said Davidson. “Many of our rising stars’ first exposure to NASCAR was through video games, which underscores the impact they can have by driving interest and creating life-long fans.”
- Robust Career and Championship modes enable users to feel the excitement of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
- New Career mode
- New Challenge packs, complete with 23 different challenges and built to simulate what it is like to become your favorite drivers and recreate NASCAR history during the 2016 season
- New Setups, go into garage and customize your car
- New Damage mode, across all features, recreate entire NASCAR experience
- New Paint Schemes packs, DLC downloadable content, paid and nonpaid, such as Darlington Raceway throwback schemes, Chase Branded schemes and additional secondary paint schemes for teams
- Become your favorite racer or match up in a full loaded field from a pool of 43 talented drivers and teams
- Begin with the rookie season and be entered for entry into The Chase
- Create your own NASCAR future racing against new drivers such as Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, and others in their NASCAR video game debut
- Spotter voices, inject celebrity voices or download the voice of Rick Allen or Matt Tifft
- Billboards on racetracks are the same as in the game
“NASCAR Heat Evolution marks the beginning of a new era in NASCAR digital games from Dusenberry Martin Racing,” said Tom Dusenberry, CEO of DMR. “From day one, DMR’s main focus was to provide a fun, authentic NASCAR experience to all fans. NASCAR Heat Evolution is all about the drivers, and I truly believe we have delivered.”
NASCAR Heat Evolution How To: General Walkthrough with Jeff Favignano
AI and Speed Rating System
The DMR mission is to deliver the most intense NASCAR racing experience. In order to do so, the code from the old version of Heat Evolution was abandoned. DMR rebuilt their new AI from the ground up. Dusenberry said, “Since we rebuilt the AI, no old code was used.”
The adaptive AI adjusts to skill levels, allows for a new online multiplayer feature, a variety of gameplay modes, and car turning options, all designed to take up your heart rate and racing knowledge when you compete against up to 40 racers over the internet. The dynamic AI system learns how a user races on the racetrack based on criteria such as top speeds, then it assigns a speed rating. This proprietary DMR technology was designed to make the racing gaming experience authentic for both experienced NASCAR gamers and new players alike. If you are a kid and do not know much about the rules, pit stops or downshifting, the AI will slow down to slower levels to make it easier to learn. If you are a NASCAR master and know the nuances of the Talladega, Bristol and Darlington tracks, your skill level will be challenged and then some.
The speed rating system high score is 105. Matt has played since the games inception and has a very high rating of 102. Blake just, “Bumped up to “Career Mode,” after learning bits and pieces about NASCAR driving.” Davidson struggled at first being an underfunded driver but earned the attention of 30 sponsors and has earned a rating of 88-89 he shared with a laugh.
Top NASCAR drivers provided tested the early version of Heat Evolution and gave valuable feedback to DMR. Drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Matt Tifft, Ryan Blaney, and Ben Kennedy were hired by DMR to help develop and test the game.
Keselowski and Blaney, a 22 year old, third generation racer, authenticated the racing experience, cars, tracks, lines, shifting, and all that goes into NASCAR. Dusenberry said, “I was amazed how good Blaney was. He would race, then crash, race again then crash, then the third or fourth race; he would master the car, track and intangibles.”
“I still get the same adrenaline (playing the video game) that I get when I’m racing,” Keselowski said. “At the end of a race, you feel your heart rate go up, you feel the adrenaline pump — that’s in the car. When I’m racing in a video game, I get the same feeling. Like, it’s coming down to the end, I’ve gotta close this out and your heart’s beating fast. It’s just a video game, but it’s more than that to you in your mind.”
The 40 person online competitive multiplayer console option is a revolutionary new technology solution. Turn on the setting and join a hosted race and race against friends, or play with online races. The multiplayer feature only has human drivers on the track. Data produced while racing in online games is hosted on a server. Because of this configuration, all race data is saved on the server and is no longer running on any single players console or computer.
Pit stops are available during online races but it is restricted to certain race length and wear options selected. Racers can also create a private online race and invite friends, especially fun when hosting weekly races in NASCAR Heat Evolution leagues.
Players have the option of joining an existing session or creating their own. When setting up your own race, select the track, number of laps, fuel/tire wear, and max number of players. Racing begins 60 seconds after race creation regardless of whether the requested amount of players are entered.
Select from No Rules, Normal, and Hosted online lobbies:
- No Rules Lobby: Rookies will want to start here because of the practice mode and options to play with friends while selecting races and crashes as well as learn techniques for bumping
- Normal Lobby: For serious racers with rules designed to test skill levels while at the same time searching for sportsmanship and camaraderie focused racing
- Hosted Lobby: Hardcore, veteran racers only unless you dare to give it a go just because. Each race host can decide on the skill level of racers for entry to the lobby. Set the session level to the appropriate number and enjoy racing against same skilled opponents with the option to kick out racers that don’t seem to fit your skill level parameters
No other NASCAR video game has these cutting edge sports tech tools built in.
Races happen on 23 licensed 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule tracks. Each track was recreated with specs approved by track owners such as the tight corners in Martinsville and the hills of Sonoma.
The all-new dynamic lighting mode enables race sessions to operate during the early morning light at Colossus, at the peak sun hours of a weekend day race in Phoenix or the Auto Club Speedway in California, at dusk when the twilight makes it tricky to gauge perspective at Bristol, or even an evening session at night in Charlotte under the twinkling stars when passing can be hazardous.
At the moment there are no weather options such as rain, sleet, or wind. Caution flags are not available during online multiplayer races. Online split screens are also wish list items. Dusenberry said, “It was difficult to decide what to initially build into this version in a year and a half, look for new NASCAR Heat Evolution versions to have additional features.”
Dusenberry is proud about NASCAR Heat Evolution bringing back Challenges. NASCAR Heat Evolution shipped with 23 different Challenges, one for each track. If you enjoy NASCAR classic moments, you will love this feature. Dusenberry said, “Challenges are awesome, they are mini scenarios that recreate history.”
A couple classic moment stories he shared involved the 2016 Daytona 500 and Food City 500.
During the final lap of the Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin ran side-by-side and bumped Martin Truex Jr. to win in a photo finish for the ages.
Hamlin wins by a nose in the Daytona 500
Imagine you rerace at Daytona as Truex Jr. and actually win the gripping photo finish because of your heady racing skill and calm demeanor.
Then there was the emotional sixth-place finish by longshot Matt DiBenedetto at Bristol Motor Speedway. His BK racing team was underfunded at the Food City 500 but managed to pull out a finish for the ages he emotionally celebrated with family and crew. Try racing as DiBenedetto and winning it all.
Career mode allows users to go in and create their own character, whether male and female. Selecting the sex type changes the racers physical attributes. Start as an underfunded car. Only by improving performance can you improve the race team. Begin at the bottom and work your way up to the top. This is a deep and fulfilling racing experience.
Consoles and Computers
Matt has both the PS4 and Xbox in his office and plays all the time, he prefers neither console. He tells me the game does run on the new Xbox Scorpio. Heat Evolution is now available on the PlayStation Store.
The Steam console is new to me. I did some research on it because the PC version of NASCAR Heat Evolution is only available on Windows via Steam. Steam is the online PC game store for Windows. The Steam Play download gives users the option to purchase games once and then play them anywhere. Steam Play gives you the option to play on a PC with Windows or a Mac running Linux free of charge. Heat Evolution is not yet available on Mac.
SportsBiz / Fan Experience
I spoke to Blake about NASCAR, NASCAR Team Properties and their gaming strategy. He said, “Today was a fun day (we spoke yesterday) as is the case when we launch a new product that is months and months in the works.”
Davidson has been in the NASCAR industry for 20 years. He manages day-to-day relations with NASCAR Team Properties. Together with DMR, they developed a comprehensive game experience, as he put it. “The video game has something for everyone. The depth of experience is unmatched. Players can dial up the skill level as needed, rookie level, career mode, challenge mode, the AI, and more, make it truly unique.”
He met NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt, and felt it was, “A privilege and honor to meet him.”
Blake is emphatic about the new video game and the potential to engage existing and new fan bases with it while created tremendous exposure for sponsors and the sport itself. He said, “The game features make for a better NASCAR experience for all level of gamers.”
The role gaming plays overall is significant for NASCAR. Heat Evolution was not simply created for people to have engagement with the game; rather, it delivers exposure and an intro to the sport for new and existing fans. The game is another NASCAR activation piece for fans to enjoy that compliments being at the track in person, or watching live or on-demand, on TV or digital devices.
Both Davidson and Dusenberry were completely in sync about the ability for all levels of fans to participate in the sport through gaming. Future NASCAR racers often begin playing video games because not all have the financial resources to train any other way. The driving experiences players obtain in Heat Evolution can translate into a career as a driver and racing team member.
Multiplayer with 40 people at the same time for the first time ever is an engagement component no other car racing game can match. Davidson said, “NASCAR Heat Evolution also brings a sense of community around the leagues. The depth of experience is unique and helps grow the game.”
At the same time, Heat Evolution delivers additional branding to sponsors such as Toyota, putting their messaging in front of fans.
Because NASCAR racetracks average 100,000 fans in attendance and fans often travel great distances as a vacation to be part of the festivities and racing atmosphere, the event is an opportunity to activate programs around consumer products such as Heat Evolution. These venues are massive in size allowing the brand and their partners to offer fan experiences throughout the multi-day tournaments that use sports technology as a key tool for engagement. Over a weekend, there is down time from actual live racing in which to fill in the gaps.
Heat Evolution and NASCAR Team Properties partnered with Xfinity and this weekend in Chicago there will be massive big screens, professional gamers and onsite game consoles where fans can play the game. Look for gaming competitions and more fan experience opportunities at future NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule races.
The game is on NASCAR’s international radar for distribution because it helps expand the brand as fast as they can by bringing it into existing and new markets. Dusenberry said, “DMR is exploring the potential for distributing the product overseas.” Davidson added, “NASCAR is shown in more than 200 nations and we have racing series in Canada, Mexico and Europe.” Markets such as Asia, Africa and South America are being considered.
In terms of the highly coveted youth market, Davidson said, “Millennials and generation Z are a big part of the target audience. If a boy, girl or teenager has never played they can pick up the controller and have fun.” He also wanted it known that, “For the experienced fan, it is easy to dial up the skill level and challenges because it mimics the sport.” The art of the game was created to appeal to all spectators and players.
Davidson finished off our conversation by saying NASCAR has a focus on new tech. Virtual reality, augmented reality and other technologies create opportunities for a first person experience, much like the drivers themselves go through. Both hardcore fans and newbies alike will have the chance to virtually become the racers themselves.
Dusenberry Martin Racing was founded in January of 2015. Their office is located at the NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the floor above the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Matt’s father, Tom, is the former founder and president of Hasbro Interactive. Their family has been in the business for several generations now and are also major fans of the sport.
DMR are experts with developing, selling and marketing NASCAR digital game fan experiences on video consoles, smartphones, tablets, PC’s, and other emerging platforms. DMR partnered with top brands to develop the best NASCAR digital game fan experience on the market.
Matt handles Business Development, managing the industry, brand and sponsors for the game. He tells me Toyota stepped up in a big way to be a major sponsor securing the rights to signage throughout the game. His work background in the NASCAR industry includes working for Keselowski.
I asked Matt if he had ever met the legendary Dale Earnhardt. Matt said when he was 12 years old back in 1999 when he met Dale Sr. at the Loudon, New Hampshire, one-mile track. You don’t forget that whether you work in industry or not.
NASCAR Heat Evolution History
This racing video game has a long history, originally launched as NASCAR Heat in 1999 by Hasbro Interactive. EA Sports acquired the game rights which were then purchased by Eutechnyx. In 2015, DMR formerly known as DMi Games, acquired licensing rights until 2020.
NASCAR Heat Evolution was developed by Monster Games and published by DMR.
Carl Edwards was selected via a competition to be cover driver based on his fourth-place Sprint All-Star Race final ranking amongst eligible Toyota drivers that included, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR Team Properties
NASCAR Team Properties is a NASCAR industry managed organization created to promote efficiency and operational structure for the sport’s licensed merchandise business. NTP is comprised of NASCAR and participating teams in NASCAR’s national race series and is operated under a Board of Directors representing those organizations. Teams currently participating in the console video game agreement include: BK Racing; Chip Ganassi Racing; Circle Sport – Leavine Fenton Racing; Front Row Motorsports; Furniture Row Racing; Germain Racing; Go Fas Racing; Hendrick Motorsports; H Scott Motorsports; Joe Gibbs Racing; JR Motorsports; JTG Motorsports; Penske Racing South; Richard Childress Racing; Richard Petty Motorsports; Roush Fenway Racing; Stewart-Haas Racing; Tommy Baldwin Racing; and Wood Brothers Racing.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™, NASCAR XFINITY Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series, one local grassroots series and three international series. The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit http://www.NASCAR.com and http://www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).
NASCAR Heat Evolution is available in North America for $59.99 as a retail and digital release on the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One and Windows PC. This title is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.
The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup kicks off with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, with additional coverage on NASCAR.com.
Sports Techie, I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look into the new NASCAR Heat Evolution video game with features unlike offered on other car racing games. I enjoyed being a NASCAR inGEAR contributor last season and learned a lot. I wrote a previous blog about NASCAR also partnering with DraftKings for an official daily fantasy NASCAR game.
Living in Atlanta gives me the option to one-day check out a race in person for the first time at the local Atlanta Motor Speedway.
For the rest of you, either you are already a fan, love the sport and attend races whenever you can so you will love the game. Or,you are new to NASCAR and can check out all the racing nuances through NASCAR Heat Revolution.
Competitive multiplayer online is sure to be a big hit.
Thanks to Matt and Blake for the information and insight.
See y’all later in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world.
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