Long before Rockstar Games turned Grand Theft Auto into a racing game so it could start charging people $20 each time they wanted to buy an off-brand JDM classic and all the relevant mods, it had a series called Midnight Club. Midnight Club was great. You paid $50 — or as little as $20 for the biggest game in the series, Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix — and got access to as many virtual Skylines and Supras as you liked. It was a different time.
On Friday we were offered a glimmer of hope that a new entry could be in the works, via Video Games Chronicle. The site happened upon a LinkedIn post by Visual Concepts — a team that belongs to the same publishing group as Rockstar, Take Two Interactive — seeking a producer for “an unannounced, open-world driving game with a major license.” This untitled effort will be triple-A in scope and release on multiple platforms, the description continues.
The likely reason there hasn’t been a new Midnight Club in 14 years is sort of the same reason there hasn’t been a new GTA in nine: publisher Take Two is doing just fine as a content factory for GTA Online instead of making whole new games. Besides, GTA Online does admittedly scratch the Midnight Club itch to a certain degree, with its extensive customization and vast car roster. GTA even cribbed Midnight Club’s novel idea for street races, where there’s no defined route to follow but rather a series of disparate checkpoints you’re free to link up however you want.
We know that Rockstar is working on the next GTA courtesy of a blog post last week. There’s no reason to think it won’t continue to prioritize street racing as a significant pillar — and moneymaker — of the brand.
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Considering that, I have a hard time believing that Visual Concepts’ racing game will be a new Midnight Club. It’s never been the studio’s franchise — hell, the studio has never made a racing game before. The California-based team became known for its 2K series of sports titles that launched on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, around the same time it was acquired by Sega. Take Two bought Visual Concepts from Sega in 2004, where it’s basically been making the same sorts of games ever since.
There’s another big piece of this pitch that’s crucial to remember: this game will supposedly carry “a major license.” The only car-themed license applicable to an open-world game I could imagine anyone caring about is Fast & Furious, and the last major F&F console game came out in 2020 only to be universally panned. “The most impressive thing about Fast & Furious Crossroads is the balls of Bandai Namco to release it as a full, $60 video game,” Kotaku’s Mike Fahey said at the time. “This is budget fare at best.”
Besides Midnight Club, Take Two now has the mobile titan CSR Racing among its assets, after having announced a plan to buy developer Zynga last month. So maybe it’ll be a CSR game. Regardless, I don’t think I have it in me to believe a new Midnight Club is actually happening, only to have to deal with the crushing feeling when it fails to materialize. I’ll just keep doing what I’ve always done — dip into GTA Online every three years until I inevitably reach a point where I don’t feel like taking out a mortgage to afford any new content, and disappear again.