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What we would like to see in an SBK 23 game

After waiting a full decade for a new SBK game, Milestone dropped SBK 22 late last year to only moderate reception.

Although we’ve seen quite a few mobile World Superbike games over the last few years; Console and PC gamers haven’t seen anything since SBK Generations in 2012.

Fans, myself included, were excited to see what the Milanese company could bring to the franchise with their MotoGP series experience. However, we were unfortunately disappointed.

Due to the lack of features, classes, and game modes, this release felt more like a DLC expansion than a standalone title. Maybe Milestone was just testing the waters to see what kind of reception SBK would get before expanding further in the future?

So today I’m going to talk about some features I’d like to see in SBK 23 should we see another release later this year.

Multiple classes

SBK 22 contained only one class from the championship, the Superbike class. And while that’s the category most people are interested in, the omission of the other classes had a knock-on effect on career mode and multiplayer.

More classes would mean more bikes and different ways to play. The bikes in the Superbike World Championship are all standard and are divided into three categories:

World Supersport 300 (WorldSSP300)

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

The junior class where young drivers start their SBK campaign. Similar to 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 base as riders try to get the most out of their bikes. This could then be a good starting point for career mode to help people understand the game and learn circuits. And as a bonus, the race should be hectic and include a lot of overtaking maneuvers.

World Supersport (WorldSSP)

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

This is the mid-range where cornering speed is key. Again, this helps riders to develop their riding skills while also getting used to a bigger and faster bike as they step up from the WorldSSP300 class. Similar to the previous class, racing can be quite hectic and this category quickly became known as the ‘axeman’ category in its early days as racing often involved more contact than a boxing match.

Things calmed down over the years and the somewhat brutal nickname soon lost some of its meaning. Regulations have also changed recently, which has contributed to the growth of the class as more manufacturers add motorcycles to the category. The addition of this category to SBK 23 would help players develop what they learned in the WorldSSP300 category and learn new skills whilst also getting used to faster bikes.

Superbike World Championship (SBK)

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

The top class of the series, it’s the category that Superbike racing wants to compete in. Think of it as the top MotoGP class, but for production based bikes and not prototypes. These bikes are fast and the races can get close, especially between the top three. This was the only category featured in SBK 22 and some people found it very difficult to navigate a superbike without the luxury of learning about the lower categories.

As mentioned, having all three categories would improve the career mode as you have to try to work your way up to the SBK category and then try to win that championship instead of being able to win the SBK championship straight away like before in SBK 22.

We also believe that online multiplayer would also become more popular across the different categories. Speaking of…

Cross-platform multiplayer

Just a few weeks after the release of SBK 22, the online lobbies became a wasteland. It was almost impossible to find other people to compete against.

The title lacked cross-platform playability and didn’t even allow for cross-gen play, which really didn’t help.

Still, MotoGP 22 featured cross-gen play from the start, but when the numbers started to drop, cross-platform play was introduced post-release, which really helped boost the numbers online. The upcoming MotoGP 23 will also have this range of functions.

MotoGP 22 online cross-platform multiplayer, PlayStationCross-platform online multiplayer in MotoGP 22

A new SBK 23 game would really benefit from being both cross-gen and cross-platform to increase online player counts, or at least group everyone into the same ecosystem, which would hopefully result in fuller lobbies.

If the additional bike categories are factored in as well, the online community should last much longer than it did with SBK 22. You really don’t realize the importance of cross-platform play until you’ve transitioned from one game to not having another. Being primarily an Xbox player, I really enjoyed competing in MotoGP 22 against people on PC and PlayStation that I wouldn’t normally have a chance against.

Historic motorcycles, riders and racetracks

Other content that was present in stablemate MotoGP 22 but absent from SBK 22 was historical bikes, riders and tracks.

Adding these to the SBK 23 would be very welcome as that too would mean we would have more bikes to ride around and race and also do more tracks.

But beyond that, the Milestone developer’s older SBK games have a strong lineage with historical content. The real WorldSBK Championship has a long history so picking a select few would be difficult but not impossible.

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

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

If each annual edition of SBK focuses on just one era (assuming there is one), Milestone could focus on different defining moments in history for each game, rather than the same selection with just a few like the MotoGP games To have supplements per release.

With each era, this would create some historic routes, many of which are no longer visited. It’s always a nostalgic journey, riding a certain rider and bike from a certain year at a certain track and reliving a race you may have seen on TV or read about.

More detailed career mode with multiple seasons

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

Our hope is that SBK 23’s career mode will step out of the shadow of MotoGP and be an experience in its own right. Certainly there are parts of it that fit well with both games, but some tweaks would be best to achieve greater differentiation between the two series. At the very least, the user interface should be different enough to distinguish the two – last year it was identical except for the color.

SBK 22 Game - Career Management and DevelopmentSBk 22’s career was identical to previous MotoGP games – minus the support categories

The 2012 SBK Generations got one thing right: the inclusion of multiple seasons: 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The result was all the bikes, riders and tracks from those respective seasons. You could also see riders moving up in categories, changing bike manufacturers and even leaving the championship altogether.

This would be amazing to see in a new SBK 23 game. However, despite fans demanding rider transfers in both MotoGP and SBK matches, Milestone states that its licensing deal doesn’t allow it. This is understandable due to contractual obligations with teams, drivers and sponsors. I don’t think Kawasaki would be happy if they saw Jonathan Rea move from them to BMW in-game, for example, when that didn’t happen in reality.

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

However, why not align the career mode across multiple seasons as seen in SBK Generations? A nice omission, as it gives players a much longer and more intense career mode, as well as historically correct driver transfers. Also, players could see how the calendar changed throughout the season and visit different circuits to keep things fresh and exciting.

One last thing…or two

The suspension model could use some tweaking as over the last year it bottoms out too easily and too quickly, especially on the curbs. Oh god, those curbs, please fix those damn curbs! And finally, a finished, trouble-free release for SBK 23 would be amazing, surely that’s not asking too much, is it?

Although SBK 22 was a disappointment, I’m glad it’s here. It’s a starting point for what will hopefully be an annual game release for the championship, and while there are several aspects that Milestone could improve (graphics, sound, etc.), the points listed here are what we should primarily see in SBK 23 later on produced this year. Crossed handlebars, we do!

Images: Motorsport images

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