I get the impression that between the Young Driver Test and the more arcade-style Champions and Season Challenge modes that you're trying to branch out to a new audience.
"Yeah, I think so. We think we've done a pretty good job getting the hardcore - I hate calling people the hardcore - but more hardcore people. These are guys who we very much consider ourselves [to be] hardcore racers; some of these guys are going to buy it anyway.
"So, I think the biggest thing for F1 games... we broke new boundaries with F1 2010, a lot more people bought the game than ever bought an F1 game before, but we are still short on sales of Gran Turismo or Forza. If you look back at the racing research, most people who haven't played F1 instantly think its going to be too time consuming or too difficult for them.
"So a lot of the campaign this year is about showcasing that F1 is a game for everyone, it's a sport game just like FIFA is a simulation of football. That's the campaign angle if you like, but that's not to say that we're not doing things to enhance the areas that the hardcore focus on.
"I said this to our brand manager. There will be some people who think all we're doing is tailoring to this new audience. But it's about maintaining and showing these guys that we can improve year upon year, but also tapping into a new audience as well."
You also said in your gamescom presentation that this was like a difficult third album. Was there any more pressure this year than in previous years?
"Not so much no, it's the pressure we put on ourselves I guess. F1 2010 was a hugely ambitious game, F1 2011 was really bringing the multiplayer up to the level it needed to be [at], and then that was good to take a step back, because we've got an ideas document rammed full of things we want to do.
"But which elements do we need to bring in now? Which elements are a little more ambitious? Localised weather for example wasn't scheduled for this year, but it kind of evolved through and the guys worked really, really hard on it and we pulled it in. We've got this little R&D team working in the background as well."
"Some of the things with F1 2011, because the box looked the same, the paddock looked the same, the UI looked the same, people thought it was literally the same. It's difficult with an annual franchise.
"We looked at other games like FIFA as well. Whenever you read reviews, they say it's a bit light on content and it's always difficult to add loads of new stuff as well as to get in things you want from previous years. It is a bit of a challenge, but with next gen just round the corner, we have one eye on that as well."
You said in the presentation that the feedback showed it was hard to communicate what was new exactly in the game. How do you do that this year?
"The Young Driver Test goes right into that at the start of the game, and then there's new icons calling out new content as soon as you get in there and [which] explain a little bit about it. Also, I think the way we introduce each game mode with a voiceover introduction helps frame it, and says that this is different.
"So if you go into Quick Race, it's about getting onto the grid as fast as possible and just getting a snack bit of gameplay, if you like. The Champions Scenario mode is a little bit more introduced, and it's highlighted on the UI system as to what is new.
"That wouldn't stay there forever, but if you have a new profile then it will indicate that you haven't experienced this game mode before. Then, when you've played it a few times, it will disappear off."
Is the Young Driver Test mode strictly for beginners, or is it for seasoned players as well?
"A bit of both, to be honest. I think [with] Day One, we didn't want it to be too condescending, but at the same time you want it to be levelling everyone up. Initially our fear was, especially offering it on the demo, would be that people who are the hardcore would say, 'I know all this!'
"But we did a focus test recently and it wasn't quite as easy as we initially thought it would be, so guys who would consider themselves quite schooled at racing games went through, and literally Day One is over in like, seven to eight minutes. You have the option to come back for Day Two and there are a couple of videos in there."
You've added the Champions Scenario mode. Is that something you've wanted to do for a while?
"I think so. I can't remember exactly which game it was, but one of the EA games had scenario-based challenges and when we first got the license in 2008 we were looking back at Lewis Hamilton and the way he won in Brazil and those epic last few corners, and to be able to download that and be able to do that scenario would be amazing.
"We've been thinking about it for a while, and one thing the RaceNet will allow us to do is let us upload new challenges and content, so it's a system we've had to develop anyway. That tied in with the fact there were six world champions and Super Monaco GP back in the day when you used to be able to challenge rivals, it was all very Japanese, like, 'I accept your challenge!'
"It was cool the way you could progress through and you viewed it as a new experience. So when we first put it into the game we weren't sure if it was a mode that would necessarily appeal to everyone, but I love the fact that you can join a race mid-progress and it just feels so different to, 'Oh it's qualifying and oh, I'm on the grid again'. Not all challenges start midway through, but certainly enough of them do offer something different."
Do the challenges tap into historical events?
"No, they don't really - but Lewis Hamilton is Brazil and it's just started to rain - but it's not too accurate. We didn't think too much about historical things. The problem with historical things is that you can remember what did happen and it'll become a case of you just trying to recreate that moment exactly, rather than balance it and finesse it.
"The Kimi [Raikkonen] one, there's so many backmarkers in the mix, it really just spices it up and I don't think you can have that creative element if it's too much based on real life - especially with real Formula 1 being difficult to overtake, that type of thing."
You say with RaceNet you can release new challenges. How does that work?
"We're still looking at what we're going to offer with RaceNet. Obviously there's the whole system of stats pages and tracking stats and going somewhere online to review other gaming profiles. But one of the things the guys are looking at at the moment is the opportunity to upload multiplayer events, or content where you can compete over a race weekend.
"We do a lot of data tracking with F1, and what you find always is that on the weekend of a Grand Prix, that track has a massive spike in terms of the number of users that come in and we think that is for two reasons; one, you watch F1 again and you instantly want to play it, but two, it goes back to that factor where it doesn't sit in people's drives long enough because it's considered more of a 'long game' experience.
"RaceNet hopes to tap into that; it is Singapore race weekend [that] weekend. It might not start right from the off that we do it in tandem with that weekend, but... because games like FIFA can launch at the beginning of a season, we always get asked 'Why are you releasing in September when the season is nearly over?'
"That is literally the quickest we can get the game out. What you find is there's a peak up until November where the season is carrying on, but then how do you maintain people's interest all the way through?
"Especially March [when] the new F1 season comes round - via RaceNet you aren't going to have the new cars and stuff, but you can still make sure people are engaging the old product as opposed to playing it for a couple of months and that's it."
It's interesting you mention it releases in September and not the start of the season. Is there any way you can make it the start of the season, or is it just a case that this is the earliest you can do it?
"We met with Sony after we got the license to get their take on how much of a challenge it was and what were the difficult development points, and they were basically like, 'You can release in September with up-to-date content, or in March with a year's previous data', which is what they did on a couple of occasions.
"It was very clear to us from the off that playing with out-of-date stuff is just not cool. I think my hope is that over the course of the license, we can bring it in a little bit. We would never be able to get it to the start of the season, which in some ways is an advantage because you can balance it and finesse it and make sure that real life trends are replicated in the game.
"Otherwise, who has the fastest car? You have no idea. You would instantly assume [this season] Red Bull and then maybe Williams, who have been not very good this year, but there's a real mix with the seven different winners. My hope is that we could bring it out earlier enough to coincide with Spa, and Spa is early August.
"Now that F1 has a summer break, you've had half the season and now it's ready for part two. That would be a great time to launch the game. Looking at the FIFA model when they were competing with Pro Evolution, the first time round they brought their game forward a few days or a week here or there, until their game was the first out of the two of them.
"We would be trying to look to bring it forward a week earlier and the next year another week. We haven't done that this year, but that would be my hope for the future."
You're releasing on PS3, 360 and PC this year. Have you looked into a Wii U version?
"They always look at all sorts, to be honest. We have the license for a bit longer now so we can do a bit more forward planning. Rod [Cousens], our CEO who's here, he's constantly thinking, 'What about this or what about that?', so he needs to put a business case for it. I definitely think it would be something a little more suited to Race Stars first. Let them do the hard work of getting it working on the tech first!"
Would that be an audience thing then?
"I think so, yeah. I also think it's looking at the Wii SKU that we did, it did really well but there's still questions... sales numbers-wise, whether it is something that annually we could revisit year-on-year [and that] would sell the same number of units year on year.
"[For] something like football, you need the newest content and there's lots of changes - but with F1, the changes with the teams and drivers are really quite minimal, so instantly you're quite stretched for new content.
"I think when you bring this over to the Wii, where the audience is perhaps a bit more casual and they're less unlikely to buy it year-on-year, you have to look at a slightly different strategy."
You also briefly mentioned that there wasn't going to be a 3DS release this year either?
"At the moment F1 2012 is just PC, 360, PS3 and that'll be the case for the rest of this year. But into next year, will we transition onto handhelds, will we start to focus on the next generation of consoles instead, where does iOS fit into the picture?
"I would love to perhaps get more of it out on all platforms, but there is also teams signing off on things, because each asset has to be individually signed off by teams. To bombard them with about 100 SKUs might not necessarily be the way to go. There's no plans at the moment, but that's not to say we won't do so."
Finally, there's been the Sky deal in the last year. Do you think the coverage has been good?
"Yeah. I was reluctant at first, the BBC did such a good job. We were in talks with Sky at some point about whether we could help them out with stuff and then they could help us out. We've obviously been using property for a while, so when that went across we weren't sure how that was all going to happen.
"They've done such a good job, they've chucked a lot of money at it. They've probably got too many people in my opinion, and too many analysts. But I think if F1 is going to break new boundaries like in the US with the new American race, I think really, Sky is going to be the company that goes in and raises the bar for all broadcasts."
> F1 2012 to offer improved controls on a gamepad
> F1 2012 to feature a more randomised weather system
F1 2012 will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC on September 21 in the UK, across Europe on September 20 and North America on September 18.