We suspected that we would be seeing a next-gen follow-up to Forza Horizon this year based on hints dropped by Playground Games and Microsoft's plans to make Forza an annual series, with Turn 10 and Playground alternating developer duties each year in the same vein as Infinity Ward and Trayark do with Call of Duty.
British sports car manufacturer Ultima may have just given us the confirmation we needed, confirming that their partnership with Microsoft has been extended to include their cars in a new video game this year after their success in Forza Motorsport 4 and 5. Ironically, Ultima hasn't actually appeared in Forza Motorsport 5 yet, meaning they could have inadvertantly spilled part of Microsoft's DLC plans. The Ultima GTR was a DLC car in Forza 4, but included in Forza Horizon as a featured car.
Naturally, we can only assume this new game will be the next Forza: given that Forza Motorsport has always had a two year development cycle and Microsoft has stated in the past that they want want Horizon to be a regular series separate to Forza Motorsport, the unannounced game is likely to be Forza Horizon 2 on Xbox One.
"Our relationship with the Microsoft Corporation continues after the success of being included in Forza Motorsport 4. We are now also included in the latest Forza Motorsport 5 game which was released in late 2013," Ultima posted on their FaceBook page. "We have also recently agreed a new contract with the Microsoft corporation to be included in a new video game to be launched later in 2014. The Ultima is proving to be very popular and is providing excellent world wide publicity and recognition for our marque." The post has since been taken down, however, but Worlds Factory managed to capture a sneaky screenshot before it was removed.
Forza Horizon 2 was originally assumed to be in development when a number of job adverts posted by Playground Games were spotted seeking roles for a next-gen project such as Senior Game Designers, Car Handling Designer and Vehicle QA Technician, seeking individuals “an excellent working knowledge of, and a real passion for, the racing genre” as well as “an excellent knowledge of cars, tuning and car culture.”
Forza Horizon 2 is an incredibly exciting prospect when you look at what Turn 10 managed to extract from the Xbox One for Forza Motorsport 5, from the deep yet accessable driving physics to the impeccably detailed cars and environments. Now imagine applying that insane level of detail to an open world on an even bigger scale… Ubisoft's The Crew might want to watch its rear view mirror.
We could be wrong, of course. Playground Games could be working on something completely different: I certainly wouldn't say no to Project Gotham Racing 5, for example. Microsoft don't seem too keen, though, so I'm puttng my money on Forza Horizon 2.