Fanatical followers of F1 will have noticed that the sport is missing one of its marketing tools this year – the official videogame which last graced Sony's PlayStation 3 games console in 2007 with the teams from the previous season. Usually the F1 games come out every year but with no new edition this year we went undercover to find out what was going on.
According to sources close to Sony, the Japanese electronics giant is locked in negotiations with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who is said to be “playing hardball” over the fee for renewing the contract. In other words, he seems to be looking for more money but this didn't seem to make much sense.
Sony's previous contract was a five-year deal which expired in 2007 and cost the company $15 million per year. It takes Sony's 45-strong development team around 10 months to produce the game so with no deal on the horizon it looks very unlikely it would be able to get a new version out for the start of the 2009 season.
If the previous videogame deal had rolled over, the F1 Group would have got $15 million per year for 2008 and 2009 whereas in fact it stands to pocket nothing. Just to make up that combined $30 million Bernie would have to add an extra $6 million per year to a new five-year deal. It seems that Bernie is setting the bar higher for himself but in the meantime the sport is losing out.
With no comic strip, cartoon or cuddly toy drivers, the videogame has been F1's flagship when it comes to reaching out to children. With the Mosley scandal making F1 an even tougher marketing proposition for kids this is the last thing it needed.
After all, the kids of today are the fans of tomorrow...