• Pinterest

Porsche is back, baby. It never left our hearts and minds (or garages and driveways), but Porsche is finally back in the driving simulators we all know and love. Players will be able to access the marque in “Gran Turismo Sport,” coming later this year, and Microsoft’s “Forza” series, via downloadable car packs.

The absence was purely a business arrangement: Porsche was in an exclusive deal with Electronic Arts from 2000 up until the past year, only making appearances in the “Need for Speed” series and a few other one-offs. German tuner Ruf was a good stand-in for the “GT” series during the lean years, but now we’ll get back to the real deal.

Porsche and Microsoft’s partnership extends for six years, nonexclusive, and will include cars in “Forza Motorsport 6,” which have been there since last year when the deal expired, and “Forza Horizon 3.” “Horizon” players have the option of downloading seven current and historical cars for the arcade-style game including the 550A Spyder, the 718 RS 60 Spyder from 1960, the 911 Carrera RS 2.7 from 1973, the 911 GT2 (type 993), the Cayman GT4 and the 911 GT3 RS, as well as the new Panamera Turbo. The pack costs 7 bucks.

Porsche will also partner with Microsoft on the Forza Racing Championship, which has the largest online racing community of all the driving games. It boasts 30,000-40,000 competition players and more than 4 million recreational players. ForzaRC season three begins on May 1, and you can register now, right here.

To celebrate the new season, Forza is holding the 2017 New York Invitational “Presented by Porsche” April 15-16 at Microsoft’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue. The competition will feature 18 of its elite players from around the world and two players vying for top drifter. It’ll be broadcast live on Beam livestream, YouTube and Twitch, a streaming service primarily aimed at gamers.

But this isn’t about creating real racing drivers a la Nissan’s GT Academy, nor is it really about selling cars either, says Porsche. It’s about sharing the overall Porsche experience. And if it sells a few extra cars because of it, even better.

Most players don’t have dreams of racing suits, tire changes and fuel strategies dancing in their heads. They like the games, and they like connecting with each other online. Not to mention the fact Porsches are still pretty expensive in the real world while video games, relatively speaking, are not. The enthusiasm from game players and track drivers is just two sides of the same coin.

ForzaRC season three culminates in a final event at a special secret location, where winners can take home $100,000. And with that kind of loot, maybe a new 911 isn’t that far out of range after all.

Forza Horizon 3 cars revealed