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EA's F2P strategy "vindicated" by Real Racing 3 performance

EA's F2P strategy "vindicated" by Real Racing 3 performance

Fri 15 Mar 2013 10:48pm GMT / 6:48pm EDT / 3:48pm PDT
MobileOnlineFree-to-Play

EA believes Real Racing 3's numbers make a strong case for freemium

When it was released, Real Racing 3 was slammed by fans and consumers for its excessive use of microtransactions. Electronic Arts vice president of mobile and social Nick Earl told CNET that despite the "vocal minority" the game is doing quite well.

The news comes alongside an infographic (below) released by EA, detailing the game's various accolades. Real Racing 3 is the number one free app on the App Store in 90 countries, with downloads for the first week exceeding those of the first two titles combined. There's no word on total downloads or revenue, but Earl said that he felt "vindicated" about Real Racing 3's performance.

rr3info

Millions everywhere.

"There's no question that going freemium was the right way to go," Nick Earl. "The vocal minority lashed out at freemium. We respect them and understand, but the market has spoken. That's just where things are going."

According to Earl, players shouldn't expect a Real Racing 4 anytime soon: the company plans for Real Racing 3 to be an EA staple for years to come.

"Our expectation is that this is a service that can live for years," he said.

19 Comments

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
"When it was released, Real Racing 3 was slammed by fans and consumers for its excessive use of microtransactions"
I really don't understand this. I've spent a few hours playing Real Racing 3 now, and still haven't felt any need to spend money on it. You can easily earn enough currency just playing the game to get through the first series and unlock and upgrade a few cars, even taking into account repairs and servicing, and despite me playing the game like a demolition derby sometimes. Once you've got a few cars in your garage, there's no need to use hard currency to speed up servicing, as you can simply use one car while you service another. If I need to grind later on to afford higher class cars, that shouldn't be any great hardship either, as the game's just plain fun to play and the online features give you a constantly shifting goal to beat once you've got first place in an event.

Compared to, say, CSR Racing, which has an incredibly aggressive level of monetisation that put me off playing it within an hour, I'd say Real Racing 3 (so far, at least) is pretty innocuous. I've already got a few hours' enjoyment out of it without spending a penny, which in my books is a result.

Posted:A year ago

#1

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
* deleted duplicate post *

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Bye on 16th March 2013 10:41am

Posted:A year ago

#2

Jose Martin
Entrepreneur & Financing - Media / Tech / Interactive Entertainment

23 19 0.8
I can't express how dismayed I am if it is indeed true that RR3 is doing well. I know it's been downloaded a ton - it's free, that's to be expected but from a financial POV, if it is turning a major profit through the abusive microtransaction system EA has implemented, it is a indeed a sad day for the core gamer market.

EA had implemented a policy infecting many products and many more to come, that is designed to insidiously extract as much cash as possible from wealthy ("whales") and naive users and especially those with low self control/compulsive personalities. It seems that it is no longer sufficient for this publisher to adhere to ethical business practices and simply make a quality product and sell it for a fair and transparent market price.

I understand that EA is a business and all game publishers/developers exist to turn a profit, I have no problem with any of that obviously however, what EA has been doing crosses the line into the territory of Casinos. Casinos prey on their customers by taking advantage of addictive/compulsive personalities and work hard to devise games and an atmosphere designed to tap into the compulsive personality mechanism and induce non-stop "play" and non-stop "pay", with no regard to those that spend far in excesss of "reasonable" amounts. In fact, the perfect Casino game is considered the one that keeps the customer playing until they are completely flat broke. EA is taking the same approach with much of their product line and it should be alarming to any core gamer considering how many studios and franchises they swallow up.

The "Real Racing" series has always been a high point of mobile gaming for me. With the release of Real Racing 3, EA has effectively thumbed their noses at the core gamer market which has been the series most ardent supporters through the years. EA has shown that their ONLY goal is to devise the most effective, purposefully confusing game systems possible, designed to extract exorbitnant amounts of cash from a small percentage of players and effectively tell the majority of core gamers, that they no longer care if they enjoy the gaming experience or not - as long as EA can effectively target the group I previously identified, and the game effectively drains their wallets for the maximum amount possible, they're satisfied.

The game starts as a less than optimal experience if you don't continually pay to speed up repairs and later on, the repair wait times and ramp up in AI difficulty render the game unplayble for all intent and purposes, You effectively need to spend on new car packs, upgrades for all major car systems and the quick repairs if you hope to progress further and play without waiting for a few days between races.

The in-game awards of Gold and Currency (the two payment systems) become insignificant once you progress to a certain point, n theory you should be able to play without paying but again, in practice, the game is designed to become so frustrating that anyone who wants to continue playing at a reasonable pace and progress to the higher levels is required to spend. There is one car that costs more than a brand new AAA console release, The Koenigesegg Agera R can be yours today for the one-time low sale price of only 800 Gold or $80.00.

Here is a breakdown of real prices to unlock game content, buy Gold and currency..of course nothing can take into account repairs, which is a cost that is persistent and never-ending. You could literally spend $500 on RR3 and STILL have to pony up for expensive repairs for higher end cars or be forced to wait for days between races..THIS IS MADNESS!!

http://www.modojo.com/features/2013-02-14-real-racing-3-all-the-costs

I would have gladly paid an upfront fee of $29.99 for this premium title with a full feature set and could have been convinced to even pay $4.99 for a few robust car/track packs but this system is enough to turn off the majority of core gamers and that truly is a shame...but EA could care less, if they make enough profit with naive casual gamers, wealthy gamers and the same type of Casino-style patrons who can't stop themselves from blowing every cent in their bank account. then the EA bean counters are happy and core gamers be damned!!

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Jose Martin on 16th March 2013 11:31am

Posted:A year ago

#3

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
I can't express how dismayed I am if it is indeed true that RR3 is doing well.
Being dismayed that a game fellow (or soon to be fellow) people in the industry created, is doing well, i think is bad form. Some people put a lot of time, money and effort in creating that game. Nobody should actively hope it does not sell. Having an issue with microtransactions is of course fine.

Personally i have spent 15 GBP on the game now. Not because i had to, in fact i still have yet to come across a point where i dip into the in-game currency i purchased, but because after 2 weeks of playing (around 3 hours a day!!!! dear me!!) i felt that this is what the game was worth to me. If i keep playing the game in the coming months, i might well spend more and raise it to a total of a normal AAA purchase.

The microtransactions are fine with me. There are 2 high price options, the rest is as cheap as 70p. There are numerous packages you can buy, to suit your needs. And as i said, even if you play it several hours a day, there is actually no need to make any purchase at all. Currently i have around 1 million in in game cash and about 108 of the gold coins (which you get from leveling up and completing certain percentages of an event).

Posted:A year ago

#4

Jose Martin
Entrepreneur & Financing - Media / Tech / Interactive Entertainment

23 19 0.8
I am dismayed that a enormous publisher like EA is swallowing up talented devs and pushing these abusive systems on all gamers...of course I do not wish that hard working developers do badly - that is entirely twisting my thoughts out of context - i merely wish that a few games which try to impose these systems don't do well enough that it encourages EA and other publishers to continue and expand this practice.

Personally, I quickly reached a point where the AI was fast and advanced enough, making engine and system upgrades and higher end cars a necessity in order to progress - 108 gold coins is not even close to what you need for at least two of the higher end cars.At higher levels, the gold coins earned is so insignificant as to make microtransactions mandatory unless you enjoy waiting for a few days in between races... Add in that higher end cars require ridiculously expensive repairs or very long wait times and its easy to feel that microtransactions are almost being shoved down your throat. It's also curious, how, unlike most racing games, the Ai goes out of their way to cut you off and induce crashes...considering the "repairs" system, you think that's a design accident?

No core gamer I know enjoys constantly being directed to spend money all during their play time or being forced to endure increasingly long artifical wait times in lieu of paying...this is not designed for enjoyment - the worst part - there is no way for a real core gamer to simply pay a fair upfront price to unlock the main game content and have an uninterrupted regular gaming experience.

You are entitled to your own opinion, but in this case, I can't agree with any justification for such an abusive system....and yes, "abusive" is the most appropriate word for this heavy-handed and restrictive transaction system. Any system that results in an endless need to pay or endure frustration in order to enjoy a game is flawed beyond words - as a designer, you should be one of the most outspoken critics of this type of system, you are only driving away your most ardent supporters - the core gamer demographic - if EA and others continue down this road, they will soon discover that the type of consumer who will quickly hand over hundreds of dollars through microtransactions is not the type of customer who can sustain the industry in the long term.

One of the most insightful reviews I read about RR3, highlighting my views, was released by Eurogamer - anyone who truly thinks this system is okay, should read this and understand how a large percentage of core gamers feel about this situation.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-02-28-real-racing-3-review

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Jose Martin on 16th March 2013 5:01pm

Posted:A year ago

#5

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
Like I said, I've spent a few hours playing RR3 so far, not spent a penny on it, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I'm nowhere near getting the high end sports cars yet, but I've been unlocking cars and events at a fast enough pace to keep me interested and haven't had to replay events any more than was necessary to win them. Given I've had all that entertainment for free so far, I'd have no problem spending a few pounds on the game later on if I need to.



I've seen plenty of games with incredibly abusive MTX and early, near vertical paywalls, but RR3 (so far) is not one of them.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Jose Martin
Entrepreneur & Financing - Media / Tech / Interactive Entertainment

23 19 0.8
interesting - I will have to reinstall it and see - maybe they instituted some changes after some negative publicity.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Anthony Gowland
Lead Designer

172 525 3.1
John - EA are live tweaking the game's numbers, so it's entirely possible it used to be a lot worse than it is now.

Still, "abusive" is hyperbole that doesn't help the conversation at all.
edit: also if you think they're updating the game based on website comments you don't seem to understand how analytics works in f2p mobile games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Anthony Gowland on 16th March 2013 7:19pm

Posted:A year ago

#8

Andreas Gschwari
Senior Games Designer

555 607 1.1
@Jose: we had the whole monetization chat last week - check that thread - so i am not gonna re-start that argument. You are of course entitled to your views and i don't in any way want to (or feel the need to) change them.

Personally i had the same experience as John - i now own 5 cars and i just bought myself an Audio R8, not upgraded yet of course. Every race covers repairs and you can race enough events to cover maintenance costs (oil change etc.). Due to having 5 cars, i never had to spend a gold coin on speeding up the process. I don't feel the need, yet, to purchase one of the super cars. Plenty of game to play before i feel i am ready for that :)

Sorry you feel i twisted your words, that was not my intention. You spoke with such venon and conviction, at least the way i read it, which was just a wee bit shocking to me. Your sentiment towards EA (and other publishers) still, at the end of the day, though means that developers will stop making games. If a game does not sell well, the publisher might well take a hit, but it's more likely the studio that made the game shuts down, than a publisher changing strategy or closing shop.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Gareth Eckley
Commercial Analyst

88 67 0.8
@Jose

Where does a game stop being a game and start becoming an exercise in habituation and operant conditioning to cynically extract as much revenue as possible?

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."
The Lovers

Posted:A year ago

#10
Its only a matter of time before governments force LAWS which prevent these apps from taking advantage of a minority of their unwitting users (i.e. force a maximum spend per-user-per-month-per-app/device limit) ... and watch this economy collapse.

Posted:A year ago

#11

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
Anthony, "feedback" was maybe a poor choice of words, but obviously I wasn't suggesting EA are just trawling internet forums to balance the game. Feedback includes the analytics data they've been getting back from the game, and I assume the whole point of having a soft launch in a few small but representative markets was to gather data and tune the game's balancing and economy.

As I said myself, given some of the early reviews and comments about the game it does seem likely it's undergone fairly major revisions during that process. I'm sure they're still fine tuning it, but I've been playing RR3 since the day it launched in the UK, so unless EA are conducting some incredibly extreme A/B testing, any major rebalancing was presumably done during the soft launch period before it came out over here.

Either that or some people are playing the game very differently to me and Andreas and the economy is breaking down in those situations.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Bye on 17th March 2013 10:32am

Posted:A year ago

#12

Anthony Gowland
Lead Designer

172 525 3.1
Yeah I know, the thing analytics comment was in response to this from Jose "maybe they instituted some changes after some negative publicity."

Posted:A year ago

#13

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
Ah, the way the comment was worded it sounded like it was all in response to my previous post. No worries.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Adam Campbell
Associate Producer

1,148 928 0.8
I'm sure they are vindicated or it wouldn't be so well adopted and recieved on the whole.

After all, we have the option to choose what we pay for. Micro-transactions are quite controversial amongst a large group of people, and I'm hearing it all the time - but it doesn't mean they can't work or will go away.

Its a business model that's been around for some time and users have choice. If you don't like it, don't buy into it. Feeback and suggestions if you're that passionate about a particular game is another option. The idea that players are being abused because a game uses this business model is a stretch to say the least.

Business models always use some device to bring profits to the business in question, and some wish to use methods to extent that profit over the product's life-cycle - subscriptions, micro-transactions etc. There can also be advantages to the user, like getting most of the game content for free and playing something that is more likely to evolve over time.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 18th March 2013 8:58am

Posted:A year ago

#15

Stuart Pharoah
Director and CoFounder

7 1 0.1
Personally think they have it pretty much spot on. I have been playing it on and off for a week or so and had a really enjoyable experience without yet putting any money into it (not saying I won't be putting money in). There are no real blockers in this game once you get a second car, and even before that, I had no real problems breaking up my play sessions to fit the servicing times etc. Not really sure what all the fuss is about to be honest - good game doing well!!

Posted:A year ago

#16

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

405 538 1.3
If EA updated the game to be less hostile to the customer - either due to publicity or due to what their metrics are saying - then good on them. I still don't trust the business model - there's only a few F2P games I play that weren't originally paid (see: Team Fortress 2), and the reason for that is that I don't like being coerced into spending money to advance in a game - I'd much rather pay upfront - but if EA's paying attention and it means a benefit to consumers, then that's mostly what I care about.

I also need to keep this in mind myself: I, and people like me, are a market segment that desires to be catered to just as much as the gamer who's being sucked into these F2P games. I think it's an insidious business model, at least in the Korean/Zynga model, but there will always be games that charge an up front fee, and give gamers what they want for that money. Our games aren't going away, they're just going to get smaller in scale, I think. That's fine with me.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
I haven't played RR3 so my comments are not about this title specifically but on the general point of whether ethics does or should play a part in monetising games. I've played my fair share of MMOs and F2P titles full of micro-transactions ranging from browser flash games to the MechWarrior Online open beta. I group the mechanisms in which games successfully encourage players to spend money into 2 categories.

The first category includes allowing access to enjoyable but unnecessary bonus content or purely cosmetic changes, indulging in temporary but fun bonuses, or allowing users to skip grinding parts of the game which are otherwise repetitive but still fairly fun (I.e. re-doing challenges / races / fights / etc).

The second category of mechanism includes buying access to features which are necessary to perform well with, buying randomly chosen loot that includes 'collect them all' sets, skipping delays which are in no way fun to get through without paying for (E.g. waiting for countdowns), or additional 'content' which is actually just the same content with no difference in difficulty, strategy, or sometimes even appearance, but which has bigger numbers (E.g. level, gold, position in a public daily ranking), to provide the illusion of progress or achievement on an arbitrary, never-ending scale.

I don't mind paying money for the first category because I get enjoyable and memorable gaming experiences out of them and I always feel I have a fair choice. The second category can be equally compelling, but they succeed because they've been designed to exploit psychological quirks that we've evolved to instinctively react to. Afterwards, I don't feel like I've bought anything that was worth the money, it doesn't lead to anything more memorable or enjoyable than before, and there's usually no limit to what a user can pay for. These are the games designed to milk whales: the users with either more money than sense, access to someone else's money (E.g. kids spending their parents' money), or people with compulsive / addictive behavioural problems.

Both are effective business strategies and there are well known examples of financially succesful games. The general trend which I think angers Jose (regardless of whether he's incorrect in singling out RR3 as a culprit), is that more and more companies are latching on to the idea that the second way of making money from a game is quicker and cheaper to build / re-skin content around and throw out there. Just because they're more profitable though, doesn't mean they're 'good games' by anyone's standards except the shareholders. In fact, I'd say the more extreme examples are exploitative and immoral, and should be legally regulated in the same ways that many forms of gambling already are.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Feargus Carroll
Producer

23 18 0.8
I would have gladly paid an upfront fee of $29.99 for this premium title with a full feature set and could have been convinced to even pay $4.99 for a few robust car/track packs

Unfortunately, there are simply not enough people like you anymore. I think it's harsh to call EA 'evil' - mercenary perhaps. But then they are a business. I think many core gamers forget that all publishers exist first and foremost to make money; not to entertain core games. That is the means to an end, not the end in itself.

Posted:A year ago

#19

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