I’ve had a bunch of people alert me to Stuart Campbell’s latest gaming piece, When games aren’t expensive enough. He presents a counterpoint to the negative reaction regarding Real Racing 3′s business model, which has irked many gamers.
That app is the latest in the well-regarded (although, in my opinion, somewhat dull) mobile ‘simulator’ racing series. Instead of being sold at a premium price point, it’s gone freemium. The app throws up relatively arbitrary doorslams, which you can get past by throwing money at the game. Reviews have so far been decidedly mixed, with Eurogamer being the most scathing.
Even broadly positive Real Racing 3 reviews (such as TouchArcade’s) grumble about the freemium structure, and so it’s surprising that Campbell argues of EA’s decision:
[It], contrary to what you might think, is a good thing.
His argument, though, doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me. He rightly notes EA’s financial model is essentially designed around gouging and that Real Racing 3 will make a lot of money. But the conclusion is flawed:
their existence is mana from Heaven for the rest of us, because they provide the long-term means by which the price of games can finally come down, at the sole expense of stupid people. By having braying cheats with too much money contribute most of the funding for big-budget “free-to-play” games, the likes of EA secure the funding which lets them make normal games cheaply.
The mistake is in thinking EA has any intention of continuing with making normal games, when the company’s CFO has explicitly stated all future EA games will feature microtransactions. Even the likes of Tetris aren’t safe. A year ago, I wrote about the new iOS Tetris and how it was wrecked by microtransactions, and the upcoming Tetris Blitz appears to be far more heavily in the freemium space. When these games make money, why will EA ‘risk’ making any ‘normal’ games that are released for a fixed price and that lack gouging? And when iOS device owners regularly baulk at a new game costing a few quid, why will other companies risk not following suit? Why wouldn’t they instead gradually chip away at gaming’s soul and replace the bits that fall off with components from a cynical, hateful business model?
[Every] penny they’ll happily hand over is a penny that the rest of us don’t have to pay in order to keep a stream of videogames that cost less than a bar of chocolate coming our way until the end of time. […]
So hurray for Real Racing 3. It’s a shit game that sucks money out of dimwits and to all intents and purposes gives it to you and me, so that we can spend it on vastly more enjoyable ones that cost literally pennies. Why would you be upset about that?
But in reality, we’ll just end up with loads of crappy games and nothing to spend money on, because everyone will be obsessed with gouge-oriented freemium garbage that’s a business model first and barely a game second.