When Electronic Arts let it be known in an interview that they were looking into making micropayments a part of all of their games, I defenced the move thinking that really it’s not such a bad thing. I made a point though that as long as it does not hinder the gameplay then it’s something we can just ignore, unless we choose to pay a little to get an edge in our games. Reading reviews from around the gaming sites though it appears Electronic Arts had to show the ugly side of micropayments, in Real Racing 3.
Real Racing 3 is a free game for both iOS devices and Android, it’s available for free with the idea that you can purchase car packs to provide yourself with the better cars to race. The micropayment model makes this possible, and you’ll find that it’s also in use to do such things as make repairs to your cars. You don’t have to pay of course, you can just leave the game to spend an amount of time fixing the car, or changing the oil, or a tire, or whatever it’s decided you need. Real Racing 3 is a good game, the problem it has though is that it’s almost crippled the game if you are unwilling to pay to play, so in truth it’s not free at all.
When Free is not Actually Free
There is a lot of good in Real Racing 3, the racers you race against have an authenticity of feeling real, because they are created using “ghost” date from other players from around the world. Most gamers will know what I mean by this, but if you don’t it means that it records the best lap from a player and uses that lap information to create the perfect lap for that person. You don’t need to know who did that lap, just that it was a good one and made it into the system to be used as an opponent against you. This is a good idea in theory, but there are times when the AI does seem to be lacking though.
The real problem with the game is the microtransactions, there are quite a lot of them. Based on the idea of having credits within the game and also “gold” you’ll find that actually making enough money to do anything in the game is incredibly slow and hard work, unless of course you pay some real world money to quicken things up. It’s obvious that EA are wanting to make as much money out of this as possible, and in truth why not? They have to be able to make a profit with the games that they are providing us. The fact is though at around £14/$21 per car pack and payment for repairs you’ll be looking at paying £20/$30 for the game before you realise this is not really a free game at all. It’s something of a false economy for the gamer if anything.
So if we are to look at the prospect of microtransactions in games what does Real Racing 3 teach us? Well I’d argue it teaches us how not to use this payment model. It’s unfair in a way to offer a game like this and literally force a free game to expect payments from the gamers. If it’s going to cost you to play, then state that and don’t just call it a “free-to-play” game. I’d argue that Real Racing 3 probably would stand more of a chance if there was an upfront payment, car packs stayed downloadable but the microtransactions were scrapped, then we’d not feel so ripped off. There are some games that can feature microtransations and some that can’t, it’s a shame that Real Racing 3 is on that can’t.