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Mar 01
By Adam Philbin In Mobile Games 15 Comments

Freemium gaming has no shortage of critics. It’s understandable, given that such games have earned a reputation for nickle and diming their players. EA have taken the concept further than ever with Real Racing 3, their attempt at combining the freemium model with AAA production values. The result? Possibly the most depressing thing to happen in modern gaming.

This article started life as a review, but seeing as Real Racing 3 is less a game and more an attempt at flagrant money grabbing, providing a score would be tricky. Ethically it doesn’t feel right writing a typical review.

“Gameplay not included. Fun may cost extra.”

On the surface, Real Racing 3 is an impressive game, bringing almost console-quality graphics to mobile devices – although the sparse trackside visuals don’t quite match the pretty cars. The racing experience itself is adequate, but with the vague tilt controls, auto-acceleration and feeble opponents, it’s not remotely near the same league as anything on a console. That’s probably because EA haven’t really made a racing game, but a car-themed credit-grinding simulator, in an effort to part you from your cash at every turn.

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Players have two choices – either wait a ridiculous amount of time for just about everything or spend money. After each race your car needs repairs – and repairs take time, unless you’re willing to pay to skip them. You’ll need to upgrade your car to compete – not only do the upgrades cost credits, but they take time to be ‘delivered’ too – unless, once again, you pay. New cars cost credits too – a lot of credits – so you’ll probably just want to buy them. A typical sporty little number will set you back around £4 give or take, whilst the most expensive car in the game (the Koenigsegg Agera R) will set you back half a life-time of in-game currency or an instant £69.99 purchase. So, about the same as three and a half copies of the infinitely superior Gran Turismo 5…

Freemium games aren’t necessarily terrible. There’s nothing really wrong with spending a few pounds to unlock a nice new vehicle. When the game itself is free, it’s expected that you’ll spend a few pounds if you enjoy the game. Unfortunately, EA think it’s acceptable for a game to be almost unplayable unless you spend money, and they won’t be happy until you spend at least a hundred pounds, preferrably more, or better yet, just setup a monthly direct debit to their account.

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EA recently stated that all of their new games would feature micro-transactions, so shortly not even console gamers will be safe. Paid downloadable content has been around for a while now, but following the freemium model would take things a whole step further – although ‘freemium’ would be a bit of a misnomer, seeing as EA’s console games will still cost forty or fifty pounds.

Which makes Real Racing 3 quite worrying. If it turns out to be a huge success – given the download numbers and EA’s clout it may well do – it could become the model for all future AAA mobile games and even bleed into console gaming. As long as the profit margin is high enough, publishers will be quite happy to inconvenience and annoy players, as they seek bribes to make the experience tolerable.

Let’s hope this isn’t the future. We don’t like the idea of a future where games come in a box labelled “Gameplay not included. Fun may cost extra”.



Published Friday 1st March 2013 by Games Asylum


About the Author
Adam Philbin

Adam Philbin

Adam is the human male who gave birth to the website you're looking at, with or without the help of glasses, contact lenses or laser surgery. Now a Games Industry Professional by day, he keeps the site functioning and looking pretty.

  • http://twitter.com/BenFletch Ben Fletcher

    I suspect the Koenigsegg Agera is not there in the expectation that it will actually sell (although if it does, all well and good for EA) – what it actually does is provide an anchor. How do you value a virtual car? That’s tricky, but having one that costs £69.99 certainly makes the others look cheap in comparison. It’s the same trick used by luxury brands and restaurants (Gucci will have a ludicrously expensive handbag to make the merely expensive ones look better value, a restaurant may have some very expensive entrees to make the others look better value).

  • http://www.gamesasylum.com/ Adam P

    For me the bigger problem is the constant forced waiting (unless you pay). The idea of paying for the cars isn’t too far removed from current DLC.

  • Jake

    I’m really intrigued by the split reception this has had. What feels like about half the coverage I’ve read has suggested that the IAPs and waiting for repairs etc might start off annoying, but fade into the background once you’ve got a few cars. The other half, as above.

    I wasn’t going to bother – I didn’t particularly warm to Real Racing 2 (I’m not mad on shoe-horning console-type games onto mobile) – but I may have to give it a try and judge for myself.

  • http://www.gamesasylum.com/ Adam P

    The wait times start off fairly brief – just two minutes – but get longer and longer as you buy more expensive items, as is ‘the way’ with most freemium games.

  • Jake

    The mitigating factor seems to be that once you have a few cars, you can put one in for repair and continue to race with another. I take it you didn’t find that?

  • http://www.gamesasylum.com/ Adam P

    Yes you can cycle through your cars (I bought the £6.99 ‘All Classes’ 3 car pack eventually), but then you’re left racing your ugly cars whilst you wait for your favourite car to finish repairs.

    So, not only have you paid or grinded endlessly to get that dream car, but now you have it, you have to leave it in the garage most of the time incase it gets scratched. Really?

    So I must admit, Real Racing 3 is very ‘real’ in that sense.

  • Jake

    So presumably if you’ve the patience – or willingness to spend money – to get a few decent cars, THEN you can start enjoying the game.

  • http://www.gamesasylum.com/ Adam P

    Well, if money’s not a concern (even with a few cars you’ll still have a lot of forced waiting) you can get on with playing the game.

    But you’d be much better off playing Gran Turismo 5 or Forza, because they’re much better games.

    I can only see Real Racing 3 being enjoyable for people who treat it as a digital collectable game. The actual racing experience with tilt or virtual button controls is limited, as has always been the case on iPhone.

  • PortableGamingRegion

    Rule of thumb: if a non-MMO game is designed to indefinitely leech money from players, it’s bad.

  • PortableGamingRegion

    IAP’s aside, although RR3 is an impressive racing simulation, especially in the context of this genre on mobile devices and handhelds, it’s a bit frivolous to compare it with Gran Turismo 5 or Forza.

  • http://www.gamesasylum.com/ Adam P

    In the context of a cheap mobile game I’d agree, it couldn’t be compared to Forza (and I’m trying not to). But as a game that could realistically cost more than a copy of GT5 or Forza, I feel it’s worth at least bringing them into the picture. GT5 doesn’t have a £69.99 IAP (yeh it doesn’t run on your phone either but that’s another story).

  • http://www.gamesasylum.com/ Adam P

    Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the PS Vita may be a better comparison. It’s not a down and out realistic racing game, but it’s still a whole load more fun and feels like better value than RR3.

  • PortableGamingRegion

    Agreed, the only thing that suffered on Vita are the graphics and the vehicle limit in races; a small price to pay for portability.

  • Jez Wyke

    I don’t know how they’ve managed it – maybe it’s with the wait times and too short races, but it’s just dull.

    The graphics are great, but it’s just too formulaic (in the sense that if you don’t win, you upgrade and then you win – or I do at least) Real Racing 2 was brilliant, I got a genuine sense of excitement and immersion into the racing – there’s none of that with this.

    Great shame.

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