I was so looking forward to Real Racing 3, the followup to the amazing Real Racing and Real Racing 2 games on iPhone and iPad. Those games not only looked amazing, but felt more amazing than all other racing games I have played on the platform. I became addicted to Real Racing 2's multiplayer. Don't tell mom, but at one point I was staying up until 2 or 3 am almost every single night for a month straight, laying in bed with my phone racing against people from all around the world. It felt like the future. Then previews of Real Racing 3 were released, showing not only beautiful cars but real-life racetracks. Real Racing 3 was just released and this should be one of the highlights of my year.
Well the future doesn't feel so bright any more.
The game is downloading to my iPad as I type this but I'm already feeling a tinge of anger after reading various online reviews. I previously downloaded and played another racing game called CSR Racing. The game's story and concept wasn't that bad and I probably would have enjoyed it and continued to play it had it cost $5, $10, or even $15. Instead, it was free. Why was this bad? It was bad because it meant it was a freemium game; the game was free to download but players were encouraged (that's the nicest word I can think for it) to pay real money along the way. It is this freemium model that made me have to choose between literally paying real money for virtual gasoline or waiting 10-15 minutes every few races for my virtual gas tank in my virtue car to slowly refill. It was a terrible experience and I stopped playing a day later, having spent no money on the game.
Guess what? New publisher EA decided to turn Real Racing 3 into a freemium game. F**k. From Eurogamer's review:
You can probably tell by the size of the yachts in Monaco's harbour, the opulence of the motorhomes that form a worldwide series' travelling circus or the amount of inbreeding evident around the paddock of Silverstone on a Grand Prix weekend that motor racing is a rich man's game. You can't just turn up to the races with a pair of fresh boots and a big heart: a single season in Formula Ford, one of the most junior of categories on the national scene, costs in excess of £120,000.
So kudos to Firemonkeys, the new outfit forged by EA from esteemed Australian mobile studios Firemint and Iron Monkey, for being the first developer to fully realise the crippling costs of motorsport in interactive form. Here's a game that's not shy about handing you repair bills at the end of a race and one that doesn't blush over an in-game car that costs almost £60 in real-world money.
Further on in the review:
At a time when the gaming world is finally comfortable with the idea of a triple-A mobile game, Real Racing 3 should have been a triumphant affirmation of a point made convincingly enough by the first game in the series. Instead, it's been strangled by the tentacles of gaming's next unconquerable: free-to-play.
If games like Dota and Tribes are the warm, welcoming faces of free-to-play, then Real Racing 3 is the grotesque polar opposite, the snarling grinch that's the embodiment of every sceptic's worst nightmare. It's cynical, it's nasty and it's hard-wired into the very fabric of the game, making it totally unavoidable.
There's an in-game economy comprised of credits and the harder-to-come-by gold, which would be fair enough if the economy wasn't so horrendously lopsided in EA's favour. Every part of Real Racing's make-up away from the track is a transaction where you're on the rough end of the deal.
Waiting 10 real-world minutes to repair your brakes? Yep. Waiting 10 minutes to change oil? Yeah. Waiting another 10 minutes to fix damage? Yes. Paying real money if you want to skip these waiting times every time they pop up? Yes Sir. Kill me now.
I have a better idea: I'll let you keep your freemium model to allow people to sample the game for free, but at least let me and other serious enthusiasts pay a lump sum, say $20 or even $30, to get rid of all these ridiculous micro-transactions and wait times. I will gladly pay you a fair amount to be able to play this game frustration free.
Unfortunately, no such option exists. I only have two avenues: 1) Pay an ungodly amount of money all the time and feel like I'm being used by a greedy corporation but be able to skip all the completely arbitrary wait times and have access to all the cars and tracks, or 2) play as much of the game as I can for free and refuse to pay a dime out of principle but suffer egregious waiting times and limited access to cars and tracks. Unless circumstances change, I can tell you now I'm almost certainly sticking with option #2.