Opinion: EA needs to convince fans that Real Racing 3's F2P damage mechanic is more than a 'cut and shut' job
Yet, given that the first two versions of Real Racing were strong premium performers (without any in-app purchases), there's no doubt the company will be worried about a backlash from fans.
It's much harder to integrate free-to-play monetisation in a high-end 3D skill-based racing game than it is a time-resource management game like Tapped Out.
A counter argument is NaturalMotion's success with CSR Racing - in which you can buy new cars, better paint jobs, better engine parts and tyres, not to mention spend money on fuel.
This demonstrates petrolheads will pay to play with cars.
Yet, as I commented at the time, CSR Racing wasn't a racing game; more a rhythm-action game using a car theme that was designed for a very casual audience.
If Real Racing 3 is reduced to that level of gameplay, there will be sharp reaction from fans, for whom the game has always provided the most console-like experience on iOS, both in terms of graphics and gameplay.
They will not easily accept being asked to pay for petrol.
Given the news from the recent LA showcase of the game, it looks like they won't be asked to stoop to that level.
Instead, damage plays a significant part in Real Racing 3.
If your car is damaged in a race, you'll have to wait for it to repair, or pay to speed up the process. Time is always the easiest resource to monetise within free-to-play games.
Of course, unlocking new race tracks and cars can also be speeded up by dipping into your wallet.
"The monetisation had to be unaggressive as opposed to overly harsh and tight," EA's SVP for mobile and social game development, Nick Earl told CNET.
"For those spending hours at the game, they will opt to spend a little money on the game. We think that's a fair exchange."
Perhaps the most worrying sign, however, is Real Racing 3 is the first game in the series to be released by EA's Australian studios Firemonkeys. Neither has it released a free-to-play game.
The first two games were released by independent studio Firemint, which was bought by EA in May 2011 and merged with Iron Monkey. Since then, its founder and creative head Rob Murray has resigned from his full-time role to look after his new family.
However coincidental, it's a move whose lines it's tempting to read between.
Equally, whatever Earl reckons, it's clear that companies who have spend millions of dollars on game development often have very different attitudes than their audiences in terms of what is 'unaggressive' and what is 'overly harsh'.
And the big issue for EA is that unlike NaturalMotion releasing CSR Racing, with Real Racing 3 it's fundamentally tinkering with a much loved game, which has millions of fans.
It will need to be clear when communicating with that audience prior to the game's 28 February release on iOS and Android if it wants to convince that Real Racing 3 is a thoughtful approach to new market realities, not a hasty 'cut and shut' job for a couple of quick quarterly uplifts.
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