On the wrong track: Why Real Racing 3 will never be a top grossing game
Naysayers are right if for the wrong reason
Most recently VP of mobile and social studios, Nick Earl, has been telling Cnet that while EA respects and understands the "vocal minority [who] lashed out at freemium", that's "just where things are going".
And to back up its case, the company has released an infographic (bottom of the page) which details that since its 28 February launch, Real Racing 3 has been downloaded more times that the first two (paid) games combined.
Hardly surprising given they were $4.99 paid games from an indie developer early in the iOS life cycle.
Mid-row on the grid
No, the numbers EA really cares about are revenue.
Real Racing 3 has been the #1 free app in 90 countries, but when it come to top grossing performance, it's not demonstrated it is going to be a fixture in the top 10 top grossing charts.
As you might expect, the game's performance on iPhone is weaker than on iPad. On smartphone, it's now sitting around the top 25 mark, while in the top grossing chart for more suitable tablet form it remains in the low teens.
Real Racing 3's performance in US iPhone top grossing charts from App Annie
Real Racing 3's top grossing performance on iPad
Knife in a gun fight
But perhaps the bigger question is whether free-to-play racing games are suited to generate the sustained levels of high monetisation seen by card-battlers and RPG/PVP games?
This requires the social elements, especially in terms of player versus player action, to be core to the gameplay experience; something that's not the case in racing games, where players are ultimately racing against the clock.
Even if it has someone else's name attached to it, a lap time is an abstract goal, and one that for many players doesn't encourage the same cycle of revenge as a game like Clash of Clans clearly does.
Slipping down life
NaturalMotion's CSR Racing is a much simpler game than Real Racing 3 with a much simpler PVP element, and even it's witnessed a steadily decline from top 10 top grossing status to top 40 over recent months, both on iPhone and iPad.
CSR Racing has experienced a slow but steady decline in the US iPad top grossing chart during 2013
A key difference is that CSR Racing cost much less to develop than Real Racing 3, making it profitable for NaturalMotion in a way Real Racing 3 is going to struggle to match for EA.
Still, neither company has yet proved its F2P credentials in a way that web/mobile publisher Kabam has done.
An expert in sustained monetisation and minimum viable graphical quality, it generated $180 million from F2P games in 2012.
We'll get see how it approaches the racing game dilemma when it releases details of its F2P Fast & Furious tie-in title this week.