Player power: Hardcore Real Racing fans create Vocal Minority group to vent dissatisfaction

Don't like new direction for franchise

Player power: Hardcore Real Racing fans create Vocal Minority group to vent dissatisfaction
It's been three months since EA released Real Racing 3, and it's fair to say the game has proved controversial.

Obviously, this has mainly revolved around EA and developer Firemonkeys' decision to make what had been a premium game free-to-play.

Cue what EA SVP Nick Earl labelled as criticism from the 'vocal minority'.

"At the end of the day you kind of have to look at real numbers," he said. "The old proverb, 'You can't please all the people all the time' is just so true."

Listen to us

But now a self-styled vocal minority is fighting back.

The Vocal Minority Media Group are 15 long time Real Racing players who are also active in the Firemonkeys forum.

It's released a statement to that's critical in general of the franchise's move to free-to-play, highly critical about what it sees as EA's comments about the community, while also pointing out that in some ways Real Racing 3 is a backwards step.

A key complaint here is the removal of Real Racing 2's online multiplayer mode, replaced with the new time-shifted multiplayer mode.

Online multiplayer "was the heart and soul of a brilliant racer that included real-time social play. OMP created events, bonded players, and built camaraderie," the group comment.

"Real Racing 3 has alienated the [hardcore fans] by changing the direction of the franchise from a simulation to an arcade format without the real-time social OMP feature."

Shifting tides

Perhaps more significant, however, is the way that the game's core community feels the move to free-to-play has changed the atmosphere both in and around the game.

According to a member of the group, Scott Gerling (aka TrackBully), the Real Racing forum has been swamped by the new free-to-play audience, who also impact gameplay thanks to pay-to-win mechanics.

"Our forum went from healthy and vital during the Real Racing 2 times to disgust," he says.

"More than anything, EA/FM's social media policies suck. Instead of rewarding, or promoting players, admin is all about closing threads that get too out of control with the hostility.

"They have a 'barely there' presence as is, and never answer questions. It's a shut out. They really blew it with us."

Slipping down life

Of course, if nothing else, forums are a breeding ground for opinions, often negative.

But The Vocal Minority move comes at a time when Real Racing 3 medium term financial performance can be measured.

Neither in iPhone and iPad US top grossing charts has the game sustained its initial position. The decline on iPad has been slower - the game remains in top 30 - while on iPhone it's just within the top 40.

Real Racing 3's top grossing position since March 2013 on US iPhone chart (from App Annie)

Real Racing 3's top grossing position since March 2013 on US iPad chart (from App Annie)

In neither case has the first big content update had much of an impact, either.

Whose game is it anyway?

Yet as EA might point out, while the free-to-play mechanics might be criticised by some, the transaction values in the game are not excessive. For example, the largest single transaction is only $19.99, compared to $59.99 in CSR Racing.

And while the game's performance may not have been explosive as hoped, the project will certainly have been profitable.

If nothing else, the situation goes to prove how difficult it is to balance what remains a new business model for the industry, with the expectations of hardcore gamers, who are key in terms of providing a strong community, and who also feel they have as strong an allegiance with and commitment to the game, as the developers do.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.