The IAP Inspector

How does CSR Racing 2 monetize?

How does CSR Racing 2 monetize?

Welcome back to the In-App Purchase Inspector - our regular look at free-to-play games from the consumer's perspective.

In each instalment, we consider the incentives or pressure applied to make in-app purchases, their perceived value, the expansion offered by IAPs and the overall value of the experience.

The end goal is to see whether the game makes a good enough case for us to part with our cash, or whether players are content - or engaged enough - to 'freeload'.

This time, we're taking a look at NaturalMotion's long-awaited drag racing sequel CSR Racing 2.

Times change

Four years, almost to the day, since the launch of its predecessor, CSR Racing 2 is finally here. That's an incredibly long time in mobile gaming, and a lot has changed in that period.

CSR Racing was, in many ways, ahead of its time. In a 2012 opinion piece from PocketGamer.biz editor Jon Jordan - now a born again auto-play enthusiast - his surprise at the lack of skill-based gameplay speaks volumes.

Rather than CSR shifting to be more like other games, the past four years have seen the entire F2P gaming landscape shift to be more like CSR.

“Brain science it ain't and more worryingly, little skill or skill improvement is required or encouraged to progress through the game's various modes,” he wrote.

Before concluding: “Let's just hope there's as much focus on gameplay as monetisation next time around.”

Rather than CSR shifting to be more like other games, however, the past four years have seen the entire F2P gaming landscape shift to be more like CSR.

In the garage

The actual gameplay in CSR Racing is minimal - it's about timing taps to change gears in a linear drag race - but the focus is on the car upgrading metagame.

The fact that its sequel is so similar after four years, when so much else has changed, speaks volumes - it shows that NaturalMotion was on to something the first time around.

It's easy to see why it would raise eyebrows back in 2012, though.

The game's structure dictates that skill can only carry you so far - 90% of your competing is done not on the track, but through tinkering and upgrading your car in the garage.

Garish? How dare you

This, obviously, dovetails rather transparently with monetisation.

Gold Rushers

There are three main currencies in CSR Racing 2 - Cash, Keys, and Gold.

There are three main currencies - Cash, Keys, and Gold.

Cash is the game's soft currency, earned for winning races and invested back into various car upgrades.

Gold can be used in lieu of Cash, to buy cars, and to import car parts immediately rather than having to wait for them. It's available in bundles ranging from $2.99 for 300 to $99.99 for 16,500.

Keys are slightly more complicated. They come in bronze, silver, and gold varieties, and are used for the game's gacha element, each unlocking a different tier of random rewards.

100 Bronze Keys ($0.99 in real money) buys a random selection of car parts, which can be used in the upgrading process. For 50 Silver Keys ($2.99) you get a random car of any quality.

And for 10 Gold Keys ($9.99) you're guaranteed a rare car of at least 3-star quality.

Fuelled up

There's an energy system, too, as represented by fuel pips.

When depleted after ten races, there are three options for refilling: you can spend 20 Gold for a full refill, go cap in hand to your Facebook friends à la Candy Crush, or watch an incentivised ad for two fuel pips.

It appears to be the only example of in-game advertising in CSR Racing 2, and it's implemented well.

All in all, though, like the world of underground drag racing it depicts, CSR Racing 2, is one for the high-rollers.

It's very easy to spend money quickly - some cars cost up to $30 in real money, and the pursuit of rare cars can cost you even more in Keys - and the game is so built around the thrill of upgrading that there is often a temptation to spend simply in order to bypass tedious gameplay.

Quick start

It's keen to get you in quickly, too, with a starter bundle offering 500 Gold, 56,000 Cash, and 350 Bronze Keys for a mere $2.99 - an 83% saving.

That's more than enough for you to breeze through at least the first Crew Battle with ease, and it's a rather harsh bump back to earth when you spend it all.

What in 2012 felt unusual for its lack of involved gameplay, in 2016 feels par for the course.

Once you've got a taste, you want more - and that's what NaturalMotion is relying on.

CSR Racing 2 isn't a game that particularly needed to push the boat out, either in terms of design or monetisation. And indeed, there are no major surprises here.

But what in 2012 felt unusual for its lack of involved gameplay, in 2016 feels par for the course, expected - and perhaps even better.

CSR Racing 2 makes no bones about the fact it wants you to spend money, then, and it wastes no time giving you plenty of opportunities to do so.

However, spending money has an immediate and satisfying result. And who can argue with that?

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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