Drive time for real
For Melbourne-based mobile game developer Firemonkeys, quality is the priority when it comes to the company's Real Racing franchise.
Talking from Melbourne, Firemonkeys chief executive Tony Lay puts the success of the mobile racing series down to one thing: "Quality. Pure quality. And this game is no different."
Real Racing 3, which is already out for iOS but comes out on Android later this month, was a much bigger game than the previous two entries in the series, said Lay. Features include cars from Porsche, Lamborghini, Dodge, Bugatti and Audi, 900 events and tracks including Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone. The download on iOS is about 750Mb.
"The amount of detail in this game now is phenomenal. It's mind-blowing in how far we've gone. We've got 46 cars from 12 manufacturers, eight licensed real-world tracks, and one fictitious track based on Melbourne - but we did that for pride because we're based in Melbourne."
Unlike Real Racing 1 and 2, this latest game uses the Freemium model - where the game itself is free but players can purchase game content using real-world money. Moving to the freemium model presented challenges for Firemonkeys, said Lay, and the decision to charge for in-game purchases rather than an upfront cost has caused an uproar with some fans of the series.
"The main reason to go free is just so that we can make it accessible to a lot more people but I always find it odd that people get upset about this. I fully understand it - we've been old-school developers for a while - but the main reason for us is that it's a beautiful game and we just want everybody to play it. And when you move that barrier to entry, which is price up front, it goes out to as many people as possible.
"And the thing with user-pays was there was a weird argument that some people had - that I read in some of the forums - was that they want to spend $5 or $10 upfront. We're giving a whole game away for free so if they still want to spend money they just do it afterwards. It's such a big game - it's a lot larger than RR2 was - you can choose how you want to spend your money, and that's a good thing these days. And I honestly believe that in a year we're not going to be talking about this as an issue. I think that with all the trends happening in mobile, freemium is just going to be the way it is. It won't be a jarring feature anymore. I think it's something that's just lingering with the industry and sort of transitioning. I think people need to step back say, ‘Well, this game's free' and that's a good thing."
Lay said Real Racing 3's implementation of in-app purchases was no different from other freemium titles. "We want to make engagement a priority in terms of our monetisation scheme. The idea is that if it's a fun game, people will give us money and I think that's ultimately where we try to stand. The quality has to be there. Where you spend money is for the premium currencies [in-game money] where if you're impatient you can buy content. You can still grind to get those premium currencies. At the core, if you don't want to spend any money, you don't have to."
Lay said while the barriers to entry for mobile-game development was lower than home-console game development, the mobile market was growing and becoming more competitive. "I think that in our space, in game development now, there are a lot of small shops opening up because there's just a lower barrier to entry, whereas before you had to be an approved developer with a track record with a team size of X. Now it's open to everyone. It's tougher because it's more competitive."
And to those people who argue you can't get a great gaming experience on a mobile platform? "I think people that are saying that, their voices are getting lower and lower. All I can say is: Play this game and then make your mind up."
Lay, who has been working in the mobile space since the days when "it wasn't sexy to be in mobile, when you were dealing with monoscreens and using keypads for your inputs", saw mobile gaming as the "primary platform moving forward for entertainment".
"We deal with a time-poor audience - everyone's totally distracted all the time - so we fit into peoples' lifestyles and I think that's the biggest difference with mobile entertainment: people can choose how they want to play, how often they want to play, where they want to play."
Real Racing 3 is out on iOS now and will be out on Android on February 28.