Freemium games sound great on paper. A free-to-play title where additional content can be purchased seems like a good way to not only allow gamers to play on their own terms, but to help develop a strong and loyal user base happy to pay for extra features in a well-loved game. Unfortunately, it often fails to live up to that ideal. The problems of the freemium model are well-documented, with South Park recently scrutinizing the ideals of free-to-play development with savage satirical bites.
No developer or publisher has been as heavily criticised for its freemium methodology as EA. The company, notoriously named the worst company in America not just once but twice, has faced complaints over its previous freemium games. Most famously, EA released a free-to-play mobile version of well-loved sim title Dungeon Keeper, with gameplay issues so serious that the game was practically broken unless players added additional funds to speed up build times.
Now it seems as though the publisher is yet again taking freemium gaming to its most outrageous extreme. A recent article by Crave Online reveals that the latest free-to-play addition to the Need for Speed series offers one of the most ridiculous examples of premium content on the market. Need for Speed: No Limits actually makes players pay for the "fuel" to fill up their cars - or have to wait to race again.
It seems like a cynical move from the publisher, pushing the make-them-wait strategy used by many free-to-play mobile titles in the worst possible way. It’s one thing to make users wait for a skyscraper to ‘build’ in the free-to-play version of Sim City, but it is entirely different from the rationale for making players wait under the premise of refuelling their vehicle in a racing game: particularly one that ironically then calls itself No Limits. Gas can only be purchased using in-game "gold" - which must be bought using real-life currency.
Perhaps it is all worse than it appears, though. We’ve yet to get a hands-on with Need for Speed: No Limits, as the iOS and Android game is currently only available in select, non-English speaking locations. That said, the game’s player base is not happy, and is complaining about the design choice. Given that certain members of the freemium industry refer to highly-desired super users as ‘whales’, any complaints about the disrespect shown by the decision seem pretty valid. It's also a cause for concern for fans of Need for Speed - the main line of titles does not need additional microtransactions like those seen in Dead Space 3 or Gears of War: Judgment.
Previous statements from EA make it look highly unlikely that the company is going to have a sudden U-turn on its freemium strategy, either. In spite of all the criticism sent its way over Dungeon Keeper, EA’s reaction was to claim that the title “innovated too much.” Meanwhile, other freemium titles such as Kim Kardashian: Hollywood continue to make huge amounts of money. Let’s see whether anything can be done to stop this kind of free-to-play development – and whether gamers voting with their wallets to show their discontent will have any effect in the long-term.
Source: Crave Online