Touch Arcade reports that EA is making more money through its workings in the App Store than it is through any other service, including its own Origin service.
EA pointed out that The Simpson: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, and The Sims FreePlay are all bringing in buckets of cash, all three of which are free-to-play titles. The Simpsons: Tapped Out actually had its biggest quarter yet while Real Racing 3 continues to average around 2 million active users a day.
EA is one of the most prolific first party publishers on the App Store with hundreds of games for iOS available. While it has seen its share of problems and growing pains, it has successfully launched everything on iOS, including high-priced premium franchise games and top grossing free to play games. Let’s talk with Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, about how the App Store changed EA.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed the way EA does business?
Nick Rish, VP of Mobile Publishing, EA: Developing for the App Store was not as big of a transition as one would think, since EA was an early adopter of mobile gaming development. In 2004, before most were considering the mobile app revolution, EA established a mobile team to develop games with access to EA veterans and IP. Then we made a very smart acquisition of JAMDAT mobile which solidified us in the #1 position on mobile and multiplied our mobile development experience in house. When the iPhone launched in June of ‘07, we were making games for feature phones and Apple’s click wheel iPod. When we first saw the iPhone, we immediately saw it as a game changer and as an incredible challenge. Although we knew how to build for shorter development cycles, the interruptible gameplay sessions, quick load times and limited screen space posed a lot of new challenges that we needed to prepare for. Discoverability for instance. On the carrier feature phone decks, you sat alongside a thousand unbranded games and let your brands do their work. On the App Store, the number of games quickly became tens of thousands of games, so we had to adapt marketing practices to become more similar to the online world where the market is crowded. We needed effective keywords, as well as icons and titles that told a story in a small amount of space. We also were presented with new development challenges such as touchscreen, accelerometer, landscape & portrait view, etc. This meant sharing best practices with multiple teams became critical.
148Apps: If you have one single success within EA you’d like to highlight from the past five years on the App Store, what would it be?
Nick Rish: If I’m picking one success, I think it would be the limits we pushed with Real Racing 3 for the iPhone 5. We work closely with Apple to create the most innovative experiences for their devices, and no other company has the mobile scale that EA does to release quality content on such a short timeline for new devices. We could have followed the market and made a freemium drag race game or an arcade-like experience, but the Firemonkeys really wanted to push the limits of the a true racing experience with Apple’s new device. The authenticity of the cars, the lighting effects, the detail of the tracks and the stunning racing environments make me incredibly proud to work at EA. This is the type of game that when done right, sits itself above the competition.
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence EA five years ago, what would you say?
Nick Rish: I would say to embrace free, live services as they are our future. Build expertise internally for those models within Studio and Publishing. We were running a premium house five years ago focused on shipping a game and moving on to the next one. Now a game needs consistent updating to keep users engaged. The shift is evident when you look at games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out which has been on the App Store leaderboards since its launch 40 weeks ago has had 20 updates since then. It’s like we were in the music business releasing individual tracks and now we’re putting out television shows that may go on for many seasons. It’s really important to create new stories, characters and episodes that our players will enjoy. When I looked at the App Store Sunday morning, 9 of the top 10 grossing games were all updated within the last 30 days.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of EA, that has surprised you most?
Nick Rish: The technology of these devices has improved greatly, yet most games have not felt the need to press the limits of these innovations. Five years ago if you showed me the tech specs of the current Apple devices, I would have predicted big, one time download games dominating the charts. Franchises like Need for Speed or Battlefield. It’s been quite the opposite where well-polished, lighter strategy games are dominating the charts. Gamers on this platform are willing to forgive a lack of deep storylines, realistic characters and epic battles in place of great text, cute characters and engaging mini-battles. Think Clash of Clans or Plants vs. Zombies. In fact, we’ve yet to see an FPS emerge that can stay in the Top 25 Grossing for any significant period of time. It will get interesting when we start to see billion dollar franchises engage their years of experience and resources towards making lighter strategy games that are optimized for richer graphics, deeper stories and epic battles.
148Apps: Any predictions for what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Nick Rish: Yes and I’d like to also give you Wednesday’s Powerball numbers… I believe the environment will be still be full of rich content. Probably less Publishers, but still a lot of games. It will support different types of devices, because Apple never stops innovating and EA will continue to be there in full force. We are committed to Apple and its users and will rise to any challenge that’s placed in front of us.
To celebrate 5 Years of the App Store, we’re giving away 5 of EA’s most popular paid games (Ed: See the full list on our sale round-up page.) The giveaway starts today and runs for a limited time.
Chillingo is likely the largest third party publisher on the App Store. With over 10 years of experience publishing mobile games and hundreds of games in the App Store, they have pretty much seen it all. Chillingo was acquired by EA in 2010 but has been pretty much left to their own since then. We take a few moments to talk with Ed Rumley, COO of Chillingo about the App Store and the past five years.
148Apps: How has the App Store changed Chillingo?
Ed Rumley, COO of Chillingo: Well, when Chillingo started out we were dealing with a hugely fragmented marketplace. If people think they know fragmentation now, they should have tried publishing games back in the Java/Pocket PC days. The App Store changed everything. It created a single marketplace where it was easy to get your game to consumers. Our focus shifted to almost 100% iOS shortly after the advent of the App Store and stayed that way until pretty much a year ago.
148Apps: Chillingo has published some of the biggest games on the App Store. Huge success with games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Was the massive level of success of these games a surprise to you?
Mr. Rumley: We’ve always had a pretty good eye for something special, and we work with the best indie developers in the world. Obviously you can never tell if something is going to live up to the success you want for it but I think in almost every case over the past few years, whether it was Cut the Rope, Catapult King etc we’ve been quietly confident that we were onto something.
148Apps: In the five years since launch, the App Store has gone through considerable changes. The number of users has skyrocketed along with downloads, prices for paid apps has stabilized way lower than many expected, free to play has dominated the top grossing charts. If, knowing what you know about the App Store now, you could go back and influence the path of Chillingo five years ago, what would you say?
Mr. Rumley: I think if we were told what the App Store would be like between then and now we probably wouldn’t have believed it! I’m not sure we would have changed an awful lot, to be honest. We’ve always been good at spotting the rising trends in the mobile industry and what’s on the horizon. We did that effectively with the advent of the $.99 price point and we’ve always kept a close eye on the App Store, changing our business when and where appropriate. Since then, various free to play business models have emerged and you can see we’ve been embracing that—but on our own terms. Pixel People is a great example of a freemium title that people loved to play. It has the level of quality we have a reputation for, and was praised widely for putting the fun before the business model.
148Apps: What have you seen on the App Store, outside of apps published by Chillingo, that has surprised you most?
Mr. Rumley:I still can’t believe games like Real Racing 3 and Infinity Blade 2 are running on tablets and phones. The visuals, size and scope of games like these are console-quality, yet they all have the sort of gameplay that makes them totally unique as mobile titles. At the other end we are consistently blown away by what the indie developers is are capable of; games like Tiny Wings being made by just one person is amazing and I’ve lost a lot of time on games like Clear Vision and Stickman Base Jumper.
148Apps: Any predictions on what the App Store will be like five years from now?
Mr. Rumley:Different, that’s for certain. Judging by what has happened over the last past five years I would be mad to predict anything specific but will say that the quality of the games is only going to get better and the talent of the indie developer will never fail to surprise us!
Posted by Andrew Stevens on June 13th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Summertime is upon us and so is a hot new update for The Simpsons: Tapped Out. New buildings, characters, quests, and waterfront properties are now available in this summery update.
Players will also notice that the land has been expanded, with over 30 new plots of land, including areas that are next to the water for great waterfront properties. As for the characters, seaside entertainers have made their way to Springfield, including Sea Captain and Handsome Pete. Players can check out Sea Captain’s quest to find his place on dry land or out at sea.
In the sequel to PopCap’s hit lane-based defense game, Plants vs Zombies 2 takes players through three different times and places, including Ancient Egypt, The Wild West, and the Pirate Seas, bringing a whole host of new mechanics to the game, including Plant Food power ups and special destructive power buttons.
You’ll also see a whole new way of seeing your progression in the game with the big over world map, themed per time and world. THe game is looking great, and we got to play through a couple of levels of time-traveling fun.
We were able to sit with the folks behind the upcoming mobile reboot of Ultima Online today, learning more about the game and its planned release date (July, if all goes as planned). The game already soft-launched in Canada, and we hear tell that the producer on the game is playing in-game as well, so tell her hi from us when you see her.
The team has been hard at work balancing the game, making group joining a lot easier, and making sure the in-app purchases aren’t too egregious. Check out a quick video below to see the lay of the land.
Real Racing 3, in the latest update, speeds onto the challenging Dubai Autodrome. The new Dubai track has 6 different layouts with day and twilight racing for you to navigate. There are also new vehicles available as Lexus has brought its Lexus IS-F and Lexus LFA to the game, while Dodge adds the Dodge Charger RT and Dodge Charger SRT8.
Now, go dominate the new track, and check out the 50 new events while you’re at it!
In Canada, poutine is the national dish, ham is called bacon, and hockey is the game of gods, eh. Not only that, but the great white north also seems to get a bunch of iOS games early. Since it’s a smaller country at about 10% of the population of the US, it really does make a good test market. That’s why we like to pop in to the Canadian App Store every once in a while to see what’s new.
In this episode of It Came from Canada we take a look at Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar. Ultima is the classic name in RPG and dungeon crawlers. While it’s still early, will this installment make fans of the series happy without getting all that yucky EA freemium monetization goo all over it?
Ultima Forever looks much as it did when we took a look at it at GDC earlier this year. The one thing we get to see that we did not see then was how EA plans to monetize this freemium game. Unfortunately EA has taken the route of what amounts to play to win, but just one step removed. In the current version of Ultima Forever you can purchase keys. The type of key you have determines the quality of loot you get when you open up the chests you find in the game. If you use gold keys you get way better look than if you use bronze keys. You can purchase gold keys, yet rarely find them in the game. You will generally find bronze keys which yield low level loot.
That said, the game will likely still be fun, if you choose to play it properly. Take a look at our first quest in the game below.
We’ll be sure to have more news on Ultima Forever, when it will launch globally, and a review when that happens.
Pocket Gamer reports that the Real Racing 3 will receive its second content update soon, The Dubai Update. According to the Real Racing Facebook page, the update will feature twilight racing at the Dubai Autodrome, along with new cars and events. Check out the short trailer below to get a quick glance at what’s soon to come.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on May 17th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The Simpsons: Tapped Out has been updated with new locations and a familiar face, says Pocket Gamer. Agnes Skinner is now available in the game with a quest that revolves around her and her son, Seymour. She is also tasked with winning at bingo and taunting the elderly. Also, with the update, is an increased level cap of 29, new buildings, and more.
Electronic Arts and The Walt Disney Company announces an exclusive multi-year licensing agreement that allows EA to develop and publish Star Wars video games. EA will develop and publish Star Wars titles for core gamers on all interactive platforms while Disney keeps the right to develop new titles on mobile, social, and online games.
“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”
Posted by Andrew Stevens on April 11th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The latest update for The Simpsons: Tapped Out lets snakes loose in Springfield, leaving it to the player to eliminate them all. By giving these snakes a beating, players can win up to ten exclusive-content prizes that are available for a limited-time only. New buildings, characters and quests are also available, including Ninja Homer and Miss Springfield. Doh!
It’s time to grab the Camero ZL1 or Cobalt SS because the Real Racing 3 Chevrolet Update is live in the App Store. A new event type, Hunter mode, is also available, allowing players to pursue and overtake the hunted car within a single lap. There are also over 100 new events to partake in as well.
A new Real Racing 3 update, named The Chevrolet Update, will be available soon. It will include the Chevrolet Cobalt SS and Camara ZL1. EA is also introducing a new Hunter mode, Cloud Save functionality and over 100 events to the game, along with additional features and tweaks. Stay tuned over at the Real Racing Facebook page for more details as they surface.
EA showed off several of their new titles at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco today at GDC 2013, one of which being their Blitz take on Tetris. Appropriately named Tetris Blitz, this has two-minute sessions of the classic tetromino-dropping gameplay. The smart brick placement controls from the controversial revamp of Tetris have been refined, with easy manual placement options as well. Powerups can be bought, with special weekly powerups also available. The game is planned for this spring for iOS as a free-to-play title.
Set some twenty years after the events of Ultima 4, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is a completely redesigned, fully realized MMO for your iOS device. Our time with the game at GDC this year showed an amazingly faithful full-on MMO on the iPad, something we haven’t seen to this day. The game should release in the next few months, and we’ll be keeping our beady little eye on it until then.
Since it’s been something of a non-stop Real Racing 3 party here at 148Apps we wanted to draw things to a close with a bit of style. Which is why we’re going to capitalize on all the spirit of Time Shifted competition and challenge you, our readers, to a race. Specifically the Pure Stock Challenge, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Nissan Silvia (S15) Showcase Cup race pictured above. I think I’ve typed that out correctly. Why this event? Because it requires one of the first cars new players will have access to and doesn’t allow for any other; providing as even and easily accessible a playing field as we could find.
All you have to do is drive your heart out. Snap a screen shot (hit the Power and Home buttons on your iOS device at the same time) of your best time and post it in the comments below along with your Game Center username. We’ll pick random winners from all of the entries and post the results here on Monday (3/4) afternoon.
The prizes? We’ll give away three $10 iTunes gift cards to spend how you see fit. Although in the spirit of the contest we’d suggest something like, oh, maybe the Race Car Booster Pack that includes 65 gold and a 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR-X?
Update: We’ll contact our three winners via email. Thanks for playing and look for more Real Racing 3 contests coming up soon.
Now that Real Racing 3 is out, we are going to give you some tips to get the best times and have the most fun with Real Racing 3. All of that with an eye toward how you can minimize any real money investment in the game.
Real Racing is the most beautiful racer on any mobile platform, and it’s free, so there is no reason not to try it. I’ve played Real Racing 3 for around 30 hours total now, let me give some tips on how to get the farthest possible in the shortest amount of time and without paying a thing.
Manual brakes = faster times. The main tip I can give is one that I still haven’t mastered completely myself, turn the braking assist to low or even better off. Of the three assists in the game it makes the most difference in your racing times/speed. When the computer does all of the braking for you, it does so very conservatively. If you can at least turn braking to low, it will greatly decrease your times. One thing to remember, you can change this in-race, at any time. Hit the pause button and you can then get to the settings in the lower left of the screen. (See more dirty tricks below)
Get inside, quickly! You start in last place in every single race. Seems unfair, but get used to it. You can usually jump up at least half way up the standings in the first couple turns with smart maneuvering. The key here is to not follow the car in front of you. If you do that you can only go as fast as they are going, and the car in front of them, etc. Pick your own path, preferably on the inside of the turn, and zoom past the other cars as they all line up and then slow down when the car in front of them does. It’s best to not follow another car at any other time if at all possible, you get no advantage from drafting and will be more likely that you will need to slow down to avoid hitting the car you are following.
Build your stable of cars, smartly. You will need a single car that is one of the 3-4 for each circuit to race in that circuit. But you will need all of the cars in the circuit to complete it 100% as there will be races that require each car in the circuit. You should also note that most cars you purchase will be able to race in more than one circuit — just check out the list on the main page to see the circuits you have access to.
Real Racing 3‘s standout feature just might be Time Shifted Multiplayer. This feature takes the performance of actual players, and makes them the racers that you then compete against. There are no fake computer opponents; every event is a race against actual people (though not their exact performance, per se, because it is possible to interact with the cars). Still, the whole game is one entire multiplayer race, and every event presents an opportunity to not just get first place, but to beat the actual times of real people, including friends’ times. It’s extremely satisfying.
However, this feature can be confusing when trying out the game for the first time. When you see that you’re racing some random schmucks and not your friends, you might wonder. To alleviate any potential confusion, then, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about Time Shifted Multiplayer.
How do I race my friends?
You just need to add them to your friends list on either Game Center or Facebook. As they download and play the game, they will be added to your friends list and they will start to populate the race grids. There’s nothing you necessarily need to do manually to be racing friends–the game handles it all automatically. And it’s not just ghost performances that you race against: in time trial and top speed events, their ranks are what you need to top.
So what’s that invite button on the left sidebar for?
It’s meant to invite friends who aren’t on Game Center or that you haven’t added yet to join your friends list, or to invite existing Facebook friends to download the game. There’s no need to do anything to add your existing friends who play the game to your in-game player list, the game will add them automatically.
Why am I racing all these people who aren’t my friends?
Well, that’s for two reasons: one, if you don’t have enough friends to fill out a race grid then it will use other people from the internet. Two, the game will try to provide a fair challenge when trying to earn trophies. If friends fit that bill, they will be your competitors in that race. This is meant to provide a sense of balance, as if you just had friends who were really good, then it would be impossible to get the top-3 finishes necessary for trophies. Conversely, if you outclass your friends, then it would be way too easy to succeed.
So how do I actually race my friends?
Get a gold medal on a track, and the game will focus on making you race friends, especially ones with better times than you, in order for you to try and beat their times.
Is there any benefit to adding friends to race against?
Well, there’s certainly pride: seeing the name and avatar of a friend disappear in your rear view mirror is plenty satisfying. Plus, they get a push notification saying that you’ve bested them. It’s more of a push humiliation, really. However, as a more tangible benefit, the game also grants cash bonuses for beating the top times of your friends.
Have any more questions about Time Shifted Multiplayer? Ask us in the comments below!
The hotly anticipated free to play game Real Racing 3 is finally available in the US App Store. Grab it now and hit the tracks! Check out our Review of Real Racing 3 while you download this social racer.
EA and Firemonkeys’ new racing game Real Racing 3 not only features real cars, it also features real-world race courses. Some of the world’s most famous race courses are in the game, and so is one interesting fictional course with real-world basis. So without further ado, here are the five hottest tracks of Real Racing 3.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
It’s not the most exciting course layout, no. It’s four left turns. But in a game full of twisty, turny courses, this is one track where cars can go all out, trying ot drive as fast as possible, running the smart racing lines to keep speed highest. That, and consider the history of the track, home of the Indianapolis 500, one of the Triple Crown of Motorsport races. It’s a basic layout, but it’s a famous one.
This track located in Bathurst, Australia, may not be well-known to the casual racing fan, but racing on the track will make its appeal apparent. It’s like a roller coaster, with much of the race being a twisty, uphill climb. But it all comes to a head when the downward slope hits, offering a beautiful panoramic view of its setting, and a chance to set some fast speed times on that downhill slope. This track serves as one of the first speed tests in the game, and it also is a challenging multi-lap track thanks to its 2–3 minute lap times.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
This raceway, built at the bottom of a barren lake, is one of America’s most famous road courses. It’s particularly famous for its corkscrew turn at turn 8, where the a sudden left then right on a banked road causes the ground to look like it’s twisted like a corkscrew. Its dry and barren look gives the course a different visual look than many of the others in the game.
Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
The Belgian hillsides are a lovely and idyllic place, a lovely place to take a nice leisurely joyride through at over 140 miles per hour, no? This lengthy track boasts a long straightaway to make this one of the fastest courses in the world and in the game, with plenty of great views. Just don’t get distracted, as there’s plenty of dangerous, hilly turns, including the famous Eau Rouge corner and the Blanchimont turn.
This track stretches the definition of what is a real course and what isn’t. It’s based off of a real-world location, but nobody has actually raced here. Instead, Firemonkeys took the actual Melbourne central business district, worked out how to cordon off side streets to make it into an actual race track, and put it into the game. So it’s possible to actually race through the streets of Melbourne, seeing actual sights around this area, at speeds no one has hopefully ever gone at!
Here’s a quick rundown on how earning in-game money in Real Racing 3 relates to real dollars and time and what it would take to finish the game. What we found is rather shocking, doubly so if compared to current day console racing games.
Before we get to the details, we should note that these numbers are current at the time of writing. But like most free to play games the in-app purchase prices, timers, and values can change at any time the developer wishes. In the two weeks I’ve been playing, changes have already happened twice. So, the numbers reported could be different than they are when this is read.
In Real Racing 3, to get to 100% a player needs to win every one of the 961 current events. As there are races restricted to each one of the 46 cars in the game, to enter those races the related car must be owned. So to get to 100% in Real Racing 3 players must buy every car and win every race. What will it take to do that?
Also take note that like many free to play games, Real Racing 3 is tuned to allow players to earn everything without paying. But a player really has to want to put the time in to earn it. The developer doesn’t charge anything for the game with the hope that players will spend some money in the game to speed up their progress.
To earn enough money to buy every car in Real Racing 3, what would it take? Our numbers show that it would take over 472 hours to earn enough money to buy all of the cars in the game. Or to purchase all of the cars with real money via in-app purchase, it would cost $503.22 at the current best rate.
To earn all of the cars in the game rather that buy them with real money, a player would need to finish 6,801 races with an average (per our RR3 stats) of 4:10 per race earning R$3,700 per race. That would equal 472 hours to earn the R$25,163,573 it would cost in the in-game currency to buy all 46 cars. That does not include the cost for repairs, maintenance, or upgrades which can be rather expensive.
If a player wanted to take the shortcut and buy all of the cars in the game with real money, that would cost $503.22 in in-app purchases. That’s assuming the current best rate of R$50,005 per US$1 when buying R$5,000,000 at a time.
Let’s compare the cost for Real Racing 3 to modern day console games, what could be purchased for that $503.22. For one example, a player could get a 4GB XBox 360, Forza Horizon (one of the newest racing sims on the 360), all of it’s DLC including over 127 cars, and a 22″ Vizio flatscreen LED TV. And still have $17.22 left over.
I think I can safely say that the way that the cars and the in-app currency are currently structured in Real Racing 3 right now seems a bit out of whack. It seems extreme to think that players have the choice of playing for well over 400 hours or paying over $500 to unlock everything to complete the game. Or most likely, some combination of the two.
And these numbers are not counting any of the promised expansions that will deliver new events and new cars. Those will increase the time and money required to get to 100% complete.
Nor are these numbers including upgrades that could be required to win races. It is very unlikely that any player can win all races without upgrading at least one car in each series. And those upgrades can get pricey as fully upgrading a car can cost more than the base cost of a car. So while on paper it could take 472 hours to earn enough in game currency to buy all of the cars. In practice that number could be as much as doubled to pay for upgrades that would be required to win each race.
Free to play games are tuned to balance the fun a player has vs. the developers need to get earn money to pay for the game development via in-app purchases, that’s just the way free to play works. I’m not going to say it’s wrong, but it at times like this it just doesn’t feel quite right.
For players that feel the need to get to 100% in games, take caution with Real Racing 3. It will take a lot of time, or money to make it to 100%.
While Real Racing 3‘s international release date is still targeted for February 28th, some lucky players across the world are already getting the chance to play EA and The Firemonkeys’ hotly-anticipated racing game a couple weeks early. New Zealand and Australia already have the ability to download the free-to-play title starting today, and Canadians may get a chance starting tonight to play it as well, according to Touch Arcade.
This in all likelihood is a server test for the game. What developers occasionally do is to release their games to just select countries in order to not only test their servers, but to get feedback from real-world users that can be implemented before a global launch. In this case, EA and Firemonkeys may also use this lead time as a way to fill the game’s Time Shifted Multiplayer with a balance of real player performances.
The game is available immediately in Australia and New Zealand [NZ iTunes Link], and while everyone else has to wait, there are ways to become an honorary Kiwi and download the game right now. Those who do will be glad to know that progress is backed up to the cloud if they decide to delete and reinstall their country’s version in order to buy in-app purchases.
I feel lucky that I got a lot of time to play Real Racing 3. With well over an hour of playtime with Firemonkeys community manager Sam Mayo walking me through the game, I think I got a fairly good feel for Real Racing 3. That time with the game has just made my anticipation for the release greater.
I also got the opportunity to record a ton of video. Of the cars, some of the tracks and race types, the repair system, and more.
Wonder what the 46 cars are in Real Racing and wanted to see them? This video is for you. Here’s a parade of all 46 cars where you can see their specs at the bottom of the screen.
A special note here. Some of the cars don’t look perfect. The reason for that is the damage system in the game. If you damage the car while racing, that damage is persistent, much like it would be in real life. Your car will be represented as damaged anywhere in the game you see it. You can still race it, upgrade it, paint it, etc. But it will remain damaged, with it’s performance reduced, until you spend the in game currency to repair it and wait the time it takes.
Now, back to that video.
Customize and Upgrades in Real Racing 3
Like most racing games, Real Racing 3 has upgrade and customization options. For Real Racing 3 you can make a variety of tiered upgrades to the Engine, Drivetrain, Suspension, Brakes, and the Wheels. Under each section there are from two to four tiered upgrades you can do. Meaning that you need tier 1 to apply tier 2, and so on. Each of these upgrades applied to a single car and has the possibility to increase the top speed, acceleration, braking, or traction of the vehicle. Each one should decrease your lap times by some amount.
Mount Panorama Track – Time Trial in Real Racing 3
Mount Panorama is aptly named. You race up this steep track on a mountain that never seems to end, crest the top to a beautiful panorama, and plunge right back down the other side. Awesomely rendered vistas, but better keep your eye on the road. I did make more than a few mistakes on this time trial / Autocross race while looking around the beautifully rendered track.
Head to Head – Circuit de Spa-Francordchamps in Real Racing 3
We also did a head to head race on the long and very fast Circuit de Spa, or just Spa. It’s a great track and racer “drollted” provided a worthy challenge, until he made a mistake near the end of the first lap. It was bye bye from then on out as he had to take second place and I got the win!
Full 22 Car Race on Southbank, Melbourne in Real Racing 3
Real Racing 2 was amazing with up to 16 cars in a single race. Real Racing 3 has bumped that up to 22 cars. In this Southbank race you’ll see all 22 cars squeeze through a very narrow course. Southbank is the course through the streets of Melbourne. It’s a track that doesn’t exist and was just a fun experiment by the Firemonkeys team to add a brand new course. And a challenging one at that! This race gets a little dirty with lots of bumping and wall grinding in the narrow turns. I couldn’t pull out a win on this one. It was my first drive on the track and I made too many mistakes. Those walls just jump right out at you! The best I could do was to climb from 22nd to a disappointing 6th. Even dirty driving can’t win every time.
That’s all we have right now. You can tell from all of the coverage we’ve been giving Real Racing 3 that we are anxiously awaiting it. Real Racing 3 comes out as a Universal build on iOS on February 28th. It also realeases for Android at the same time.
Note that this is a preview of Real Racing 3, not a review. We can never review an app when it’s presented by people related to the app. The reason is that we have no idea how the game is tuned for that demo. We need to reserve judgement for the final release of the game, downloaded from the App Store, and set up just like it is for everyone else.
We got a chance to grab some quality hands on time with Real Racing 3 today. We got about thirty minutes of video we’ll be posting over the coming days. The game, much as we expected, it’s pretty amazing! It looks great, it plays great, and our concerns about the free to play model were somewhat assuaged.
We’ll have more on the free to play model once we get more time with it. But you can at least rest assured it’s not super intrusive. It exists pretty much as we guessed last week, but with less friction and fewer pay walls than I anticipated.
The free to play energy system in Real Racing 3 works like this. You earn cash when racing. When you race, and damage your car, you have to pay for those repairs. The better you are, the less damage you do to your car. To fix you car, you have to use the cash you earn. You also have to pay for upgrades and new cars. While the damage to your car does affect the power of it, you can chose to not repair it and keep racing.
Also, typical to most free to play games there are two currencies included. Dollars and gold coins. Dollars pay for repairs, upgrades, etc., the gold coins speed things up, reducing your wait time.
Repairs and upgrades take time to complete. How long depends on how much damage or how big of an upgrade it is. You can speed them up by using gold coins. You only earn gold coins by leveling up in the game or by buying them with real money via in-app purchase.
All in all, not that intrusive for free to play games. But I can’t totally give it a pass as the device I was playing on had millions in cash and thousands of gold coins. That doesn’t give me a good feel for how fast you earn money or how fast you are forced to spend it. We’ll have more when we get a chance to try it on our devices.
Here’s a quick demo of Real Racing 3, featuring the first full race seen anywhere. We’ll have more videos coming soon with more on the cars in the game, the repair and upgrade system, and more. But first, here’s 4:26 of Real Racing 3 bliss.
Real Racing 3 launches as a Universal app on February 28th. We hope to have a promo code soon so we can start setting some hot laps. When we get one, we’ll have more in-depth info.
Sister site Pocket Gamer editor Richard Brown discovered that Real Racing 3 is showing up in Game Center. The good news is that means it’s been approved by Apple and it can’t be long before the release now. While it’s not out yet, this does bring up something interesting. Something I noticed in the Game Center achievements lends a little to the accuracy of rumors and theories I’ve been hearing that Real Racing 3 will be released as a free to play game.
Last week we took you through a three part series about the history of the App Store icon, Real Racing. Rob Rich covered the history and design of the first two games in the series. He also covered time-shifted multiplayer and other new features expected in Real Racing 3. An excellent series and well worth a read. One thing we didn’t cover is how the game will be monetized as it has yet to be announced. That monetization method is likely to have huge implications on how the game is received by the fans of the series.
In the past few months, monetization of games has made a huge shift. With the exception of Minecraft Pocket, the only games to spend any time high up on the top grossing list have been free to play games. It’s obvious where the money is. Real Racing 3, with a budget likely to eclipse the reported $2 million budget of Real Racing 2, may have to be free to play to have the potential of making a profit. Let’s take a look at the evidence.
For one, Firemint / Firemonkeys have already tested the free to play world with mixed results. The follow-up to their first smash hit Flight Control, called Flight Control Rocket was initially released as $0.99 paid download. The game was tweaked to drive higher in-app monetization and made free to play. There was a bit of a backlash though as many of the in-app purchases were considered “pay to win” items. Something that really ruins the competitive aspect of games. Flight Control Rocket was never a huge hit and it’s thought to have lost money.
A similar thing happened with another Firemint / Firemonkeys game, Spy Mouse. Initially released as a $0.99 puzzle game, it was tweaked with in-app purchase items included and made free. It is rumored that this change was much more successful for Spy Mouse in generating revenue. So we know that Firemint / Firemonkeys have their tests in free to play. They also see how much money is being made in free to play, it’s logical that they would move that way. Nearly the whole industry is heading that way.
Today the Real Racing 3 Game Center achievements are discovered, thanks to the carelessness of an EA employee. To my eye they verify that Real Racing 3 will be free to play. Two achievements in particular, “Extreme Paintover – apply 100 paint jobs” and “Wrenching Experience – conduct 5,000 repairs” point in that direction as they both seem excessive for a standard paid release.
Free to play games usually have what is called an energy system. This is the pay/play wall you hit when you have played a certain amount without paying anything. The energy system can be thought of as your allotted playtime. The energy / playtime decreases as you play and rebuilds as you wait. The “Wrenching Experience” achievement listed above to me indicates that cars will need to be repaired after racing, effectively refilling your energy to race again. The reason I think that is that 5,000 repairs is a huge number unless repairing the car is a necessary condition to racing. And why would that be a necessary condition of racing if it wasn’t a free to play energy system?
Free to play can be done right, even in racing games, so I’m holding out hope for Real Racing 3, should it turn out to be free to play. I have faith in Firemonkeys that they will not ruin my most favorite francise on iOS. When the game play is put first, and the monetization is optional, the game could shine as free to play. But when an overly aggressive energy system interrupts gameplay and forces plays to pay up or wait, it really saps the excitement from the game. I’m hoping for the former, obviously.
I can also hope for a single in-app purchase to just unlock everything and get rid of any play limits, energy systems, or similar. That would be the best of both worlds. But I doubt we’ll see that.
For Real Racing to succeed with both free to play and core racing gamers, it needs to carefully ride that thin line between pay walls and allowing players to just play. It’s a tough line to ride. And if there’s even a hint of pay to win, it will in my opinion, kill the game with all but the most casual gamers. Something like that would lead to a huge backlash from the hundreds of thousands of devoted players that love the Real Racing series, like me.
We’ll find out next week. EA is hosting an event in San Francisco which will be the first event to let journalists get hands on with Real Racing 3. It should be evident there what the plan is for monetization of Real Racing 3. Oh yeah, and I finally get to play Real Racing 3!
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on January 31st, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
The folks (Electronic Arts) behind The Simpsons: Tapped Out must have love on their minds, as they’ve just updated their free, universal app with new stuff for Valentine’s Day. Decorate Springfield with limited-time decorations, collect Hearts from around town, and send Valentines greetings to your friends.
• New Buildings – Pick up some love handles a la mode at Phineas Q. Butterfat’s, capitalize on insecure relationships at Howard’s Flowers, and even lose some golf balls at Sir Putt-A-Lots.
• New Characters – Send Shauna around searching for young love, get Homer and Marge to snuggle in the Golf Castle, and send Valentines with Lisa.
• New Decorations – Sweeten up your Springfield with rose bushes, cherub topiaries, and the “I Choo-Choo-Choose You Train.”
• New Quests – Join Bart on his quest for love. Will Bart and Shauna enjoy a blossoming romance, or will Bart be left sulking in his room?
• New Event – Visit your friends’ towns, send Valentine’s Day cards, and generate limited-time Heart currency.
The soon to be released Real Racing 3 is on a lot of iOS gamers’ minds these days, especially many of us here at 148Apps. Because of this we thought it would be a good idea to recap the series. In fact, we might have gone a bit beyond that and created a trilogy. First we’ll be taking a look at the series’ history and the history of Firemint, the Melbourne based studio that created the series. After that we’ll be taking a look at the design factors and what when into creating the first two Real Racing titles as well as a little of the third. And in the third part of this series, we’ll take a look at the new Time Shifted Multiplayer found in Real Racing 3.
One of the best-known examples of how far developers can push Apple’s new iPhone 5 hardware is looming just over the horizon. However, it wasn’t always so. Sure the Real Racing series has steadily become pretty much synonymous with near console-quality visuals on mobile platforms, even going so far as to have a permanent spot on the App Store’s Big-Name Games and Racing Games lists, but there was once a time when no one knew the name Firemint. This was around four years ago, when most mobile games were still easily distinguished from virtually every other platform. You know, when Solitaire and box-pushing puzzles came preloaded on everything and acquiring new games wasn’t anywhere near as convenient as it is now. Oddly enough, the developer’s first major innovation wasn’t even based around graphics.
According to Kynan Woodman, Real Racing 3’s Development Director, the original Real Racing was actually more of an experiment than a real game. Specifically they were trying to figure out how to rig up accelerometer steering for a Nokia handset in a way that wasn’t awkward or unnatural. Keep in mind this was back in 2008, and up to that point attempts at such a control scheme would tilt the view along with everything else which wasn’t exactly conducive to a driving game. “To solve this problem we tilted the horizon dynamically to counter your steering of the device,” he said, “so that regardless of where you moved the horizon in the game would match the real world. It seems obvious now, but no one had done it at the time.” Firemint didn’t just find a work-around for a common problem, the team developed a solution that set a new design standard for accelerometer controls.
Building A Unique Race
Once it had the horizon tilting figured out, Firemint began to construct the game that would eventually become Real Racing around it. “There was a lot more to the Real Racing franchise than great controls,” said Woodman, “but it started with that as a key innovation.” As it turns out, innovation ended up being Firemint’s calling card of sorts.
The developer’s second major task was to construct an interior view that the series has come to be known for, “… so players could actually see the steering wheel move as they steered,” Woodman said. It’s a feature that isn’t uncommon in console racing games these days (Codemasters’ Race Driver: Grid is a prime example), but it’s not prevalent in many – if any – iOS racers. The added level of detail, and by extension immersion, goes a long way to enhancing the “simulation” experience.
The decision to create a racing game built around closed tracks was made fairly early on in the cycle, however, but the rest of the design evolved as the game was developed. No one at Firement (now Firemonkeys) expected their project to become such a juggernaut on the App Store or to be the target of much speculation when early gameplay footage (above) was first revealed on PocketGamer in August of 2008. “We particularly enjoyed all the comments from consumers about how it was ‘clearly fake,’” said Woodman. Encouraged by these reactions, Firemint continued its work on through 2009, listening to fan and potential consumer feedback all the while. “We had a good idea of what people would like from the game,” he said, “because we could read comments and talk to press and consumers about it. Although we couldn’t do everything that players would like, we did use their feedback to help us focus the game design.”
Not Just A Racing Game Studio
Amidst all the hullabaloo surrounding console-quality visuals and innovations up the wazoo it can be easy to forget that Firemint doesn’t only make racing games. In fact, before Real Racing came out, it was already flying high (*rimshot*) thanks to the success of Flight Control. This casual mobile rendition of a day in the life on an air traffic controller began as a simple experiment concocted by Firemint CEO Robert Murray. It was meant to be a simple design exercise created over the winter break when the studio was shut down for the holidays, but garnered so much attention around the studio that fellow Firemint designers, Alexandra Peters and Jesse West, hopped on board to help turn it into a full-blown game–a good call considering that it’s sold over half-a-million copies in its first month and well over three million to date.
The original Real Racing went on to receive plenty of accolades, including 2010’s Apple Design and IMGA’s Excellence in Connectivity Awards, as well as a Best App Ever Award for Best Racing Game, Best Graphics, and Best Simulation Game in 2009. It’s also sold a whole bunch–and that’s just the first game. Not surprisingly, after Real Racing was launched in June of 2009, work on Real Racing 2 began roughly 6 months later.
The sequel to Firemint’s critical darling turned its fair share of heads as well when it was released in December of 2010. In addition to carrying over all the new concepts and special features that made the original Real Racing so noteworthy, Real Racing 2 added plenty of new items to its pedigree. The career mode was greatly expanded upon by allowing players to earn cash to purchase new cars and even upgrade their current ones. More camera options were added along with a special TV broadcast-style instant replay system. Vehicles were given damage models so that particularly rough races would leave telltale signs all over the racer’s cars. Online save options were added to allow players a chance to carry over their racing career when they installed the game to a new device. It was one of the first games to incorporate Apple’s Airplay technology which allowed players to view their games on their TV, using their iOS device as a stand-in for a controller. Actually, it allowed up to four players to view their games on the bigger screen all at once by way of the special Party Mode.
Last but not least, and in keeping with the whole “innovation” thing, Firemint also managed to include 16 player races (against AI in single player or 15 other people online), which was a first for iOS games at the time and no small feat in and of itself. All of these various features reportedly pushed Real Racing 2’s development costs to over $2 million. So it wasn’t just a first for iOS multiplayer, it was also a first for iOS development costs. Real Racing 2 has received a fair share of success with a combined (critic) Metacritic score of 94 to date along with taking the Best App Ever Awards for Racing and Graphics in 2010. With so many hits on Firemint’s hands, it’s no wonder large publishers like EA took notice.
The following year, Firemint was absorbed into the collective that is Electronic Arts. Some were understandably concerned about the acquisition, as it’s not uncommon for smaller studios to lose most of what makes them special (or get dismantled entirely) once they become a part of a much larger whole. However, Firemint CEO Rob Murray, as well as EA Interactive’s Executive VP, Barry Cottle, were quick to put those fears to rest by recalling the developer’s history. Many of Firemint’s pre-Flight Control and pre-iOS releases (Need for Speed Most Wanted, Madden, etc) were created while under contract for EA Mobile. One could even argue that EA helped to shape the folks at Firemint into the dream team they are today. Getting bought by one of the largest video game publishers in the business while being able to maintain their creative freedom made for an exciting opportunity for the already quite successful developer. But it didn’t end there. In July of 2012, Firemint joined forces with IronMonkey Studios (Dead Space, Need for Speed Undercover) to create Firemonkeys. I hope they braced for all the inevitable Infernape jokes beforehand. Since then, EA’s involvement has most likely influenced Firemint’s/Firemonkey’s pricing structures, but overall it seems like they’ve left the developer to do their own thing, which is to make fantastic games.
A more recent and potentially troubling development was the announcement that Rob Murray–former CEO of Firemint, mastermind behind Flight Control, and Executive Producer at Firemonkeys–would be leaving to spend time as a full-time dad. It’s a perfectly good reason to step down and Tony Lay, EA’s Melbourne Studio GM, has more than enough experience to see Real Racing 3 to its release as the new Executive Producer, but it’s difficult not to have a little concern over what this means for Firemonkeys. Development heads come and go from time to time, as is the nature of the industry, but sometimes major shakeups can be difficult to shake off. There have also been rumblings of another kind of shakeup for Real Racing 3. The App Store is still a tough market to predict when it comes to pricing structure, and it’s rumored that Firemonkeys might do away with the premium price tag for their new racer. In fact, if the rumors are to be believed Real Racing 3 just might be free-to-play. It’s not definite by any stretch of the imagination at this point, but it is possible.
It’s impressive to think that Firemint accomplished all of this–several multi-award winning games, millions upon millions in cumulative sales, and a significant acquisition by a major publisher–in about three years’ time. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess, but with Real Racing 3 looming on the horizon, the future definitely looks exciting, and pretty shiny.
Tomorrow, we’ll delve into the design decisions and what it took to make the premier iOS racing game series, so stay tuned.