It’s time to fire up your engines and prepare your Dig Dug decals, as Namco is bringing Ridge Racer Accelerated to the iPad later this month, after the game’s iPhone release last year. This latest version in the venerable arcade racing franchise focuses not just on trying to cross the finish line faster than your opponents, as per standard racing game procedure. You also have to master drifting technique, which fills up your nitrous meter, which you can then use to deploy speed boosts when you need them. The game features 57 unlockable vehicles, 11 courses playable both forwards and backwards, and 5 game modes, including a Game Center Time Attack mode. That sound you hear is Kaz Hirai being very excited about this racing series, which has amazingly almost been around for 2 decades now, coming to the iPad in full-screen, high-resolution glory.

The interesting thing about Ridge Racer Accelerated for the iPad is that it will be released as a freemium app – it will be free to download, include 3 cars, one course, with Time Attack and Game Center ranking modes available for free, and will cost $9.99 in-app to unlock the full app. This is Namco’s fourth freemium game release for the iPad, following Time Crisis 2nd Strike HD, Lost in Time: The Clockwork Tower and House of Glass. It appears as if this model is starting to pique the interest of major publishers, especially on Namco’s side, as this is their second release that has been freemium.

It would be interesting to see if this is a potential future business model for games on the iPad, as it seems to have drawn raised interest on this platform, between NimbleBit’s Dizzypad HD, One Man Left’s Tilt to Live HD, and now Namco seems to be pushing the freemium model with their iPad titles. Is there something about the platform that encourages more business model experimentation? Are iPad users buying apps in different ways than what the iPhone/iPod touch userbase tends to consume apps? Between these titles and Gameloft testing the model out over on the iPhone side of the App Store, it’ll be curious to see how consumers react to it and if we continue to see it used down the road. Ridge Racer fans will get to express their opinion on the model later this month when Ridge Racer Accelerated HD hits the iPad.