Feature: Real Racing 3 Launch

February 15, 2013

Real Racing 3 might just be a showcase of the future of the Australian game industry. Developed by Firemonkeys, currently Australia’s largest game development studio and based in Melbourne, it’s also being published by the corporate gaming juggernaut that is EA. The game was even shown off by Apple at the iPhone 5 announcement press conference as an example of the quality of gaming available on mobile devices. And this Wednesday, I was invited to the game’s launch at the official venue for the Victorian Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business, high up and overlooking the Melbourne skyline.

The game is built around three pillars – Real Cars, Real Tracks and Real People. There’s over 900 events, and over 40 cars in this initial version of the game, all extensively detailed on real locations and vehicles. Since it’s an Australian-developed game, there are several nods to its homeland, including a track at Mount Panorama, and a track that takes you through the streets of Melbourne’s Southbank.

As Kynan Woodman, Producer at Firemonkeys, explains, “We wanted to create a track in Melbourne that was exciting and fun, that also showed off the city… We found that showing off Flinders St. Station and the Eureka Building really were iconic buildings and it made for a fun track. And it was really close to our offices!’

The game is also graphically stunning for a handheld game, with detailed cars that even offer great looking cockpit views.

“The real cars start with CAD data from manufacturers, so they give us the data they use to create the car, and then we work from that to create a model that can be rendered in the game. The CAD data they send is millions on millions of triangles that we can’t render in the game, so we have to create our own model to become something that you can actually drive.”

By ‘Real People’, Real Racing 3 refers to its new time-shifted multiplayer system. Instead of racing against AI, you’ll face off against data from other players around the world. If you connect in with your Facebook, you’ll be more likely to see your friends’ data rather than randoms the next time you hit the track.

“We have time-shifted multiplayer, which lets you play against your friends. So they can play it one day and you can play against them another day. That’s what I love playing when I’m playing in the office. They’ll race in the game, I’ll get a message that night saying they beat my time, and then I can try and beat them in the morning.”

One of the biggest changes to the way gamers play Real Racing 3 is the ‘freemium’ system. What does that mean? Well, for one, the game is free to download. Eschewing the $9.99 price point of past games, the game instead makes its money from microtransactions, although not in the way you might think. You can still play the game, unlock tracks and cars and progress as normal, it’s just a matter of how patient you are. Purchased cars take time to deliver. Wrecked or damaged cars take time to repair. If you want to wait for these, you have to do so in real time, or you can spend gold coins (paid for by real money) to skip the wait all together.

“We wanted to give a bigger game in terms of structure and more games to play… The free thing is a way to get that game to the most consumers. It was all about creating the best game for the most players.”

I asked Kynan about whether this was a better alternative to try out the game, opposed to the traditional ‘free demo’ versions that have been available on the App Store.

“It’s not even a way to try out the game, it’s a way to get access to the game. I think the ‘trial or buy’ didn’t work – consumers didn’t like it, because they hit a wall where they had to make a choice. We don’t have that wall.”

Freemium and similar microtransaction pay models have traditionally met a mixed reception with gamers, and it will be interesting to see how it pays off for the latest Real Racing game.

Real Racing 3 is out now for iOS and will be out on 28 February for Android devices.

What do you think about the Freemium payment model? Let us know in the comments or on the forum!