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Podcast

The Good, the bad and the ugly of racing game pricing – The Traxion Podcast, episode four

Ever feel like you’re opening a can of worms? That’s what we feel like with this week’s podcast episode as we discuss the pricing of racing video games and simulations.

Is subscription the way to go? How about DLC? Season passes? Free to play with à la carte paid content?

We try to discuss it all, and by all means, this isn’t the final word on this. Who are we to discuss the perfect model? We’re simply three people discussing our personal opinions. Times changes, and so do pricing models. At the end of the day, games are not free to make.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please, contact us via social media and perhaps propose your ideal pricing structure.

The Traxion Podcast is available on all major podcast outlets. Simply search “Traxion Podcast” on your favourite podcast service and subscribe to get instant notifications when the latest episode releases.

Hosted by Justin Sutton, John Munro and Thomas Harrison-Lord.

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The Traxion Podcast episode four, full transcript

Here’s the automated transcript. It’s so random.

John Munro:

Hello everybody. And welcome back to the Traxion podcast. On today’s show, we’re going to be discussing something that isn’t exactly glamorous on the face of it, but it is a hugely important aspect of the racing game community. And that is pricing strategies. Joining me today, we have a man who once spent $300 so that him and his girlfriend could touch a penguin. It’s Justin Sutton. How are you doing Justin?

Justin Sutton:

Yep, that’s me. I’m doing great. I’m doing great. It’s not quite as good as the day I touched that penguin, but it’s still a pretty good day.

John Munro:

And also joining us as a man who didn’t spend $300 on touching a penguin, but did spill chocolate on his shirt before recording and break his microphone. And is now using a backup one. It’s Tom Harrison-Lord. How are you doing Tom?

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yes. The day is not going so well, but it can only get better from now on for the podcast. Yes. I’ve been a bit of an idiot today.

John Munro:

Oh, don’t worry. If there’s any delays, I will make sure we get it shared on the podcast and stuff, but no, the real important stuff is of course the topic of discussion. And there is a reason why I find this topic to be an important one, because I believe that, a person’s experience of a racing game can be hugely influenced by their own financial situation. Like it is with any kind of hobby or anything you do. If we all had unlimited money, we could do whatever we wanted and things wouldn’t be such an issue. But when people have limited money, the pricing of a certain product or a thing that they’re doing can hugely impact their experience of it and how much they enjoy it. Is that something you’d agree with Justin?

Justin Sutton:

Yeah, for sure. The value proposition of any activity, as you said, any hobby whatsoever, it all comes into for me personally, I always have this thought of like, how much would you pay to go see a movie and then equate that into your dollars per hour? And then, was that, was that game worth $50 if I only got five hours of game play in it. And then, it also comes down to the quality of the experience that you have for those five hours as well, if it’s a lot better than going to a movie, then that explains it and stuff. So as you said certainly I would imagine none of our listeners have unlimited money, not yet anyway, maybe someday. So they have to think about that sort of thing.

Justin Sutton:

So it becomes important that the value of it, because a $20 racing game, you’re going to have one expectation and something that you spend a hundred dollars a year on, you’re going to have a whole other expectation.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Right? Yeah. I don’t think we’re in a little bubble of sorts because we pretty much buy every racing game. There is sometimes we’re lucky enough to get review codes and that sort of our livelihoods to play racing games and talk about them and write about them. And most consumers and people who are listening to this podcast or reading the Traxion website, aren’t in the same position. They’ve got, they might play all sorts of different video games, so the budget has to be split across those. They’ve got rent to pay mortgages, to pay all sorts of other expenses in life. So the pricing of a video game and if it’s good value for the money is crucial.

John Munro:

Absolutely agree. Couldn’t agree more. And I think in this podcast we’d quite like to do is just talk about some of the different pricing strategies that various games and developers actually go for and what we believe works well, what we believe doesn’t work well, and whether we can even come up with our own, , what, what pricing strategy would be perfect from us, obviously, we’re coming at this from, we’re not, all three of us are not game developers, right? So we don’t know all the details of all the costs and stuff, and we don’t know how it all works, but from a consumer’s point of view, anyway, I think there are certain things that we can recognize work well and certain things that don’t. And speaking of don’t, I’m going to start with talking about a game or a service, I should say, not a game, a service, that is probably spawned this debate in my head.

John Munro:

I see a lot of disagreement about it online, and it’s kind of the thing that inspired this podcast and that is iRacing. And I’m sure many of you knew this was coming. Now iRacing works on a subscription basis. You don’t just buy iRacing and then play it. You’ve got to subscribe to it. And then if you want to play certain things within that, you’ve then got to buy the content separately. But even then, do you ever really fully own it? Not exactly. It’s a bit of a complicated one and I don’t know what you think about it, Justin?

Justin Sutton:

So I have some rFactor friends that refer to, and when I say rFactor friends, I mean friends who play rFactor cause , people find a SIM and they just latch onto it. So I call them the rFactor friends. They’re the ones that play a lot of rFactor and they always refer to, and I’ve always thought this is so funny. They refer to iRacing is iRental? Because as you said, you don’t technically own anything and it could be stripped away from you at any time. And , all of that money that you put into it just goes bye-bye. Which is really scary. I mean, honestly, especially with the cost of it as well too. You mentioned it’s a service, there’s a subscription, that’s part of it for sure. But you also have to pay for tracks, for cars and stuff like that.

Justin Sutton:

And as you said, we don’t want to, we’re not just going to bash iRacing. There are positives to it. , you do get those dedicated servers. You do get stewards that will look into. If somebody just plows into you at turn one or whatever they can call it.

John Munro:

It’s got speed insurance.

Justin Sutton:

Exactly. So there are benefits with that, but , people’s expectations are a lot higher too when you’re putting that kind of money into it.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. I think, I’m not fully into the iRacing scene. When you first start looking into it, you think, Oh, it’s a subscription. So my brain naturally goes to your like Spotify, Netflix kind of model where I pay the subscription that gets me access to X amount of content. And maybe because it’s a subscription, I don’t necessarily feel like I have to own it. I’m just gaining access and that’s okay with me. But then it’s the extra element of iRacing in that if you need the latest cars or a certain car part to compete in a certain class or type of competition, that’s actually additional funds like DLC for a game that isn’t on subscription. So that’s quite unique, but slightly strange in my view.

John Munro:

Yeah. Like I think the cost of iRacing is quite high. And I can as I’ve told you guys before, I understand the reasoning for that because we don’t know the exact expenses that go on here and you have to say iRacing quality of content in terms of their tracks and being laser scan, their cars and immaculate detail has gone into them. So that’s going to be very expensive in the first place. So I’m not going to be the one to judge the exact amounts. But what I would say, you look at the price of an iRacing subscription, which you pay, every year or maybe every two years, maybe just for three months. And the price is already above what you’d normally pay for a kind of a regular SIM that you might expect. Then you look at how much DLC packs cost normally.

John Munro:

And you could probably all agree that DLC, depending on the size of it can sometimes be between something like £5 and £15 or maybe, $7 and $20 or probably $5 and $50 now, because of everything that’s going on, but anyway, I think that the issue with that is when you look at iRacing, they release one track and you need that track then to be able to complete a full season of a certain series. So you need to buy the track to be able to compete and the track is going to cost you like £14 – £15. Then the cars are expensive as well and I just think that, when the stuff becomes out of date, so you own, you buy all this stuff, you spend hundreds and hundreds on cars and tracks over the years. And then within two years, almost 60% of those, 70% of those aren’t even being used in online racing anymore. And it basically becomes redundant. So it’s kind of like chucking it in the back of a shed and leaving it to rot. I’m not super enthused by how quickly this stuff is dismissed and just because of that, therefore the pricing for me is just a little bit too high.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

That seems a little crazy when you put it that way, just to play devil’s advocate does the high barrier to entry through the subscription, but probably you need some decent equipment to be competitive. That’s another debate for another time and the paid track for this particular competition or this car that you need. Does that mean that if you’re wanting to do iRacing your fully committed to it and therefore, does that make it like an elitist esports and does that mean that only those who are super into it take part and does that improve the quality of competition?

John Munro:

Well, I definitely have thoughts on that. I see what you, where you’re coming from as a devil’s advocate. I think that the thing about needing good equipment and stuff is relevant for iRacing because it’s one of the few SIM’s where you can really benefit with good equipment. I stopped using iRacing because I didn’t have good enough brake pedals to be able to do it properly. But as you say, it’s another discussion in detail, when I got iRacing, I was only able to do it when I was younger because it was a birthday and Christmas present from my parents. So that was like my thing as a kid was I was able play iRacing because they could afford to get some of the stuff, the subscription was already a full, massive birthday present. And then any content, half of the content was still going to cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds. So once you did that, and then I can’t then afford to keep on top of that. So as a young person playing it without much money, I could never afford to play iRacing on a consistent basis. But what I would say as well about what you, what you said, in terms of the elitism, does having more money and being less accessible, make the driving any better. Definitely not.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

No. When you put it that way.

Justin Sutton:

Also, I would say it does kind of lock people in, as you kind of alluded to Tom. You spend so much on iRacing that you feel compelled to continue with iRacing because of the massive investment that you put into it. You can spend $60 and pick up the latest Project Cars title and you feel no problem at all, just switching to another game, cause you’ve only paid 60 bucks. It’s no big deal, but when you’ve invested $600 into a game, then you’re going to feel compelled to get your money’s worth. And you’re going to only want to race in iRacing, which is really unfortunate. I mean, there’s already this issue in the sim racing community where people get focused on one thing, because it becomes difficult to be good at multiple sims. Like James Baldwin is one of the few sim racers that I’ve seen that can really go from sim to sim, Bono Huis is another one I’ve seen that can go from sim to sim, that they have that kind of ability to transfer from one to the other. But the vast number of pro sim racers pick a platform and they just stick with it. And unfortunately I do think iRacing kind of encourages that sort of behavior, which is I think unfortunate.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Right? So it creates a certain amount of hubris where you spent so much and you have to dedicate so much time to it to justify the investment that then maybe you go on the internet and defend that game no matter what,

Tom Harrison-Lord:

I’m not suggesting that that might happen.

John Munro:

The investment can never slow down. Either the investment can never slow down because as soon as you miss it for a year or a few months, you’re going to be behind. And with cars, it’s slightly more forgivable because if you don’t buy a certain car, you just don’t race in that series. But with tracks, it’s a nightmare because you can guarantee that if they’ve released a new track, every series for the next three years or most of the series, they’re going to try and sneak in that track somewhere in the calendar to force you to buy it. Like, I mean I’m going to move on from iRacing because we can talk about that all day. But what I would say is credit to iRacing the quality from my perspective, when I’ve played iRacing, incredible quality.

John Munro:

And I think the racing can be amazing. There’s like huge user base as well. So obviously people feel like it’s worth the money. I think it’s entirely subjective. It depends on what you believe the value to be of that service and to lots of people it’s the best out there. So therefore it’s worth the money. And what I want to talk about is something that is in a way, when you think about it, similar to iRacing in terms of almost like a yearly subscription, but it’s hidden it’s masked by the fact that these games are released, a new game every single year. So we have games such as the F1 series where you get a title that’s released, you know, F1 2017 and then of course, next year you get F1 2018. Now, when you think about it, what we’re really doing is paying a subscription to Codemasters to give us an F1 game every year. The difference being that instead of getting a ping for DLC and content, you’re paying for a slightly different user interface, a few extra features and some new liveries and cars, am I basically right in saying that Tom?

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. Oh, where to begin on this? Do I mind yearly releases? Well, let’s think of it this way. I would love for someone who’s doing a yearly motorsport game, such as Formula 1 or WRC or MotoGP to try it one year where they go, okay. Instead of the full $60, $70 that say, we charge you $20 or $30, and here’s your roster date and a few tweaks. But I think the problem with that, that’s sort of the dream environment, I think, I mean, would that be a fair thing, John? Or Justin? Is that something you would like to try?

Justin Sutton:

When it comes to yearly releases, I actually like what Forza does, where they alternate what I would call a tick-tock schedule, which is what Intel does with like their processors, where you have one and then the other one, and then the other. It’s you have Horizon one year, you have Motorsport, the other, , this has kind of gotten broken up in recent years, or this has changed. But I like, the theory of that a lot better because you get a lot longer to work on each game. Companies like Codemasters that are making these yearly releases, I have to assume are splitting their teams up and you have somebody work on one game, one on like 2020, and then another team that’s working on 2021. And when 2020 launches, they start on 2022.

Justin Sutton:

So you’re already kind of alternating teams and you’re on like a two year schedule. That kind of thing. I personally, I think that, puts less strain on the developers. You end up with a higher quality product, but certainly either way, I like it better than the iRacing model, because you don’t feel compelled. , you don’t feel compelled to continue with a series. If F1 releases a bad game, one year, I just won’t get it. I never got F1 2014. I was a massive F1 fan in 2014, but I just skipped that game because I heard from a bunch of people, it wasn’t really worth picking up, it’s the last of that console generation, that kind of stuff. And you have that freedom to just skip a year and take it off. And it’s all fine.

John Munro:

I was going to say, sorry, on you go, Tom.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

No, no. After John, it’s all good. We both have so much to talk about on this idea.

Justin Sutton:

You guys are too polite.

John Munro:

Traxion podcast, it really gets the blood flowing. What I was going to say, It was quite similar to Justin. I wonder if there’s scope for and I think I agree that I think that developers maybe need to double the amount of time from one year to two is going to make a huge difference because how can you ever make progress if you’re constantly up against getting it out rather than moving it on. And I think that two years makes a big difference. Obviously Forza, I’ve done it smartly because they have two different games. They have two developers, right? So it’s like, here’s A and B and it’s two years per game, but because we’ve got two of them, we just double up on our resources and then we can have a full two year developed game each time, which makes a bit more of a difference. And I think you’d agree, the Forza games don’t feel like every year, it doesn’t feel like a tiny little change each time.

John Munro:

It feels like a new game. Right. So I think that there’s definitely scope for that. And maybe if you don’t have the resources to have two developing companies doing slightly different games, maybe you’re Formula 1 and it’s just going to be the same type of game each year. I wonder if there’s maybe scope for just basically doing bi-yearly releases and then for the second year, that’s missed out doing that as like a bonus mode that comes out for the previous game. Now, obviously this is me kind of just throwing something up in the air here, but say at the end of 2020, here comes the F1 2021 pack is released on F1 2020, and it’s integrated into the career mode. So you can flick between the two or you can do championships on it. And it’s the new cars, new speeds, new drivers and stuff like that. Fairly straightforward things to do, I would think relative to a lot of other things. And it just gives them the time to really focus on the new features for the F1 2022 game.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah, I think that’s, you’ve put it much better than I did. That’s what I was trying to get at in some respects where if it’s a sports game, there has to be something every year because there has to be something for the new roster of driver and teams, which is different to the Forza model. Also because it’s yearly will always be an iterative. Oh, my word, let’s put my teeth in thing and so what you said there, where it’s like, one year, it’s like a full release, then it’s like a DLC with the new update, then it’s another full release. Seems to be really good. What I would say to that is in theory, that’s great. But outside of racing in the world of football, sorry, Justin I’ll translate soccer, there’s, there’s two main titles is FIFA by EA and there’s Pro Evolution Soccer or Pes by Konami, right.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

And the Pes franchise has been sort of dwindling in sales, for quite a while. And so what they’ve done for this year is, okay, instead of doing a full game, it’s £15 or about $20, here’s this seasons player updates and squat updates that plays into last year’s one. And then next year we’ll do another one. So actually, that’s actually what you’ve suggested, John is happening in the world of soccer or football, but what’s happened is because they have not done a yearly release, there’s no PR buzz. There’s less people talking about it and I think it’s died a death, unfortunately. I think it’s a noble experiment, but because each year there’s, there’s more buzz because it’s a new thing. There’s some new features that really can bullet point out on a marketing PowerPoint somewhere. It gets more hype.

John Munro:

To me, like what I was suggesting sounds good on paper. I think the issue with it is that A) you need to companies not to get lazy and just make the same that would have made that they could have done in a year and just spread out over two. Obviously, if they’re being overworked, then you don’t want, then that’s maybe okay. But if they’re not being overworked, you’d like to think that they could do more with it in two years. But also as you say that the buzz about it is such a big thing and that it’s kind of, people, when you buy a new game, even if the physics and the way the game plays is totally different, you don’t necessarily like it because it’s better. You like it because it’s different. So like, what I would say is that you can have the same game twice in a row. And that feels like, Oh, there’s okay. There’s nothing there. But if you have a new game that comes out with a, say it’s FIFA, and the way the players feel are different and the headers are overpowered rather than the running, when that happens, it feels like a new game. It feels different and that makes people want to play it, right. Not just because it’s necessarily got more of everything or better features and stuff. I mean, this is something we will talk about some of those stuff a wee bit later on as well. I also just want to move on a little bit, because another big thing that we’ve mentioned a few times is that kind of DLC, and we should explain to anyone who’s maybe not familiar with that term. It’s just getting into the gaming, DLC is basically additional content that you can purchase for a game that’s already out there.

John Munro:

So for example, maybe a game comes with 10 different cars and 10 different tracks. And then the developers release a new pack, which is DLC and there’ll be five new tracks and five new cars, which you pay money for and it adds to the initial game. Now there are lots of different ways that DLC works. Sometimes DLC can work where it just makes a difference to the visuals of the game. Maybe adds in a few extra liveries or skins, or makes the player experience look better, but doesn’t actually improve your performance. Whereas, you also get situations where DLC can completely transform the game. Aka, we’ve released this new car, but it’s actually quicker than other cars in its class. And if you want to race online against these cars now, because it’s in the same class, you have to buy the DLC. There’s different, there’s good ways of doing DLC and there’s bad ways.

Justin Sutton:

Definitely. I would say the right way to do it. And I kind of take this from the world of first person shooters, the right way to do it is to have paid DLC be cars, paints, horns, customizations, stuff like that. Not tracks.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

How much would you pay for a horn Justin?

Justin Sutton:

A dollar, probably a dollar, $1. And it better be a good horn if I’m going to pay a dollar for it. That sort of stuff I think is good for paid stuff, but yeah, you don’t want to split up your community. It’s the same thing with like Call of Duty and all those other games. When they release a new map, it should be free to everybody that way you’re not separating your community, into people that have paid for the new content and people that haven’t paid for the new content. Cause inevitably not everybody is going to get the DLC, unless you’re iRacing obviously is the one exception to that and you release a new track and then everyone will get it.

Justin Sutton:

So same thing with the racing games, I would say, if you’re going to release DLC, and I think, Assetto Corsa did this, I was just trying to think of companies that have done this model. Assetto Corsa over with, they’re not, they’re not updating it anymore. They’re focused on Competizione and all that kind of stuff. But, when they were releasing content it was car packs, just car packs, just cars. You didn’t have to buy it, really made no difference. And I think you could still race against people that were in those cars, just you yourself could not select that car. But again, the tracks and stuff were all free. Like when they did the Nordschleife, I believe that was free content to absolutely everybody. That’s the kind of generous and conscientious way to do it, in my opinion.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. I can’t disagree with that. That’s exactly what I was going to say. Tracks should be, in my opinion, a free thing, even though it takes the developer time, effort and money to put that into the game. So then you think, well, how are they going to get anything back? But if you’ve got a scheduled release of different tracks and then the along that there’s like cosmetic items that are paid for, that helps fund the tracks. And that’s a model that works for me.

John Munro:

So sorry to be really boring here, but I’m going to have to agree with both of you. I think that is the best. I mean, it’s true. Like tracks make a difference. You can’t join in everyone if there’s a new track released and you’re not doing it, whereas with a car, you can contribute and it can, it can still work for you. So, that’s all okay.

John Munro:

So for those of you listening on a podcast service, you wouldn’t have noticed anything just then, but for those of you watching on YouTube, you probably noticed that I turned into a statue, but I’m back now I can move my hands and everything. Everything’s good. But yeah, we just finished talking about DLC stuff. There wasn’t really too much. I wanted to add on that anyway.

John Munro:

Yeah, exactly. That was probably what turned me into statue just the shock of lack of debate in the subject, because it makes sense. It actually makes sense. Who would have thought people could make sense? I want to talk about some other different ways that the games tend to go about things. And we do see quite a lot of free to play games. Whether that’s free to play in a kind of demo version where you get a few features and then you can pay a subscription to unlock the full one, or just pay a set price to unlock the full version, or whether it’s a free to play game where you get all the features, but you have to buy the content. Now that’s obviously a combination of different things that we’ve talked about already, but, I don’t know, Justin, do you have any opinions on free to play stuff?

Justin Sutton:

I think it can be done very, very well. Absolutely very well. And funny enough, I’m going to come full circle for a second here. I think iRacing actually often does free demos. You can do like three months of iRacing completely for free, and you do get free content with iRacing. I think the one everyone knows is the MX5. Everybody loves the MX5 rookie series.

New Speaker:

Yeah, exactly, exactly. This is classic stuff. Anybody has gotten into SIM racing and I will always tell people, if someone’s like, Hey, I’m a PC gamer. I just picked up a racing wheel. I tell them, go check to see if iRacing’s got, some sort of free promotion going on where you can race for a month for free or three months for free or something like that.

Justin Sutton:

Because why not? you know what I mean? There’s no reason not to take advantage of something like that. That sort of thing is never available to those of us that have already purchased content. So, if there is a time to try iRacing, that is the time, because it’s completely free, no charge at all. Again, you are going to be very restricted to the cars and tracks that you can run and all of that kind of stuff. But again, you can kind of dip your toes in it completely for free and try it out. But historically, free to play is not really something we see with racing games so much as we see from other, from other genres of games and stuff like that. One that I have played a lot of is the Blizzard MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.

Justin Sutton:

I have way too many hours in that game over many, many years, and I have spent some money on it, buying cosmetics, there was one particular character that I loved so much that when a special edition skin came out, I just dropped the $10 or whatever it was to buy it. Because I felt, I’ve been playing this for so many hours and have given them zero money. So I almost felt obligated at that point to spend some money. I do wish there were more racing games like that, but at the same time, I can kind of understand how that would be difficult.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. There’s no one really taking up the mantle. Well, there’s one example I can think of, but there’s the gaming environment is screaming out for like a arcade or SIM game. That’s like free to play that has like the Fortnite model where like skins and customizability, are where you pay the money for, but the cars and the tracks are all sorts of free. I suppose Destruction AllStars kind of is if you’re going to count that as a racing games, not really racing, is it, but the one that springs to mind when you say free to play is…

John Munro:

RaceRoom

Tom Harrison-Lord:

RaceRoom, yes. RaceRoom.

John Munro:

I was waiting there to say it for minutes.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

You were primed.

John Munro:

RaceRoom. What about RaceRoom.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. I’ve started getting back into RaceRoom a bit actually, because I played it quite a few years ago and oh that’s frustrating. I really liked the game. I really like touring cars and there’s a load of touring cars in there. There’s the official DTM packs, official world touring cars are in there, but the pricing model sucks. Sorry, really, sorry. I liked the game though, not the pricing model.

Justin Sutton:

I’ve heard that.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Because the free stuff is minimal. It’s unlicensed stuff is what you get for free, but a few like made up cars and stuff, and you might get one or two tracks. Can’t remember now, it was so many years ago when I initially signed up. So on the Traxion website, you’ll see there’s the 2020 WTCR is going to be added to the game, the official license of the World Touring cars, brilliant. That’s going to be a car and livery pack for an amount doesn’t include any tracks, all tracks are paid for. So what happens is, if you going online, it’s quite kind of hard to find a game that, okay, well, I’ve got this classic race car DLC with these three tracks. Can I find a race for that? No, no I can’t. So, also you have to end up buying these big packs, but not everything is in the big packs. And if you do that, it’s hundreds of pounds. And I don’t know, I don’t know.

Justin Sutton:

I have a weird insight on this very quickly. I worked with a league. I’m not gonna name names or anything like that, but they were looking into switching to another SIM from, from one SIM. And they looked at RaceRoom and they looked at iRacing and iRacing was cheaper. Let that settle in. iRacing was cheaper than for this league. So this was like a professional league. They had sponsors, bills to pay, editors to pay, this was like a business, not just like some rinky dinky league. And they went around and they were pricing out the different options that they had and they went to RaceRoom and they said, all right, we have this many drivers and we need this much content. And they got an estimate. They did the same thing at iRacing and iRacing was the cheaper option, which just blew me away.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

I guess, with iRacing though, it depends how long they’re doing it. The longer they’re using iRacing, the more they’re spending, right. Because it’s a subscription, I suppose, with RaceRoom, you get that. You can have that one big hit early on to get all the content, but it’s not cheap. Now they do do regular sales.

John Munro:

I don’t know, because the thing with me for RaceRoom is and I used to SIM race on RaceRoom for a couple of years and it’s actually, it’s a really good SIM, it’s kind of, it feels like the natural predecessor of Race 07. It has that kind of slightly numb feeling. That’s heavy enough with forced feedback that can be really satisfying to drive. And it’s actually quite a nice compromise between like really difficult SIM and something that’s manageable. But anyway, that’s another discussion altogether. I remember getting a pack that was like, I think it was everything in the game. They came up on the big sale and it was like buy all of the content for £40 or £50 and at the time. I was like, okay, I’m doing my leagues on this. It’s good. Let’s just get that.

John Munro:

And that was all fine. And I got a lot of stuff way more than you would spend on the individual packs, but the problem is within a year or two it’s, again, they don’t, that doesn’t get topped up, it’s, once it’s done, that’s it. And then whenever the next season comes out, you need to be then buying that again. And the tracks come out and okay. I don’t think it’s that bad if you own the tracks, if you get, if you get tracks a good deal but in this case, then buying individual series, when you really want to do them or tracks, then it’s not the end of the world, but it’s yeah. As you say, it’s flawed. It’s definitely flawed. And another thing I want to talk about is something that is becoming more popular in games recently, which is where games are being released before they’re fully completed and sold to you at a full game price but as an open beta.

John Munro:

Now I know this isn’t technically like this. This is a bit of a weird one because it’s not fully about pricing, right? Because it’s about the style of game that’s released. The reason it’s relevant is because what happens when you release a beta at full price, people complain because they’re paying for a game that’s no longer finished. Now I do have some opinions on this, but I’ll let you guys start. So, Justin, do you have any experience with open betas or Tom’s jumping in there at the bit.

Justin Sutton:

Go for it Tom.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

I just can’t think of an example. So could you give me an example of a game that’s charged for a beta or something that’s not finished?

Justin Sutton:

Early access.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Ah, the early access to it. Of course.

Justin Sutton:

Which I can, I have more experience with early access games that aren’t racing games, than are racing games, but BeamNG is a perfect example of that. I’m happy to do it as long as there is progress being made and it’s gonna hit version 1.0, eventually, I don’t mind, I like getting in on the ground level, if they say, yeah, this game is going to come out in two years at $60, but you can get it today for $20 and play it now, but it’s not going to have very much content until two years from now. That’s fine. I’m happy to do that 100%. But if it’s just going to keep being an early access forever and staying at the same price forever, that kind of ruined some of the incentive.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. I’m not one for doing it because I’d like to see the finished product, because I guess when you’re, if you’re really doing early doors, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be good in the long run. You’re spending money on the dream and on sales pitch. Yeah. It’s a complete gamble. Now there’s be many games actually have come through it and I’ve been great in the end. BeamNG, you’ve mentioned there John is interesting because I wouldn’t have done it early on, but if you get it now at this point, there’s enough in there for it probably to be worth that price anyway. Right. So there’s a balance in the timing. Yeah. So it’s all about the timing for me.

John Munro:

Yeah. I mean, my thoughts on this are, I think I disagree with a lot of the people that complain about a game being sold to them that’s not fully complete. And we were doing, they say the users are doing the work for them and, well, exactly. It’s a choice. I can choose to have access to a game that’s not complete two years early and yes, I might be contributing to the development of the game. So, what, that’s helpful if there’s more people playing the game and as long as I’m enjoying it and getting my money’s worth out of it and a lot of the time, these games and early access mode are sold at cheaper prices than the full price. As Justin mentioned, I have no problem with that because at the end of the day, if I’m having fun with it, even if the game never really becomes full, as long as, with that, it’s tricky because then it depends on what you’re promised and what the game developers have said will be the case with the game.

John Munro:

And when it’s a small indie game, you’re taking a risk, you’re paying for, for the beta because they can’t afford to finish the game. And then they still can’t afford to finish it. So it disappears, but it’s a choice you make. And as long as you know you’re not buying a full game and you make that, you take that into account when you make the decision. I don’t think you can really be too upset at it unless they really do, lie in the way they promise. But for me, there’s no problem with an open beta game, as long as it’s at a point that it’s still enjoyable and there’s stuff to do.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. That’s fair enough.

John Munro:

That’s my take.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. The only sticky thing would be that, it’s five years later and the game’s still ropey at best, then I don’t know where people stand legally. I suppose they just, they’ve lost the money, I guess, but I have no problem with it at all.

John Munro:

It depends what they’ve been promised

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

John Munro:

Because the developers at the end of the day could stick on. Could take the broken rubbish game and just stick version 1.0 and tell people it’s completely technically they’re releasing, so either way it’s, I don’t think it’s as bad as people make out, but maybe I’ve only seen a set few and maybe most people are in agreement with me. I’m not sure. Make sure you leave us a comment to let us know what you think about that. I do want to discuss some non racing models as well, because I feel like there are other ways of doing it. Some games have done, and it is relevant to racing because some of these ideas can be applied or might be applied to our dismay in the future. And maybe, I know Justin, you want to talk a little bit about Fortnite? I know you’ve talked about it already in this show.

Justin Sutton:

Heroes of the Storm. Yeah, a hundred percent. That’s, that’s my jam. I really like the way they do it. They used to do loot boxes, but then they switched away from it. And I really appreciate that they did that was a few years ago, because yeah, I don’t like the gambling of loot boxes. I’d much rather earn currency or spend real life money on paid currency of some kind and then choose the content that I want, which is how it works now. So, in a racing game, that would work by, I’m like, Oh, I already own all this base content and you can get like an underglow package for your car or something, and it costs like a dollar or something like that. And you have to pay for it per car or something that I wouldn’t be too upset about spending a little bit of money on, it’s just a cosmetic difference, but that’s, that’s the key thing is that it’s not a performance thing. You shouldn’t have it where the people that have paid money are able to turn faster lap times, that is the number one, number one concern. When you bring in those kinds of like paid microtransactions and stuff is people are worried that it’s going to ruin the competitiveness.

John Munro:

So I want to talk about that as well, because I mean, I did want to mention a game called FIFA, which is it’s been thrown around a lot in the race. It’s been thrown around a lot in the racing game community specifically because of the recent acquisition of, Codemasters by EA. Now, what FIFA do is you pay a certain amount for the game every year. And the game is very similar to the year before with some slight updates. I think it’s a great game personally. I love FIFA. I had no problem with that at all. But then what, where they make their money is not in the game. They get thousands and thousands of pounds from certain individuals for what is effectively loot boxes on ultimate team. So you pay, you pay £40 for a certain amount of points on FIFA, and then you can buy, 50 gold packs.

John Munro:

And in these packs you get players that will improve your team. Now, I think this in essence is everything that’s wrong with loot boxes and gambling and gaming because not only is it performance enhancing, the chances are really are quite slim. And what happens is you get content creators that can spend or get given hundreds of pounds worth of packs. And then they get the best players in the world and kids watch that and think, wow, my favorite YouTuber, just go Messi and Ronaldo. I’m going to go and try and get Messi and Ronaldo. Oh, I’ve got my mum and dad’s credit card details in my PlayStation. Perfect. I think it’s just dodgy. And the fact that they probably make so much more money from loot boxes and ultimate team than they do from the actual game, I think speaks volumes.

John Munro:

And it works for them in terms of financially. But I think there’s so many gray areas, I guess, morally. And that’s something that some people might totally disagree with. What I think would be better is if you can pay for loot boxes, but you can pay for them within game currency that you can earn by doing well in the game. Right? So I don’t mind paid loot boxes, as you said, Justin, that are skins and that are not performance enhancing. So if I paid real money, £1000 and I had amazing loot boxes to get gold skins. That’s fine. Cause that’s a choice. I’m not being better on the game because of that. But if it comes to stuff, that’s actually going to make a difference to the mechanics of the game. At that point, it’s like, okay, take away the real money aspect and make it, I can earn real game currency, in game currency to get these loot boxes, because I think that takes away a lot of the problem.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Hmm. I think the circle is closing in, on ultimate team specifically though, which is also in Madden, right. Because there’s been somewhere in Europe, a court has decided that it’s encouraging children to gamble although it’s only one country for now, but it could, it could seep out there.

Justin Sutton:

I know they’re looking into that sort of thing in the US.

New Speaker:

Yeah absolutely. So the points element that you mentioned John, combining with what Justin said about, items that are cosmetic is combined in Formula 1 2020, and also The Crew 2 and Rocket League. And this is both good and bad because I don’t mind the fact that it’s cosmetic. So, F1 is a yearly release at the full price. And then there’s cosmetic stuff that you can earn points for in the game, Pitcoin, not Bitcoin, Pitcoin. And also, if you want though, you can buy Pitcoin with real money, right.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

And it’s gloves and liveries and stuff like this. Okay, fine. My main beef at the minute with these systems is the pricing of the packs. So now I’m forgetting the numbers, but I’ve seen The Crew 2 and Rocket League both do this, there’s a new car coming out and you can earn your in game currency and you can buy it in the career. No problem. Or you can buy the Crew Points with real money. And if you want that car, okay, fine. No problem. Let’s say, for example, the packs of the points are like 1000, 2000 and 3000, and it’s like £10, £20, £30, let’s say, for example, right. The new car comes at 2,500 points. So therefore you have to buy the 3000 point pack. And this has happened in Formula 1 games in Rocket League and Fortnite and stuff, the packs of the points and the new contents, priced deliberately, so it’s just above or just below the real money amount that you need. So one thing to watch out for, and it’s, it’s a little disingenuous to say that this vehicle is 2,500 points. Really it’s 3000, for example.

John Munro:

Do you know, it’s not even just as simple as that in terms of how cheeky it is because not only does then the player forced to buy the 3000 points, what then happens is of course, you’re left with 500 sitting in your account. So you look at that and think, well, I’ve now got money on my account. I might as well spend it. And oh I could buy one, that’s a thousand, but there’s nothing for 500. So I’m going to have to buy more. And there’s always going to be change leftover. And as long as there’s change, you want to spend it. And as long as you want to spend it, you’re going to need to buy more, to be able to spend it. It’s like, I don’t like that. I don’t like that personally. I think it’s unnecessary.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. Just have it in there without the point system, basically. So that, yeah, if you want to buy that glove it’s dollars or pounds or yen easy. Yeah.

John Munro:

I think for me pricing strategies, what it really comes down to, and there’s so many different ways of doing it. There’s the subscriptions, there’s the DLC. There’s so many different things. At the end of the day, it comes down to value and expectation. How much does this game cost? How much is it worth to me? Am I being screwed out of money? Am I being scammed in a way where I’m losing money through, using techniques to try and get that money from me in an unethical way, or is it all those kinds of things are really what it boils down to. Because at the end of the day, if you, if you buy a game, that’s free to play. So you get it for free. And then you spend £60 and you have all of the content versus a game that costs £60 to buy at the start.

John Munro:

And you have everything, they’re the same price, right? It’s just different ways of getting to the same thing, which is the developers of the game, making money and making the right amount of money. And it ended the day for me, as long as you can keep track of your spending, it’s a case of working out how much each game is worth, what the value of it is. And also then what you’re promised on that. And I think that’s where a lot of people fall short, because it’s so important about what you can actually expect to get and what the value of something is. It’s not as simple as, Oh, well, this thing’s only £10 and you get everything versus this where I’m having to spend hundreds because maybe it’s cost them hundreds and hundreds more to develop or, well, I’m sure in reality, it’s millions and that can really then make a difference. So it’s not, it’s not a simple argument.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. There’s also all sorts there. Yeah. And I feel like we’ve upset every publisher in the land. Ultimately these games are very expensive to make.

John Munro:

Exactly.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

It’s just, it’s just how you communicate it and how you price things. And ultimately consumers will vote with their wallets. Unless the courts say otherwise as well, right? So things will change and improve. And when people come up with these newer systems like points or DLC pricing structures, they will evolve over time when it’s become much better now than it was when, additional content was first around in some respects.

Justin Sutton:

And to play devil’s advocate in a perfect world, micro-transactions allow whales to come. And that’s a gaming term. People that spend a ton of money for the, for those of you that aren’t aware. I don’t know if either of you are familiar with Star Citizen. There are people that play that game that have spent like millions of dollars on the game. That’s a whale. And in theory, in a perfect world, a whale drives down the cost of buying the base game, which makes the game more accessible, gets it into the hands of more people to have fun with that base experience, which is a good thing, which is a good thing. But often times I feel like they’re just pocketing the extra money from the whale and keeping the base game at the exact same price for a lot of companies. So, ideally what I would like to see is I understand the need for microtransactions. It’s 2021. Now, that’s just how you make money in the video game world in a lot of ways, I understand wanting to have micro-transactions, but it’s about doing it in an ethical way and doing it in a way that benefits other people in the community and not just your shareholders.

John Munro:

Yeah. I mean, that’s a really good point. And I think, I think it’s similar to what I was talking about with FIFA and the ultimate team where, it doesn’t matter if someone spends a million pounds on it and the company make money from that, that’s fine. If that person’s not being A) exploited B) they’re not getting performance enhancing things that makes them stronger than everyone else online and C) obviously this person needs to be, if you want to spend a million on a game, I hope you’re a, multi-billionaire, kind of thing, but that’s your choice. And that’s absolutely fine, I don’t mind that if someone thinks, if that’s worth it to them, if they have a million pounds sitting there doing nothing, because they have so much money and this game is worth a million pounds to them, then that’s their decision on who am I to judge that?

John Munro:

It’s about, not then making it impossible for the people at the lower end of the scale to be able to take part and what I would like to end on guys. We don’t need to spend much time on this because we’ve already talked about it, but I’m just going to go through each of you. And I want you to very quickly just summarize what would be your ideal racing model. Now I know we’re consumers, we’re not developers, so we don’t, we can’t exactly talk from experience about why this will or won’t work. But what we can do is say as a consumer, what we think is a fair system that works for us. So I’ll start with you, Justin. I’ll not start with myself because it gives me more time to think.

Justin Sutton:

I would like a, I like kind of what I just touched on where, where you have like a cheap base game in the kind of $20 to $40 range, I think is a great way of doing things. And then maybe you have a higher version where you get some extra content or something like that. That’s like $60. Just pretend that the GBP, if you’re, if, if you’re in England or Euros, if you’re in Europe, but yeah, this is something that’s like $20 to $40 base, $60 for like a special edition, has some micro-transactions, but isn’t actually required, isn’t yearly as well either. Cause again, I think it’s, it’s kind of crazy to expect yearly releases in most circumstances, as you pointed John, some of that’s unavoidable, you just have to come out with a new game every year.

Justin Sutton:

It’s understandable. But when it’s preventable, I would say, at least two years between games, a reasonable level for people to come in, entry-level at like $20 to $40, a higher level for people that have the money to spend and are really excited about the game or whatever. Then a small amount of micro transactions that aren’t super expensive. I don’t like when you can spend a million dollars in a game, again, I think people should be allowed to in those games that exist. But I think that’s, that’s too much. So yeah, maybe if you spend another $40 on top of the $60, let’s say you’re, you’re a super user or something you paid $60 for the special edition and then another $40 or so we’ll get you literally everything and you’ve now spent a hundred dollars, which is, three to five times more than the base version. But you got everything and you’re perfectly content. I think that’s kind of like a perfect world situation for me.

John Munro:

Tom.

New Speaker:

Justin, I don’t mind paying full price for a game. I don’t know. I do kind of prefer that than let’s say the RaceRoom model or something like this. So it’s pretty, I know that’s old school and that will change. But what I would say is, a tip for some frugal gaming is if you just have a bit of patience, often if it’s not a yearly sports release, which I understand the reasons for them being yearly and I don’t mind that provided this progression each year, you can wait for like the ultimate edition, which will have, hopefully all the DLC and the main game, all in one package. And if you really, really frugal, you could wait a couple of years and buy that on a physical desk, if you’ve got a console, play that for a few months and then sell that or trade that in.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

And therefore you’ve probably got the game, some DLC and it probably cost you £20 to £30, depending on how much, it’s cost you to trade in and stuff like this. So, again, I know it’s very, very old fashioned and that will die soon i’m sure, but Assetto Corsa Competizione only is coming into PS5 and XBox series X later this year. I wouldn’t bet against it coming with all the DLC on there for not full price. And that could be good value, but you’ve missed out three years behind the curve. So swings and roundabouts.

John Munro:

Absolutely. I think why would like to say on this subject as well as I know we’ve talked about it, I’m in a similar boat to Justin. I feel like, I feel like paying full price for a game is not a problem at all. I also don’t mind paying DLC if there’s a limit to the numbers. So I don’t want to do is be paying DLC every month for a new car pack that comes out and a new season of something and then falling behind the curve. What I want is if there’s a DLC pack to be released, it’s going to be one or two a year max, and it can’t be super expensive. And it needs to also not benefit the user in terms of an online setting. It can benefit you in terms of your enjoyment.

John Munro:

Obviously, you can, even if it’s cars that other people can’t access, that you can race offline or whatever, but if it goes online and their racing against other cars, it needs to be, it can’t be an overpowered thing. It can’t ruin the class racing or some stuff like that. So it needs to be fun, but not benefit. It needs to, sorry, not benefit you over other users, if that makes sense and just give you more options. And I also think that non DLC owners should always be able to compete against DLC, people, they just might not look as flashy. So If I want to race against Justin, Justin can have his gold robes and his amazing gold plated helmet with, spikes in his car that don’t actually do anything, but I wanna be able to beat him still.

John Munro:

I don’t want to have to be, I don’t wanna have to buy speed performance, right or anything like that. And I think that, as I said before, loot boxes need to be done or needs to be at least very much limited to how many you can get. And it should really be non performance enhancing things. Because as soon as you get into that dangerous area where, you’ve got, you’ve got something that’s so desirable and in a loot box where there’s only a one in 10,000 chance of you getting it. And that thing improves your performance and it costs, over a couple of pounds per loot box, it gets so dangerous because then you’re never fully happy. YIf you’ve got £40 at the end of the month, I’ll spend £40 on FIFA points or wherever it’s going to be.

John Munro:

I keep saying FIFA is just the example. I know, but it’s, you’ve got to be careful. So I think that needs to be a big limit to that. But yeah, as I’ve said, we’ve covered it all already. I think, I think we’re all in a reasonable amount of agreement and to be honest, which is, which is nice. And I think, when it’s something like this, I think it’s important because I think that when it, when it comes to pricing and stuff, this is something that really does affect gamers at a base level. This is not something frivolous, like, disagreeing over a car or a game physics that we like. This is something really important. So I think there needs to be transparency and agreement across the industry.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Yeah. I’d just like to interject, because I know we’ve covered all sorts of things, but very, very, very quickly, there’s this thing called game pass on PC, on XBox where you pay a monthly subscription and then it gives you access to a good amount of video games.

Justin Sutton:

Now that’s value.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Now it seems to be a lot of people on the internet. I love it. I think it’s really good and really good value. So I just wanted to mention that, and it’s very interesting to see if that changes the industry from a racing, selfish, racing game, point of view, if I’m paying £8 or $10 a month, there’s only really the two most recent Forza and the Moto GP game on there that that caught my eye. And so if you’re really into one genre, I don’t think it works. That’s controversial. So you can tweet me all your hate and I’ll explain it.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

If you’re into all sorts of games, it’s really good value. So it’d be interesting to see if someone comes up with like themed packages.

Justin Sutton:

Racing game pass. Yeah.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

Something like this, if you’re into American football or sports or ice hockey or whatever that could be worn. And then RPGs could be another. So, I’ve tried it cause you get it for free with any like PC for both. It’s not for me because going back to iRacing quickly as well, you’re paying the subscription per month, but you have to then buy the DLC as well. And then if your subscription lapses. Yeah. But anyway, interesting.

Justin Sutton:

Gets weird.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

And I’m really sorry, John. I just know came in there right at the end there and ruined flow.

John Munro:

Glad you I’m so glad that you talked about it. Cause I know you’ve talked to me about it before and you did want to mention it.

Tom Harrison-Lord:

It’s a hot topic.

John Munro:

Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah. Penguin man, and chocolate boy for joining me today. And of course a big thank you to all of our listeners for joining the podcast. Make sure as well you subscribe via your favorite podcast service. And of course, subscribe to the YouTube channel to see the videos and podcasts and everything. When they’re released also check out Traxion.gg to see our latest racing game updates news pod podcast. Everything’s on there. I’m sure , there’s plenty of stuff for you to sink your teeth into on there and also follow us on social media. Usually at Traxion GG. I don’t think it’s Traxion.gg Justin?

Justin Sutton:

Nope. Just that Traxion GG.

John Munro:

Just Traxion.gg, I need to get that into my head to get that. Sorry. So yeah, Traxion.gg for the website, Traxion GG for the socials. Thank you guys so much for listening and in the meantime, keep it pinned and have a great day.

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