Many of you have read news of the "micropayment" strategy that Polyphony Digital has devised for the upcoming Gran Turismo HD on PS3. Quoting from an article on 1up
According to the Famitsu inteview with Kazunori Yamauchi, Gran Turismo HD will have two SKUs on the PS3. One of these games will ship with no cars, all of them will be purchased via microtransactions.
The other, Gran Turismo HD: Premium, will ship with two courses and 30 cars, with an additional 30 cars and an additional two courses online at a later date. The Premium game is being considered a prologue to the PS3's eventual Gran Turismo 5.
The microtransaction-focused game, Gran Turismo HD: Classic will be the online-focused entrant into the GT-series. In this game, players will (reportedly) start with no cars or courses available to them. Instead, they will need to purchase their stable of cars and courses to race on. The pricing reported in the Famitsu piece indicated that cars would cost between 50-100 yen ($0.43-$0.85) and courses between 200-500 yen ($1.71-$4.26). There are approximiately 750 cars and 50 tracks available for purchase in the GT: HD Classic. Let's do the math:
- 750 cars for $0.50-$1.00 (Sony will round-up, don't you think?)
- 50 tracks for $1.50-$4.50
A complete copy of the game will cost gamers somewhere between $426.50 and $975, and that's without factoring in whatever Sony decides to charge for the menus (since that's all you'll get with GT HD: Classic).
I've seen many discussions and debates on the particulars, such as how much the basic GT: HD Classic vs. GT: HD Premium will cost up front. Who cares? The bottom line, as anyone familiar with the corporate world already knows, is to make more money
. Period. End of story. A la carte purchase of cars and tracks is nothing less than a stab in the back to the racing simulation genre. The idea of earning your way through the game by achievement is rendered null and void. You may say, "But, Kerr, you still have to get X license and beat X race series before you will be allowed to purchase X vehicle and/or X track!". Doesn't matter. Nickel and dime me to death for content that should be part of the game
, and you can count me out. I couldn't care less how good the graphics, etc. may be.
There is also news that core features will be released later as downloads as opposed to shipping with the game itself. An an article on qj.net
Yamauchi explained the reasoning behind releasing car damage and AI for Gran Turismo HD as downloads, which in short is "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Online gaming has changed the way developers approach building a game, he says. Rather than keep adding content until it's time to release the game, it's best to start service with something, and build it up from there. This means that a GTHD game (the Classic version) could be out as early as December (in Japan, anyway), and can be expanded later with microtransaction downloads.
And as for those downloads? Given the expense of downloading those cars and tracks and so forth, Polyphony hopes to make the GTHD-downloaded content usable for GT5 (planned release in 2008). Which, in our opinion, would actually be a very good idea - at least those downloads will still be useful when we get the next game, right?
Seriously, car damage and AI released as downloads? These are considered core aspects of a racing sim, not additional "content" that can be shelved for when there is more time.
As has become custom, it appears that GT development is behind schedule. Those of us who waited through the good end of two years of release delays for GT4 are very familiar with this scenario. Considering said delays, I and many others were somewhat disenchanted
with the end result. The major difference here is that GT4 was not a launch game for the PS2. Intense pressure is on to release a GT game coinciding with the PS3 launch. Release delays will translate to mountains of lost revenue
for Sony. The only way out is to release a half-baked game, tack on a capitalism-is-king downloading scheme, and watch the money roll in. Frankly, this makes me sick.
People are quick to blame the MMORPG genre for the start of this madness, but I also believe there is a corollary with the mobile phone ringtone industry. Talk about a complete ripoff scheme that went gangbusters! A bit of searching reveals
that the phenomenon began in 2001 in Finland, then quickly spread to the other side of the Atlantic by 2002. In 2005, the four year old ringtone industry raked in 11 billion
dollars selling 30 second lo-fi sound cliips to users. Am I alone in thinking this is flat out retarded? Regardless, it's obvious that the public at large has lovingly embraced the ringtone scheme. This sheeplike behavior encourages large corporations to create like revenue streams in other markets. The success of iTunes has further demonstrated that people are willing to pay, in aggregate, large sums of money for low quality, restricted content.
The application of micropayments in video games undermines the essence of a video game being a test of skill and turns it into nothing more than another shopping experience. That people aren't enraged at this industry wide
shift in strategy is appalling and yet not the least bit surprising.
There are conflicting reports across the web as to whether Sony will actually pursue micropayments in the U.S. market. From a post on qj.net
Sony has yet to comment if this plan will apply for Western releases for the titles - which is the important point of this post. Already people are up in arms about this, screaming "rip off." It's probably safe to assume that Sony is taking time to see how the west will react before they take the plan and launch it in less "otaku" shores.
Make no mistake that Sony and many other corporations are committed to jumping on the micropayment bandwagon. As I illustrated above, there is plenty of market precedent indicating a potential windfall in revenues. I have been a loyal Gran Turismo addict since day one, and this is how Sony intends to reward me? If micropayments are introduced as part of the new Gran Turismo, Sony can expect zero business
from me in the future. Really though, how surprising is a move like this from the company whose philosophy is embodied in words like Betamax, MiniDisc and Blu-Ray? As consumers, the only opportunity we have to tell a company like Sony how we feel is to not spend money with them
. The gaming public is talking a good game now, but how will it play out in the end? Me, I'm going to continue playing the original Forza on my XBox while I wait for Forza 2. At least I have Porsches, Ferraris, a great selection of race cars, a damage model and aggressive AI that doesn't act like a robot on a string. Oh, and there aren't 50+ redundant versions of the Skyline.