Inside Real Racing 3's freemium price structure

We upgraded an Audi TT Coupe to make sense of Real Racing 3's free-to-play framework and to find out how hard it will be to enjoy the game's content — and just how annoying the currencies and delay timers will be.

We upgraded an Audi TT Coupe in detail to make sense of Real Racing 3's free-to-play framework and to find out how hard it will be to enjoy the game's content — and just how annoying the currencies and delay timers will be.

Repairing and servicing your cars is a key component in the transaction system. (Credit: CNET Australia)

Real Racing 3's shift to freemium takes the racing sim out of its "hardcore" mobile racing tradition (if you can say there ever was such a thing), and opens the game up to all. Fans have railed against the shift to a "free" offering, knowing that such a move will introduce systems to force currencies and delay timers to play a role in game progress. Firemonkeys has aimed to assure fans that the system will be balanced, so you can still have a great time without spending any real money, but the proof will be in the practice.

Today, CNET Australia went hands on with Real Racing 3 before tonight's launch on the iPhone and iPad. We decided to explore the currency system to see what the balance looks like so far.

We tested the game on an iPad and iPhone, with an installation that came with millions of race dollars and thousands of gold coins. All vehicles were pre-unlocked, so we could not get a sense of the difficulty and price of unlocking cars within the game. But we raced, we levelled up, we scored victories and we dealt with some repairs and upgrades to get a sense of these race-to-race currency dynamics.

There are two currencies in the game: race dollars (R$) and gold coins. You earn dollars by winning events and scoring bonuses at the end of Cup events. You earn gold by levelling up. You can also earn a combination of both by achieving certain milestones, such as completing 25 per cent, 50 per cent, 75 per cent or 100 per cent of different event tiers.

Dollars buy you items, upgrades and repairs directly. But you rarely get the item immediately upon spending the cash. Instead, a timer is triggered and you must wait out a delay before you see the upgrade or repair conclude. That's where gold comes in, letting you buy your way past the timers to get down to business faster. At the end of some vehicle upgrade paths, you will find that you can only spend gold to get a car to the peak of its powers.

Pay your cash, then bide your time, or add a little gold to skip ahead. (Credit: CNET Australia)

Upgrading the Audi TT Coupe

With our ample available cash and gold reserves, we decided to perform a complete upgrade on an Audi TT Coupe, a classic car found in the early stages of many race games. How much would it cost to take this car from zero to hero?

There were 20 upgrades available in all. Five for engine, five for drivetrain, four for suspension, three for brakes and three for tyres and wheels. Each upgrade is listed below with its R$ value, the delay until the upgrade is delivered and the gold required to skip the timer.

Engine

  1. R$6400/5 minutes/2 gold

  2. R$9400/10 minutes/3 gold

  3. R$12,100/30 minutes/7 gold

  4. R$14,500/90 minutes/10 gold

  5. 9 gold

Drivetrain

  1. R$6000/5 minutes/2 gold

  2. R$8800/10 minutes/3 gold

  3. R$11,200/30 minutes/7 gold

  4. R$13,500/90 minutes/10 gold

  5. 8 gold

Suspension

  1. R$5800/5 minutes/2 gold

  2. R$8500/10 minutes/3 gold

  3. R$10,800/30 minutes/7 gold

  4. 7 gold

Brakes

  1. R$4200/5 minutes/2 gold

  2. R$6200/10 minutes/3 gold

  3. R$7900/30 minutes/7 gold

Tyres and wheels

  1. R$5000/5 minutes/2 gold

  2. R$7400/10 minutes/3 gold

  3. R$9500/30 minutes/7 gold

Total cost

R$147,200 + 24 gold (minimum) or 104 gold (skip all delays).

Earning currency

We raced our now ultimate Audi TT Coupe in a few races to see what kind of dollars and coins came rolling in.

In the early "Everyday Heroes" race series, we won R$7600 for our first victory and R$8200 for our second. Our driver level increased quickly through early races, and with each driver level, we earned three gold coins. We also earned bonuses of R$2000 for winning a Cup event, and in another race we earned an extra R$850 for defeating a friend's virtual appearance in a race.

Jumping ahead to a higher-tier race, we stepped into a Bugatti Veyron and wiped the floor with our supercar competitors. At this level, we found that race prize money was still in the R$8000 ballpark, with an R$4000 bonus for unlocking a new tier.

For shorter race events, such as a speed test, the reward came in at R$900.

There are no extra R$ or gold rewards for racing without assists.

Overall, it seems R$ will come in pretty steadily for winning races. Gold is the slower currency to acquire, but with a launch level cap of 1000, there is a lot of room to earn gold with a slow and steady progression.

Repairs and servicing

Racing is rubbing, and that means damage. Damage is detailed very well in Real Racing 3, but that also means you have to pay to keep your car on the road. If you race clean lines and don't bump opponents or walls, you can avoid repair costs. Repairs are entirely based on damage caused during your time on the track.

Through our few races with the Audi TT Coupe, we caused damage to the headlights, windshield and front bumper — a total of R$390 worth of damage that also required a delay of around four minutes. All repairs can be queued as a single delay event. Two gold coins would skip this delay.

Through all racing, you will also cause general wear and tear that is tracked to show when your car needs servicing. You can continue to race without servicing your car, but it will cause drops in top speed, acceleration, etc, depending on what damage you are ignoring. Services are more expensive to repair. Our Audi TT Coupe would have required R$3115 in attention just to get things back to maximum after only a few races. There was plenty of room to ignore those costs for more races to come, but the oil measure drops very fast.

Overall, the delays felt like the most annoying factor in the currency system. If you own a variety of cars, you will be able to have some running through their repair and service delays while you race other vehicles, so you may find that the balance works quite nicely with a well-balanced garage of cars.

There are big dollars required if you're looking to race to the highest levels of the game, but for those with a little patience, there will still be a great deal of game available to enjoy for many months to come. But it's the "hardcore" crowd that Real Racing has drawn that will be most interesting to hear from in the coming days and weeks.

 

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