Forza 5: The Future of Gaming?

With their pristine graphics, racing games make great release titles for a new console, so it was no surprise to see Forza 5 shipping with the Xbox One. But if you dig beneath the beautiful graphics, there’s something sinister at play.

I’m not a massive racing gamer, with the exception of GTAV the last game I played was PGR 4, so I’ll admit that I couldn’t care less when/if you can race a Ferrari. But when I looked at the premise behind Forza 5 and its micro-transactions, I was utterly speechless. Through Twitter (thanks Luke), I found this forum thread outlining the absurd real-money prices of some cars in Forza 5.

Like pretty much all games nowadays, gamers unlock content. In Forza 5, you unlock cars through gaining ‘EXP credits’. You accumulate the credits and spend them on unlocking the cars; nothing new, we had something similar in Halo: Reach for armour pieces. But Forza also offers the option using real money; buying their in-game currency (tokens) and using it to effortlessly skip ahead.

Below is the breakdown of the token bundles:

  • 100t = £0.79
  • 575t = £3.99
  • 1,250t = £7.99
  • 2,700t = £15.99
  • 8,000t = £39.99
  • 20,000t = £64.99

You may respond with “it’s just an option”, but the top-end cars are so ridiculously unobtainable with EXP credits that your eyes will bleed and hair turn grey before you’ve unlocked them all. To make matters worse, there’s also plenty of mid-range cars costing between 1m and 3.5m EXP, which means it’s a case of either/or, not a progression up to the top-end. And unlike its predecessor, you can’t just take a car out on the test-track; it appears that paying through the nose is the only feasible way to get behind the wheel of your favourite car.

Below is the breakdown of the token bundles:

  • Ferrari 250 GTO = 10,000t | 6m EXP
  • Lotus E21 = 10,000t | 6m EXP
  • Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa = 9,667t | 5.8m EXP
  • Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe = 9,500t | 5.7m EXP

Yep, you read that correctly. Each of these cars cost £30+each. Note that that’s if you had the foresight to splash out on the pricey 20,000t package. And as Ellen was quick to point out, these kind of prices are pushing pretty close to taking a REAL ferrari out for a spin.

Now, I’ll admit that gamers are already somewhat accustomed to feeling ‘the squeeze’ from game publishers. Downloadable content (DLC) has been around for years and it seems that pretty much every triple-A title has a certain degree of DLC. It’s become pretty common-place for a game to come out and an add-on to appear in the marketplace a few months down the line.

But the distinction, for me, is that DLC are there to build upon what you’ve already bought. It’s a new multiplayer map pack (Halo 4), an entirely new storyline (GTA IV) or some add-ons that take the game in a new direction (The Sims). It is not premature access to content that’s already on the disc you forked out fifty quid for! It’s money you spent to give the franchise some longevity, not a fee you pay to avoid the hassle.

I know micro-transactions are nothing new, but I never thought they’d transcend beyond the “free-to-play” mobile games. I suppose I was naive enough to think the business models would be forever mutually exclusive. Who knew a publisher would be bold and/or greedy enough to use them in a triple-A game?

I’d like to think that Forza 5 is a terrible one-off experiment, but Gran Turismo 6 announced mico-transactions last week, so there’s clearly some market for it. I’d also like to think that gamer’s hold a certain level of principles and willpower, but you just know they’ll be enough that give in to make this a new income avenue for the future.