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Why Skate going Free-to-Play is not a bad thing

Today (Thursday, July 14), EA released their first in what looks to be a series of videos they are calling “The Boardroom”. This is their way of updating the Skate community about the game as it gets closer to its eventual launch. For this first episode, they introduce a few key people and touch upon some key points around the game. The biggest takeaway is that Skate will launch as a free-to-play title featuring cross-play and cross-progression. While the community seems a bit unhappy about this, it’s a move that not only doesn’t surprise me, I think it’s the only way they could go.

Thinking Long Term

It’s been 10+ years since Skate 3 graced the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s been almost two years since Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, Skater XL came and went. Meanwhile, Session continues to be in early access on Steam and Xbox (Edit: Looks like Session is coming out of Early Access in September). Not to forget that Activision was considering a THPS 3+4, but it never went any further than the pre-planning phase. Regardless of the strong response for THPS 1+2 and the hype around Skate, the gaming landscape for skateboarding video games hasn’t really improved lately.

Offering Skate with a zero cost of entry opens the door for so many more people to jump in and give it a try. EA needs to justify a game’s existence, and having a free-to-play offering allows for them to use data to do more stuff. “Games as a Service” is a major part of EA’s catalog. Apex Legends showed they can release a successful F2P title, and it’s only a matter of time before the other games they produce include more free-to-start options.

For Skate, trying to release a new game for $60 or $70 USD is a hard pill for most gamers to swallow. Sure, this is a franchise in that fans have wanted a new game for years, but EA doesn’t care about them because they are already invested. EA needs new players, and a $60 title won’t do that. It sucks but this is also a business.

Part of the Plan

I’m certain the higher-ups at EA looked at the success of THPS 1+2 and saw a game that relied heavily on nostalgia to be successful. At the same time, Activision’s skateboarding game was released with a lot of fanfare, but then the post-launch support was very minimal. EA knows that for Skate to be a success, they have to go that extra mile.

At this stage, you can’t be certain that Skate will be a success. Again, asking people to put down money for a game that may or may not be good is asking a lot. On the other hand, a F2P release allows for more change to take place. They can release the game at version 1.0 and completely change it around by 1.5 six months later. You can see the data and adjust it. There is no indication that we’d get another Skate game every 12, 18, or 24 months. F2P means that support for the game will probably still be there unless it absolutely tanks early on and can’t be saved.

Because of the zero cost of entry, more people will try Skate and that data will help EA improve the game. Is the game too hard? Ok, let’s introduce a better tutorial. Are users only skating in one part of New Vansterdam (yes, that’s the name of the city the game is located in)? Alright, let’s introduce some more benches and ramps in a different section to see if that helps. What, Antihero wants to release some new gear in the game as a partnership with us? Sweet, the fans will love the new decks we can include.

Get our hands on the game sooner

The fact that we’ve been getting a lot of news around Skate over the last few weeks actually gets me more excited. It sounds like the team at Full Circle will be opening up more and more people to play test over the summer, and I’m hopeful I’m one of those who get an invitation. In any case, I don’t think people need to be angry just yet about a F2P Skate game. If the game is bad, it won’t be because they went against charging people $60-70 for it.

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